10 Things That Might Surprise You About Prop 64

A simple guide to the Adult Cannabis Usage vote


How will you vote on Prop 64 this November?

Before you answer, do you really know what’s actually in the 62-page proposition? It’s a lot more complicated than just deciding whether or not you want to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.

This massive ballot initiative lays out a pretty comprehensive plan for taxing, regulating, permitting, and licensing the cannabis industry along with eliminating or lessening penalties for possession.

If that makes your eyes glaze over, it’s understandable. After pouring through the hefty document, we’ve come up with 10 surprising facts about Prop 64 you might not know.

shutterstock_2360109551. Prop 64 is about the regulation of marijuana, not just about toking up legally.

While the passage it will mean adults over 21 can use recreational marijuana (at some point), Prop 64 is mainly about regulating the marijuana industry in California and gathering millions (possibly billions) in taxes and fees each year.

That means clear(ish) rules about permitting, testing and overall transparency in the California cannabis industry. Some are worried that the layers of state, county, and city permitting may be debilitating to California’s small growers. Testing regulations, however, that address issues of mold, dosing, and THC levels could lead to safer and more consistent products.

One big plus for small growers is the Cottage Cannabis Farmer’s Bill just signed by the governor that allows modified rules for grow operations smaller than 5,000 square feet or 50 plants. Large commercial growers (more than one acre outdoors, or 22,000 square feet indoor) will not be licensed until 2023.

2. Even if marijuana is legal in California, you aren’t necessarily going to have easy access…

So here’s a big issue: Localities trump state law. Cities and counties can allow voters to choose whether or not to allow cannabis businesses. But here’s the rub: Areas that ban the businesses won’t reap cannabis-related money allocated to police and safety programs. If localities allow adult use, there are many issues (like zoning and permitting) that will have to be decided at the local level. For example, Sonoma County has extensive zoning regulations currently under consideration that cannabis businesses will have to comply. Regardless of local mandates, if Prop 64 passes, adults will still be able to grow up to 6 plants (sort of, because there are a lot of rules on odor, visibility, and leased properties) and possess limited amounts of marijuana legally.

shutterstock_2440360573. …Or be able to light up a joint just anywhere. Actually pretty much nowhere.

Anywhere you can’t smoke a cigarette, you can’t smoke marijuana. Add to that any public place, park, federal land, your car or anywhere near where children are present. You can smoke in a private home (as long as you aren’t bugging your neighbors or your landlord) and at certain businesses licensed for on-site consumption. Think coffee shop or lounge, but no booze or tobacco can be sold in these licensed locations.

4. Recreational marijuana isn’t going to be available for a while. Like maybe 2019?

Don’t plan to line up at the dispensary on Nov. 9 and get legal marijuana. You’ll still need a physician’s recommendation for medical marijuana to buy legally as the permitting process for adult recreational use goes into effect. Prop 64 opens the gate to legalized adult use of marijuana, but many timelines are unclear, especially at the county and city level. Permitting processes will begin in January 2018 at the state level, providing a path to regulating the industry, but it will take time for states and localities to get in sync with clear permitting and zoning laws. Plan to cool your heels for a good while.

how-many-grams-in-an-ounce5. How much is 28.5 grams?

Under the ballot measure, adults would legally be able to possess 28.5 grams of marijuana (flowers, leaves) and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana (bubble hash, shatter, concentrates, etc.) If you’re not familiar with the measures of bud, that’s about an ounce, which doesn’t sound like much until you know how marijuana flowers are usually measured. A “dime bag” is usually about a gram, while 1/8 ounce (3.5 grams) or 1/2 ounce (14 grams) is a typical measurement sold in dispensaries. For a recreational user, an ounce is actually a pretty decent amount of marijuana.

6. What about the black market?

Prop 64 aims to “incapacitate the black market” in California with regulation that will be enforceable. Easier said than done, but it does make clearer those who are operating inside and outside the rules of compliance. With such a long history of operating in black or gray markets, it seems unrealistic to think that the entire cannabis industry is going to want to be subject to regulation. Black-market operators who circumvent not only the growing, but transportation, legal processing, and testing will lessen their overall costs and raise profit margins. Tempting, right? However, those in the regulated businesses will likely not want to jeopardize their licenses by working with black market businesses and law enforcement will have clearer targets.

7. Protecting children is addressed extensively in Prop. 64. But is it enough?

One of the most divisive issues of this Prop. 64 is “normalizing” marijuana usage and exposing children to recreational use of what the federal government still classifies as a Schedule 1 drug. Opponents say we’re going down a dangerous path that could result in higher drug usage by kids, exposure to media messages advertising marijuana and concerns about safety for youngsters. If passed, significant tax revenue would be set aside for youth drug education, drug treatment programs, police enforcement and public safety. Prop. 64 also sets out rules about labeling, packaging, marketing, and child-resistant packaging, along with advertising guidelines. Does it go far enough? Opponents say no, but the proposition does allow for a lot of wiggle room to make changes to the law.

8. Organic Mendo Gold is gonna be a thing

Get ready for marijuana with a pedigree. Prop 64 allows for AVAs similar to wine, so regions known for primo cannabis (like Humboldt or Mendocino Counties) can advertise that fact (as long as it’s really grown there).  Also, there are regulations and testing for using the term “organic” on cannabis.

9. Wild salmon love Prop 64

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but Prop 64 finally puts some serious teeth into the environmental effects of growing and processing—notably water. In a drought-stricken state, water is a big issue and unregulated farming and processing resulted in some serious environmental damage, including pesticides, waste runoff and damage to public lands. Money will be set aside to deal with damage, with state agency oversight regarding water usage and environmental impacts.

10. The price of pot is gonna go up

Growers will be paying cultivation taxes, along with permitting and licensing taxes (to some degree it’s mind boggling how many hands are going to be dipping into their pockets) from the state level to the city and county level. Consumers will pay 15% state tax as well as any additional local government taxes (county, city). Though it’s still a bit unclear, medical patients may be taxed at a lower rate.

Oh, and just so you know, even if California votes YES on Prop 64, marijuana growing, possession and transport are illegal according to federal law.

This is just a first pass at a few of the details of Prop. 64. Much bigger issues of social justice and public safety will be investigated more thoroughly in future articles.

If you want all the nitty-gritty, here’s a link to BallotPedia (a sort of longer guide) or the full text of Proposition 64. You really should take a look.

  • annika toernqvist

    Nice list. thanks.

  • Heather Irwin

    What do you think?

    • Johnnie Agincourt

      Perhaps we could set up state exchanges to drive down the price for our stoners without ready access or low incomes. Just like Obamacare works.. oh, wait, I take that back…

      • Bodhisattva

        That would involve the cannabis cartels to lobby for the IRS to let certain low income users have part of their personal taxes diverted to the cannabis cartels, that is how Obamacare works. But keep in mind people that don’t earn much money don’t pay enough taxes to have any of their taxes diverted to the healthcare insurance cartels, so they have to apply for Medi-Cal, which is a loan from the state to pay their monthly insurance premiums to a private insurance company (Partnership HealthPlan of California Inc.). This loan is not only for the private insurance, but also in addition for any actual medical care rendered at hospitals and specialty clinics, and it all is put on a running tab and shall be recovered by the Estate Recovery Program run by the state.
        The big problem is, cannabis is illegal on the Federal level, so your pipedream will never fly.

    • Bodhisattva

      The industry exists because only a very small percentage of cannabis consumers have the space, time, knowledge, desire, motivation, ability and money to grow their own cannabis, they like to enjoy it and not worry about producing it, just like people do with beer, wine, cigarettes, pharmaceutical drugs and hard alcohol.
      Most cannabis users have other gigs that are far more lucrative, growing would take too much of their time, which is money to most people.

  • bearass

    The price of cannabis will go down. Especially when folks grow their own and it is about a expensive as hay.

    • Johnnie Agincourt

      Absolutely. Just like how you can’t but tomatoes and vegetables in the supermarket because people can grow their own. Oh, and beer, and bread, and, um, hay…

    • Bodhisattva

      With all the new regulations, restrictions, production taxes, income taxes, special excise taxes, additional local taxes, accounting , monitoring and tracking applications costs, surveillance equipment and security services costs and legal costs, you actually think that the retail price will go down ? What school do you come from ?, certainly not a business school !

  • Bodhisattva

    I was wondering about the license categories, the lowest amount listed in the new classifications is in the Type 1A (specialty indoor) which is 501 square feet , and that license goes up to 5,000 square feet of flowering canopy.
    So, does that mean that any specialty indoor grow under 500 square feet is not required to get a license ? I would hope so, because there are thousands of people who grow indoors that have under 500 square feet of flowering canopy and in addition mother plant rooms, EZ clone machine rooms, nursery and intermediate starter rooms.
    These small scale growers are purveyors of fine connoisseur grade cannabis and have been doing it for decades, they like to stay small and focus on hand crafted quality buds.
    It’s a hard way to make a living now with the price drops over the last 6 years for these small operators of medical grows, no small time growers are getting rich at all, many are always struggling to make ends meet.
    It seems like the Medical Cannabis Reform Act (that we did not get a chance to vote on) has been set up by big business people (corporations/politicians) as basically what is called in the business world as a “hostile takeover” of the cannabis industry as a whole, and also to completely gut Prop.215. The big business model is “go big or get out”. It’s the same with most other industries in this country.
    I think that all indoor medical cannabis growing operations under 500 square feet of flowering canopy should not be taxed, regulated, licensed, monitored or controlled, only the big players should be .

    A small indoor grower already knows how to keep their operation stealth, not release telltale odors, not to tell anybody about it, not to retail it out of where they are growing, and not to let anybody see it, they have been policing themselves for decades, it’s called “survival”. They don’t want to piss off their neighbors, get ripped off or even worse yet busted.
    If they start to threaten the existing small time medical growers (under 500 square feet), then these veteran growers will have no choice but to carry on but instead in the black market, just like they used to do before 1996 when we passed Prop. 215.