Time to Legalize, Regulate Marijuana in California

Prop 64

Six years ago California voters were asked to make recreational marijuana legal under state law and they declined to do so. But the close decision — 46% voted “yes” on Proposition 19 — suggested that the battle was not yet over. At that time, The Times opposed Proposition 19 not because legalization was necessarily a bad idea, but because it was a poorly drafted mess that would have created a regulatory nightmare.

In the years since, a lot has changed. Four states, starting with Colorado and Washington, have legalized adult recreational use, without major problems. Half of the states now allow medical marijuana. Canada is working on legislation to legalize adult use next year. And Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have suggested that, if elected, they wouldn’t use the federal prohibition against marijuana to undermine state legalization efforts.

There has also been a huge shift in thinking on drug policy, as more people question the effect of the decades-long war on drugs on law enforcement expenditures, overcrowded prisons, marginalized communities and violent drug cartels. In the case of marijuana, there is growing support for the argument that the cost of enforcing prohibition is too great and delivers too few benefits.