California Marijuana Legalization on a State and Local Level

While there is no question that the country is moving toward legalization of marijuana, there is a question of who is driving the recent trend. Some laws are created at the state level, while local governments enact others.

gavel41.jpgA recent article from Capital Public Radio looks at how the efforts to legalize marijuana in California are in some ways similar to efforts to ban the use of plastic bags.

Across the country, state and local governments have been passing laws to ban the use of plastic bags. The reason behind these laws is that after being used a single time, many of these bags find their way to local waterways and landfills. In landfills, they will remain for hundreds and even thousands of years. In water, they can break down in as little a year, but they release toxic chemicals in the waterway during the process.

Efforts by environmental groups led to local governments in California passing ordinances to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores. After enough cities and towns across the state outlawed the bags, the California state government decided to get in the game and pass a statewide prohibition. The main reason cited in this article was because the state felt that it was becoming irrelevant on this issue and did not what that to happen.

In the context of marijuana, the state of California has not sufficiently dealt with medicinal use, and there is still much debate on the process. There has also been a complete decriminalization of up to one ounce of marijuana that has been signed into law and took effect in 2011. As our marijuana criminal defense attorneys can explain, possession of less that one ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana is civil infraction punishable by a $25 fine. The fine also does not result in a criminal record being generated, much like a traffic ticket.

On the local level, 13 local governments have ballot initiatives dealing with medical marijuana up for a vote this November. This is in line with a nationwide trend, but California is clearly not leading the way, as other states such as Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational use.

As more cities and towns across California are being more progressive with respect to marijuana enforcement, the state government may feel compelled to act in the same way it did with the ban on plastic bags. The last thing the state legislature wants is to be seen as irrelevant on what has become a major issue.

According to one political consultant interviewed, there will likely be a state ballot initiative in 2016 to legalize marijuana in California. Once that occurs, it will be a matter of time before the rest of the nation follows in California’s footsteps and repeals their own marijuana prohibition laws.

However, even if every state in the nation were to legalize the possession of marijuana, there is still a problem with the fact that federal law makes possession of any amount of marijuana illegal.

While the current administration claims it will not enforce federal law in instances where state law has decriminalized or legalized marijuana, until Congress repeals the federal law, there will still be a lot of navigation required by those in the medical marijuana industry.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Local California Governments Driving Marijuana Policy
, October 14, 2014, Capital Public Radio
More Blog Entries:

Getting Started in the Medical Marijuana Industry, May 15, 2014, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog