Proposition 215: De Facto Legalization of Pot and the Shortcomings of Direct Democracy

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, officially titled The Compassionate Use Act of 1996, and popularly known as the “medical marijuana” initiative. This initiative allows qualifying people and their caregivers immunity from criminal prosecution when the state attempts to charge them with possession or cultivation of marijuana. Professor Vitiello uses the medical marijuana initiative as a case study illustrating flaws in California’s ballot initiative process He examines the history of the initiative process in California, misleading aspects of the campaign for Proposition 215, and ambiguities in the proposition’s language. Concluding that the initiative process as it now stands fosters poor legislation, Professor Vitiello assesses several reform measures proposed by the nonpartisan Citizens’ Commission on Ballot Initiatives and adds his own proposed reforms to address the problems of misleading advertisements and misleading ballot pamphlets.