What you need to know about Prop. 64, the initiative to legalize recreational pot

Proposition 64, the measure to legalize recreational pot, is one of the most complicated measures on the ballot. Taking up 62 pages in the voter guide and coming in at over and 16,000 words, it’s unlikely that you or anyone else is going to wade through the whole proposal.

So to better understand what Prop. 64 says and what it would mean if it passes, KCRW spoke with LA Times reporter Patrick McGreevy.

KCRW: What exactly does this proposition do?

Patrick McGreevy: Essentially it will allow Californian’s who are 21 and older to possess, transport and use up to an ounce of marijuana for non-medical, or recreation, uses at a time. They can also grow 6 plants. The ballot measure also would impose a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sold.

So if Prop 64 does pass, when will people be able to buy recreational pot?

PM: Potentially next year, but there’s a law that was approved by the legislature that is putting off medical licenses for selling pot to 2018.

So that same bureau would be in charge of licensing both medical cannabis as well as recreational cannabis?

PM: Yeah the ballot measure basically revises the bureau’s role and responsibility and expands it to include non-medical.

The state will tax all recreational cannabis at 15 percent, that excise tax, but what kind of taxing power do local governments have? And how much money is the state expected to take in during the first year?

PM: Yeah the local governments are empowered to impose their own taxes as they see costs for enforcing their ordinances and other marijuana issues. Basically they can impose taxes of 4 or 5 percent if they want on top of the excise tax, to cover their own law enforcement and medical expenses. The state tax though is expected to bring in about a billion dollars a year.

Talking about those local governments and the ordinances they’re allowed to set… they’re allowed to ban recreational cannabis altogether, correct? Do you expect to see that happen?

PM: I think there’s some areas where they’ve already started to impose regulation, like the city of LA, where they’ve allowed a certain number of dispensaries to operate and that will then have to be revisited. But yeah, there may be some areas that say no, there’s some parts of the Inland Empire right now that are saying come out here and open up your farms out here because we’ve got plenty of land and industrial areas for processing and they see the potential boon in the money that’s going to be generated from a huge marijuana industry.

Let’s talk about the opponents of Prop 64… Driving under the influence seems to be one of the larger issues, what else are they worried about?

PM: Another issue they’re worried about is edibles. There’s some marijuana products that are made to look like candies and they’re worried that those will attract children, but the measure itself has provisions that says you’re not allowed to market to children, you’re only allowed to sell to people that are 21 and older.

Marijuana is still illegal and it is still considered to be as dangerous as heroin and MDMA, a schedule 1 drug. Will there be any sort of pushback at a federal level in California? What’s happened in States like Washington and Colorado?

PM: So far there has not been any pushback. There was a memo that went out from the Department of Justice that said if a state adopts restrictions and regulations to provide for safe distribution of marijuana that it’s not going to be something that they’re going to push to enforce.

Does it look like Prop 64 is going to pass?

PM:We did a poll last month that had it winning by 58 percent. Since then I’ve seen some polls that show that lead narrowing a little bit, and so I think the Prop 64 people are still going to campaign hard because, you know six years ago everything looked great and then Proposition 19 failed by just a couple percentage points. They’ve seen how things can be rejected in the past, they’re gonna I think not make that same mistake this time.