This fall, California voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana in the state of California. This would completely reshape the nation’s largest cannabis marketplace.

4 states and Washington D.C. have already legalized recreational marijuana use, but California’s sheer size and position as a cultural trendsetter means that any decision it votes on could accelerate legalization across the rest of the country.

What it means for California

The state’s current medical marijuana system is loosely regulated and worth about $2.7 billion. If voters decide to legalize recreational cannabis this fall, the industry would easily double within just a few years.

If the vote is “yes,” then the marijuana industry of California is going to be completely reinvented into a well-regulated industry and market, complete with taxes and fees. This will generate A LOT of tax revenue – and thus get all of that money OUT of the black market. Making it legal will pump billions of dollars into the state through a new, revamped network of licensed cultivation,, distribution and testing facilities (all of which will of course need employees), construction workers and equipment.

Reverberations across the country

When the rest of the country sees how much revenue California (and other legalized states) is making from recreational marijuana sales, it is likely that they will take an interest.

If the measure in California passes, it would create a new Bureau of Marijuana control, which would require growers and sellers to pay taxes, and would completely bar use by anyone younger than 21. This would be a good statement and example for the rest of the country. As of now, Colorado is considered to be the only one really making it work successfully. But adding California to the mix could prove that is really is doable.

Details of the Measure

The ballot initiative would completely revamp the current industry and system in California.

  • System for taxing
  • Tightening of regulations
  • Require contaminant testing
  • New rules for keeping cannabis out of the hands of kids and teens
  • Adults allowed to posses up to 1 ounce at a time
  • Adults allowed to grow 6 plants without a license
  • Bar public consumption
  • Grant business licensing priority to recognize medical marijuana producers (giving preference to established medical cannabis industry players means they can get a jumpstart on their competition)
  • Those in the industry will likely get attorneys, land-use planners and investment advisors
  • Police, code enforcers and even zoning regulators will be expected to target the “bad apples”


Will it pass?

Thus far, it certainly looks that way, and many expect it to pass. Many longtime advocates including former Facebook president Sean Parker, are backing the effort. And, they have already raised more that $3.5 million to support the initiative, which will likely spark a massive wave of advertising.

The California Secretary of State announced that the initiative gathered enough voters’ ┬ásignatures for the November ballot.

However, there is a great deal of internal debate within the marijuana community about whether this measure is the right approach to legalization. Many small-scale cannabis growers are concerned that they will be pushed out, in favor of industrial farmers that will be better able to meet the new strict regulatory and environmental rules.