Cannabis policy of California

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Medical marijuana sign at a dispensary on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles, California

All forms and preparations of cannabis, as well as its derivative tetrahydrocannabinol are Schedule 1 on the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act. The first cannabis prohibition laws in California were passed in 1913. In the 1972 California November elections an initiative titled Proposition 19, which would have legalized cannabis, was on the ballot. It failed to pass, with 66.5% voters voting "No" and 33.5% voting "Yes." In 1976 the passage of the Moscone Act changed small-scale possession of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor.

On November 5, 1996, 56% of voters approved Proposition 215 (also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996), taking effect the following day and removing state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana by patients that "would benefit from medical marijuana" and possess a "written or oral recommendation" from their physician. Conditions typically covered by the law include arthritis, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, HIV or AIDS, epilepsy, migraines, and multiple sclerosis. Initially, there existed no set limits regarding the amount of marijuana patients could possess or cultivate. California Senate Bill 420, also known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act, was signed into law in October 2003 and took effect on January 1, 2004, establishing the amount of medicinal marijuana patients and/or their caregivers may grow and possess. The bill allowed for no more than 8 ounces of dried marijuana and/or 6 mature (or 12 immature) plants, unless larger quantities were recommended by a physician. Senate Bill 420 also required the California Department of State Health Services to establish a voluntary patient registry and issue identification cards to patients, though no such registry has been established to date.

In February 2009, Tom Ammiano introduced the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, the first bill attempting to legalize the sale and use of marijuana in California. If passed and signed into law, marijuana would be sold and taxed openly to adults age 21 and older in a manner similar to alcohol.

In September 2010, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 1449 into law, which reduced possession of under 1 ounce of cannabis from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. The law went into effect January 1, 2011.

In 2010, Proposition 19, titled the "Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010", qualified for the November California ballot. It failed to pass. If it had passed, the initiative would have legalized the recreational use of cannabis and its related activities in the State of California. It would have also allowed local governments to regulate and tax the newly created cannabis market.