Elections 2016

Voters Say Yes To Marijuana Legalization, Tobacco Tax; Reject Drug Price Initiative

Several health-related initiatives in California passed Tuesday, including a cigarette tax, legalization of recreational marijuana and additional funding for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. A measure intended to cap prescription drug prices, watched closely around the nation and strongly opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, was defeated.

Here’s a rundown of the results:

Proposition 52: Known as the Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program initiative, the measure won decisively with nearly 70 percent of the vote. It will extend indefinitely a fee the state collects from private hospitals to generate extra funding for Medi-Cal, which covers people with low incomes. The money is used to attract more funding from the federal government, which matches state spending on the program. Until now, the hospital fee has had to be renewed every two years. Prop. 52 also was designed to make it more difficult for lawmakers to divert the money from its intended purpose.

Proposition 55: Voters approved this proposal, which extends a temporary tax increase on high-income earners to fund education and health care. The increase, levied on annual earnings of more than $250,000, was scheduled to end next year. The measure, which garnered about 62 percent of the vote, will extend the increase for 12 years. In certain years, $2 billion of the money would be earmarked for Medi-Cal, which now serves more than 13 million Californians.

Proposition 56: This measure will increase the statewide tax on a pack of cigarettes by $2 and raise taxes on other tobacco products as well. The money will be earmarked for health care. California has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation, at 87 cents per pack. Prop. 56, passed with nearly 63 percent of the vote, will drive the total tax up to $2.87, putting the average cost of a pack at about $7.50. The extra revenue will be spent on smoking cessation programs, research and physician training, as well as dental disease prevention programs.

Proposition 60: Voters rejected this initiative, which would have required adult film performers to use condoms during filming of sexual intercourse. It lost 54 percent to 46 percent. If approved, it would have imposed more health and safety requirements on the production of the films, including testing and medical examinations for performers, paid for by the films’ producers. The measure also could have reduced tax revenue for the state, had producers responded by relocating outside of California.

Proposition 61: One of the most divisive measures on this year’s ballot, the “California Drug Price Relief Act” lost by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent. The proposition would have prohibited state health programs from purchasing prescription drugs that cost more than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which typically gets the best deals. Although some critics saw the measure as poorly conceived and unworkable, many voters believed it was important to signal their discontent over rising drug prices. The well-funded “No on 61” campaign, backed by pharmaceutical companies, argued that the proposal would lead to higher drug prices and harm veterans.

Proposition 64: Twenty years after approving the use of marijuana for medical purposes, voters decided to legalize it for recreational use by adults 21 and over. The measure passed with 56 percent of the vote. The initiative will impose a tax of 15 percent on retail sales of marijuana and a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. The Legislative Analyst estimated that state and local tax revenues from this measure could range from hundreds of millions of dollars to $1 billion annually.

This story was updated Nov. 9 at 10:41 a.m. 

Categories: Capitol Desk, Cost and Quality

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