Voters on Tuesday approved Proposition 64, which would make California the most populous state in the nation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
The approval of the ballot measure, which led in recent polls, would create the largest market for marijuana products in the U.S. It comes six years after California voters narrowly rejected a similar measure. Activists said passage would be an important moment in a fight for marijuana legalization across the U.S.
“We are very excited that citizens of California voted to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition," said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn. "Proposition 64 will allow California to take its rightful place as the center of cannabis innovation, research and development.”
The initiative allows Californians who are 21 and older to possess, transport and buy up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and to use it for recreational purposes. That expands the law that 20 years ago legalized marijuana for medical use in California.
Proposition 64 would allow Californians who are 21 and older to possess, transport, buy and use up to an ounce of cannabis for recreational purposes and allow individuals to grow as many as six plants. The measure would also allow retail sales of marijuana and impose a 15% tax.
With financial support from former Facebook President Sean Parker and New York hedge fund billionaire George Soros, the campaign was able to raise close to $16 million, about 10 times the money brought in by the opposition.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was the face of the campaign, arguing that the national "war on drugs" has failed while disproportionately hurting minority residents and wasting law enforcement resources.
California had led the way 20 years ago by legalizing medical marijuana use in the state.
Proposition 64 was opposed by most major law enforcement groups, including the California Assn. of Highway Patrolmen, the Peace Officers Research Assn. of California and the California Police Chiefs Assn.
Opponents cited problems including teen drug abuse and impaired driving experienced where recreational use was previously legalized: Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington.