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Timeline of Marijuana Laws in California

History of marijuana reforms in California

In 2016, Proposition 64 made marijuana legal in California. This was by no means an easy journey, as you can see from this timeline of marijuana reforms in California:

  • 1975: California reclassifies cannabis possession from felony to misdemeanor
  • 1996: California was first state to legalize medical marijuana (Proposition 215, Compassionate Use Act)
  • 2011: California decriminalizes marijuana possession (reduced the charge of possession of one ounce of cannabis or less, from a misdemeanor to an infraction, similar to a traffic violation"”a maximum of a $100 fine and no mandatory court appearance or criminal record) (SB 1449)
  • 2014: California reclassifies certain drug possession offenses (Proposition 47) (reclassified many low level theft and drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors)
  • 2016: California legalizes recreational marijuana (Proposition 64)

Why is this important? We've heard comments that marijuana laws are not enforced in California, and that Proposition 64 was therefore nearly meaningless. Think again.As this graph shows, while marijuana is used equally by those of different races, the arrest rates vary highly by race. This means that the collateral consequences (e.g., occupational licenses, employment, social services, housing) disparately impacted African-Americans.

Racial Disparity of Marijuana convictions.png

Remember: Marijuana is still not legal under federal law. Thus, if you are not a US citizen, you should not admit use or possession of marijuana, as it can be used against you in immigration proceedings.

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