The history of cannabis in California spans several decades and is marked by significant milestones that have shaped the state’s cannabis industry and its influence on the rest of the country. Here is an overview of the key events in the history of cannabis in California:
Early 1900s: Cannabis Prohibition
Cannabis was initially legal in California, but in 1913, the state passed the Poison Act, which included cannabis among the substances that required a prescription. The Poison Act marked the beginning of cannabis prohibition in California.
1937: Marihuana Tax Act
The federal government passed the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, which further criminalized cannabis nationwide by imposing a tax on its cultivation, distribution, and use. The act reinforced the prohibitive stance on cannabis in California and other states.
1960s-1970s: Counterculture Movement
During the 1960s and 1970s, California became an epicenter for the counterculture movement, which embraced cannabis use and advocacy. San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, in particular, became synonymous with cannabis, as well as the broader counterculture movement.
In 1975, California passed Senate Bill 95, which decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis (less than one ounce) for personal use. Possession of small amounts was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor and then to a citable offense with a fine.
1996: Medical Cannabis Legalization
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis with the passage of Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act. The legislation allowed patients with specific medical conditions to access cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation, setting a precedent for other states to follow.
2003: Senate Bill 420
In 2003, California passed Senate Bill 420, which established the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP). The bill clarified certain aspects of Proposition 215, including creating a voluntary state ID card system for medical cannabis patients and providing guidelines for the cultivation and distribution of medical cannabis.
2010: Proposition 19
In 2010, California voters rejected Proposition 19, which aimed to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults aged 21 and over. Although the measure failed, it sparked a nationwide conversation about cannabis legalization and set the stage for future efforts.
2016: Recreational Cannabis Legalization
In November 2016, California passed Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over. The legislation, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), created a regulated market for the cultivation, distribution, and sale of cannabis.
2018: Implementation of Adult Use Regulations
In January 2018, adult-use cannabis regulations came into effect in California, with licensed dispensaries opening their doors for recreational sales. The state continues to refine its regulatory framework, grappling with issues such as social equity, taxation, and local control.
California has played a pivotal role in shaping the cannabis landscape in the United States, leading the way in medical cannabis legalization and later, recreational cannabis legalization. The state’s cannabis industry has grown into a multibillion-dollar market, setting trends and influencing policies across the country.