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Proposition 64 – Legalization of Marijuana

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Official Title:

Marijuana Legalization.  Initiative Statute.


The legalization of marijuana has a lengthy ballot history in California.  The first ballot measure in California to address marijuana was Proposition 19 in 1972.  That proposition would have decriminalized marijuana use and possession for individuals 18 years of age or older.  However, Proposition 19 was not approved by the voters.

However, California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use, when in 1996 voters approved Proposition 215.  That proposition exempted patients and caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician from criminal laws that otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana.

In 2010, California voters were again presented with an opportunity to approve the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana with Proposition 19.  However, Proposition 19 was not approved by the voters.

Since that time, other states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.  Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana in 2012, and in 2014 voters in Oregon and Alaska approved measures to legalize marijuana.

In addition, in 2015 the California Legislature passed and the Governor signed legislation to regulate the commercial medical marijuana industry, with a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the Department of Consumer Affairs as the lead enforcement agency.  Under the legislation (which went into effect in January 2016), medical marijuana cooperatives will be phased out within a few years and replaced by state-licensed businesses.

Proposition 64 would legalize the possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana.  Specifically, individuals age 21 or over could legally possess, use, sell, transport, process, and cultivate marijuana under state law.  However, certain marijuana-related activities would remain illegal.  For example, it would remain unlawful for individuals to operate a motor vehicle while under the impairment of marijuana or provide marijuana to individuals under the age of 21.

In addition, Proposition 64 would establish the Bureau of Marijuana Control which, along with other state agencies, would have the authority to regulate the commercial cultivation, processing, distribution, and sales of marijuana for recreational purposes.  This would be similar to the existing authority under recent legislation related to the regulation of medical marijuana.

Proposition 64 would establish certain taxes related to marijuana products.  Specifically, it places an excise tax of 15 percent on the retail sale of marijuana products.  The proposition also places an excise tax on the cultivation of marijuana of $9.25 per ounce of dried marijuana flowers and $2.75 per ounce of dried marijuana leaves.


Finally, the states of Colorado and Washington have recently liberalized their marijuana laws.  In Colorado, at least, early reports are indicate than many children are accidentally ingesting edibles with the drug’s active ingredients, traffic accidents have increased and marijuana businesses are mostly locating in low-income neighborhoods.

Fiscal Impact:

According to the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO), Proposition 64 could result in 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.  In addition, the proposition could result in net additional state and local tax revenues potentially ranging from the high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually related to the production and sale of marijuana. Most of these funds would be required to be spent for specific purposes such as substance use disorder education, prevention, and treatment.

CCC Position:

No position


Supporters of Proposition 64 include Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Democratic Party, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Supporters assert that this measure finally creates a safe, legal, and comprehensive system for adult use of marijuana while protecting our children.  It incorporates best practices from states that have already legalized adult marijuana use and adheres closely to the recommendations of California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, which included law enforcement and public health experts. 

Supporters also state that Proposition 64 will raise revenues and decrease law enforcement costs, and that it will raise billions of dollars for afterschool programs, job placement and mental health treatment, drug prevention education for teens, and training and research for law enforcement to crack down on impaired driving.




Opponents of Proposition 64 include U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, and the California Hospital Association.

Opponents argue that there are huge flaws in Proposition 64.  First, the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety reports that deaths in marijuana-related car crashes doubled since the state of Washington approved legalization.  This measure also allows marijuana growing near schools and parks because it forbids local governments from banning indoor residential growing of marijuana if the crop is limited to six plants.  In addition, black market and drug cartel activity will increase as evidenced by the organized crime filings that have skyrocketed in Colorado since they legalized marijuana.  Opponents also state that Proposition 64 will roll back the decades-long total prohibition of smoking ads on TV since marijuana smoking ads will be permitted in prime time and on programs with millions of children and teenage viewers.  Lastly, this measure places no limit on the number of marijuana shops that can be placed in a single neighborhood with poor, underprivileged neighborhoods likely the ones to be most affected. 

Reflections on Church Teaching:

"The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law."  Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2291.

 In 2001, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry issued a pastoral handbook entitled “Church, Drugs, and Drug Addiction.” The Pontifical Council teaches that the use of cannabis is “incompatible with Christian morality” because it is an intoxicant that dims reason and is potentially damaging to the integrity of one’s body and soul.