Timeline of U.S. and California Marijuana Law

Thanks to the Public Policy Institute of California for this timeline of marijuana law

19131915: California outlawed sale, cultivation, and possession of cannabis without prescription along with other narcotics. 

1920s: Penalties for both sale and possession of marijuana hardened, punishable by fines and/or sentences ranging from 1⁄2 to 6 years for first-time offenses.

1937: U.S. Congress passes the Marihuana Tax Act effectively banning the possession and sale of marijuana with a prohibitive tax and potential imprisonment for evasion.

1970: U.S. Congress passes the Controlled Substances Act classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive categorization, with no accepted medical use.

1972, November: California voters reject Proposition 19, the California Marijuana Initiative, an attempt to decriminalize possession and cultivation for adults, by a 21 margin, 66.5% to 33.5%.

1972, December: State legislature passes the Drug Abuse Act (Chapter 2.5, California Penal Code 1000) giving judges the option of sending non-violent, first-time offenders to court-approved drug rehabilitation programs in lieu of conviction.

1975: California legislature passes SB 95, the Moscone Act, making possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use a citable misdemeanor rather than a felony.

1996: California voters approve Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) with 56% in favor, becoming the first state to legalize possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical use.

2000: Voters approve Proposition 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, with 60% in favor, allowing first- and second-time non-violent marijuana possession offenders to be given a probationary sentence involving drug treatment programs rather than incarceration.

2010, September: Governor Schwarzenegger signs SB 1449, decriminalizing possession of up to 1 oz. to an infraction, punishable by a fine of $100. Like traffic tickets, appearance in court no longer necessary

2010, Nov: Voters reject Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act, to legalize recreational use, with 46.5% in favor.

2014, November: Voters pass Proposition 47, the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes initiative, with 59.6% in favor, reclassifying some drug crimes and low-level offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.

2015, October: Governor Brown signs the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, a three- bill package (SB 643, AB 266, AB 243) establishing the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, a regulatory body with oversight of physician recommendations, tracking movement of medical marijuana through the supply and distribution chain, and local and state licensing for dispensaries. 


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