Survey: 86% of Californians Back Legal MJ Sources, Support for Reform Increasing

California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis back in 1996, 20 years later ushering in adult-use legislation. Now, the Golden State has the single largest cannabis market in the world. 

As cannabis has gradually become more ingrained into the fabric of the state, and the country as a whole, it appears that California residents are increasingly more supportive of the market.

The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) recently released survey data exploring the modern-day stances of Californians regarding the state’s cannabis market. The survey was conducted by FM3 Research as part of the DCC’s Real California Cannabis Campaign, which aims to help consumers easily find and verify licensed dispensaries in the state.

FM3 Research interviewed more than 1,000 California adults to compile the data.

One of the most prominent discoveries from the survey shows that 62% of Californians believe that Proposition 64, the voter initiative that legalized recreational cannabis, has had a positive impact on the state. The initiative was originally passed with 57% voter support, so the figure implies that cannabis reform in California has garnered more support over time.

The poll also found that 86% of Californian adults believe that it is important to purchase cannabis from the legal market, while similarly 72% said they believe consumers have a responsibility to verify they are purchasing cannabis from licensed retailers.

Even though California boasts the largest cannabis global cannabis economy, illicit sales are still highly prominent. A 2022 Reason Foundation report said that roughly two-thirds of total cannabis sales in the state still come from the illegal market. 

The California Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce (UCETF) also recently released its first annual report detailing the money, illegal cannabis plants/products and firearms obtained in its seizure operations from last year. In 2023, the task force said it seized more than $312 million in illegal cannabis, 189,854.02 pounds of cannabis, eradicated 317,834 cannabis plants, served 188 search warrants, seized 119 firearms and seized $223,809 of money on-site.

Though, according to DCC Director Nicole Elliot, the UCETF has made serious progress in eliminating illegal operations, leveraging the resources of more than 20 state agencies and departments alongside the taskforce’s local and federal partners. 

“The UCETF’s progress in 2023 reflects California’s ongoing commitment to disrupting and dismantling illegal cannabis activity,” Elliott said. “I look forward to working with all our partners in 2024 to build on this progress.”

While it appears to be a widely shared belief that residents must take it upon themselves to seek out legal cannabis retailers, the survey also sheds light on some education gaps surrounding the legal cannabis market among Californians. 

The survey found that 85% of respondents living in areas where retail cannabis is not allowed either incorrectly believed that cannabis was allowed in their region or simply didn’t know what the local laws were at all.

Elliott highlighted this piece, saying that education and enforcement are two crucial pillars that help to support a well-regulated cannabis market.

“The Real California Cannabis campaign will provide cannabis consumers with information that empowers them to make informed decisions regarding their cannabis purchases,” Elliott said. “These smart choices support safer communities, local businesses, and our continuous efforts to disrupt the illegal market.”

Though, when it comes to actually identifying a licensed or unlicensed cannabis business, respondents also appeared to be split: 44% said that it was easy to identify if a retailer was licensed, while 42% said it was difficult to recognize the distinction.

Additionally, the polling results showed that 88% of respondents who have consumed cannabis said they would purchase it from a licensed retailer and more than half (56%) said they have used cannabis.

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