California Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Initiative (2016)


These days, just about wherever you are on the political spectrum, following the news can be exhausting at best, and truly depressing at worst. Many of us have gone so far as to avoid the news entirely. However, if you’ve been ignoring the news in the last few months you may have missed developments in the one area where momentum seems to be on the side of the forward-thinking, common sense outcome. Unthinkable ten or twenty years ago, public opinion – nationally too, but especially in California – has shifted towards the majority of citizens supporting the legalization of recreational cannabis. Since the last vote on legalization in 2010, support among Californian voters has increased to 55 percent of likely voters. Fascinatingly, even 44 percent of California Republicans now support legalization, and for the first time, a majority of Californians older than 55 think cannabis should be made legal. These signs indicate that support for legalization has moved beyond the demographics that traditionally partake in cannabis use themselves, and seems to be spilling over into groups who see the harm and impracticality of prohibition and the ‘war on drugs’.

The prospect of the measure passing has already sparked a rush of investment in ‘big cannabis’. Legal cannabis sales in the US doubled from 2013 to 2015, estimated to reach a total of 4.5 billion this year, making it one of the most lucrative industries. Cannabis retailers can expect to make about $974 in annual sales per square foot – as opposed to the average revenues per square foot for Whole Foods ($930) and the average department store ($180). Notably, this data is self-reported from about 1000 cannabis retailers – but clearly cannabis has the potential to become one of the biggest industries in the country. In California, it is already a 2.7 billion-dollar industry in 2016, and is estimated to grow to $6.4 billion by 2020, with the Adult Use act. With California, the industry is already showing signs of entry into the big leagues of California industry. Over a million dollars have been raised for the legalization effort from Sean Parker, a former president of Facebook and founder of Napster. Desert towns in southern California have begun to create large-scale cultivation applications and ordinances, in hopes of attracting jobs and greater tax revenue.


What you need to know: 

  • This bill will legalize marijuana under state law.
  • Regulates and licenses marijuana industry. 
  • The Legislature shall implement this Act with one or more bills that shall be effective not later than January 1, 2018.



  • Permits excise taxes on certain marijuana sales, up to 15% of retail price, and storage, up to 10% of wholesale price, as well as cultivation taxes of 9.25 dollars per ounce of flowers and 2.75 per ounce of leaves..
  • Bars marijuana testing for job applicants and employees, or penalizing employees for off-duty use, unless they are in safety-sensitive occupations.
  • Permits local regulation of marijuana businesses, including ban or cap with voter approval.
  • Permits individuals of 21 years and older to purchase, use, distribute, and transport cannabis and also grow up to an ounce and raise up to six plants.
  • Permits veterinary use of cannabis.  




Impact on California:

  • Net reduced costs ranging from tens of millions of dollars to potentially exceeding $100 million annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders.
  • Net additional state and local tax revenues of potentially up to several hundred million dollars annually related to the production and sale of marijuana, most of which would be required to be spent for specific purposes such as education, public safety, and drug abuse education and treatment.


How To Vote For AUMA:

AUMA will be on the November 8th, 2016 ballot as an “initiated state statute.” A “yes” vote will support legalization. The deadline to register to vote in California for the November election is October 24th. Registration can be done by mailonline, or in person. California is one of 8 states to be voting on legalization or cannabis reform this November, including Arizona, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Michigan. Above all these though, California is widely considered to have a real shot at passing legalization this year. Passing AUMA would allow California to join the rest of the West Coast in legalization, and to reassert California as one of the most forward-thinking states in the union when it comes to cannabis law. Despite all the understandable reasons one might bury their head in the sand this political season, it may be worth coming out to the polls to support AUMA. This could be the moment generations of cannabis enthusiasts have waited for – and could help set a standard for the rest of the country to seriously consider legalization.