California. The California Lifestyle. The Golden State. The entire history of California is outside the scope of this document – however, we will discuss several highlights of California’s history, starting with the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846.

The Bear Flag Revolt

During the Bear Flag Revolt, from June to July 1846, a small group of American settlers in California rebelled against the Mexican government and proclaimed California an independent republic. The republic was short-lived because soon after the Bear Flag was raised, the U.S. military began occupying California, which went on to join the union in 1850. The Bear Flag became the official state flag in 1911.

Bear Flag Revolt: Background

In 1846 California was controlled by Mexico and was home to a growing population of American settlers. Mexican leaders worried that many of these settlers were not truly interested in becoming Mexican subjects and would soon push for annexation of California to the United States. For their part, the Americans distrusted their Mexican leaders and were worried the Mexicans might make a preemptive attack to forestall rebellion.

In the spring of 1846, the American army officer and explorer John C. Fremont (1813-90) arrived at Sutter’s Fort (near modern-day Sacramento) with a small corps of soldiers. Ostensibly, he and his men were in the area strictly for the purposes of making a scientific survey. However, the brash young officer began to persuade a motley mix of American settlers and adventurers to form militias and prepare for a rebellion against Mexico.

Bear Flag Revolt: June-July 1846

On June 14, 1846, a party of more than 30 Americans under the leadership of William Ide and Ezekiel Merritt invaded the largely defenseless Mexican outpost of Sonoma just north of San Francisco. Fremont and his soldiers did not participate, though he had given his tacit approval of the attack. Merritt and his men surrounded the home of the retired Mexican general Mariano Vallejo and informed him that he was a prisoner of war. Vallejo, who was actually a supporter of American annexation, was more puzzled than alarmed by the rebels. He invited Merritt and a few of the other men into his home to discuss the situation over drinks.

Having won a bloodless victory at Sonoma, Ide and Merritt then proceeded to declare California an independent republic. With a cotton sheet and some red paint, they constructed a makeshift flag with a crude drawing of a grizzly bear, a lone red star (a reference to the earlier Lone Star Republic of Texas) and the words “California Republic” at the bottom. From then on, the independence movement was known as the Bear Flag Revolt.

Fremont officially took command of the so-called Bear Flaggers and occupied the unguarded presidio of San Francisco on July 1. Six days later, Fremont learned that American forces under Commodore John D. Sloat had taken Monterey without a fight and officially raised the American flag over California. The United States had declared war against Mexico on May 13, 1846. This news apparently had not reached the Bear Flaggers at the time of their revolt. Since the ultimate goal of the Bear Flaggers was to make California part of the United States, they now saw little reason to preserve their “government.” Three weeks after it had been proclaimed, the California Republic quietly faded away.

In 1850, California joined the Union and the Bear Flag was officially adopted as California’s state flag in 1911.

California During Prohibition

On January 17, 1920, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States made “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States…for beverage purposes….” illegal. But, two little words were missing from that list: ownership, and consumption.  It was those 2 words that made all the difference in the years ahead.

The Volstead Act, the body of law responsible for the enforcement of Prohibition, defined “intoxicating liquor” as any beverage containing half a percent (.5%) or more of alcohol by weight.  The Act did provide few exclusions including wine for religious purposes. Catholic and Jewish religious leaders, who opposed Prohibition were quick to secure supplies of “sacramental wine” for themselves, and their congregations.

The strictly hierarchical structure of the Catholic church ensured that priests signing orders for sacramental wine were actually priests and not imposters. However, the looser structure of the Jewish religious organization, led to many bootleggers claiming to be rabbis to take advantage of the loophole in the Volstead Act.

In response, the market introduced sacramental champagne, crème de menthe, brandy, and others.  Asked to rule on whether these liquors truly belonged under the sacramental wine exception, a federal judge in the District of Columbia allowed it, stating, “it is not the content of the beverage, but the purpose for which it will be used that determines whether or not it is sacramental wine.”

Another Exception: Home-Made Cider, er, Wine

Another exception to the Volstead Act allowed for the making of up to 200 gallons of non-intoxicating cider or homemade fruit juice each year. The Bureau of Internal Revenue, however, struck down the .5% definition of “intoxicating,” with regard to homemade wine in July of 1920.  The Bureau stated that, “some drinks that contain more than the prescribed one-half of 1 per cent, while they may cheer, do not inebriate.”  This ruling opened the door to a booming home winemaking business.

Prohibition lasted almost 14 years before the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment returning control of liquor laws to the states.  The Prohibition years had a profound impact on society and American’s attitudes towards liquor.  While some wine growers ripped out their vines and replaced them with apricots and other fruit trees, other growers found religion and not only survived the prohibition years, but prospered.

Georges de Latour of Beaulieu Vineyards was one such.  De Latour, a Catholic, had secured connections within the Catholic church in the years prior to prohibition, to provide the sacramental wine for churches across the country. During the entirety of Prohibition, Wente Vineyards sold 100% of its harvest to de Latour to be made into sacramental wine. Beringer, Martini, and Concannon also sold to the church.

De Latour and other makers of sacramental wine did not restrict themselves to providing for the Catholic church. They also made kosher wine, and provided wine for Lutherans and the Russian Orthodox.

Demand for wine grapes soared.  California land dedicated to grape-growing increased by 700% during the first 5 years of Prohibition.  By 1928, approximately 27,900 railroad carloads of grapes left California bound for New York alone.  The volume was so great that the Pennsylvania Railroad expended its Jersey City freight terminal solely to accommodate the thousands of grape-laden boxcars.   Prices increased as well as volume.  During the first four years of Prohibition, a ton of grapes went from a pre-Prohibition price of less than $30 to a staggering $375.

Another method of legally distributing wine grapes during Prohibition was to sell grape concentrate in the form of a solid block (about the size of a pound of butter) called a “wine brick” or “wine block”.  According to the law, these bricks could be used by the consumer to make “non-intoxicating fruit juice.”  In order to comply with the letter, if not the spirit, of the law, the wine bricks were sold with a warning on the label cautioning the consumer not to add yeast or sugar to the grape juice or to leave it in a cupboard for 20 days before drinking because it “might ferment and turn into wine.”

Repeal found the California wine grower eagerly tearing out the rows of hated Alicante vines and replacing them with tastier varietals.  Vintners struggled to regain lost winemaking knowledge and to refill the barrels and casks with the “liquid poetry”.  During the 13 years and 10 months of Prohibition, some wineries closed their doors, a few made fortunes, most did what they needed to do and just to survive.

The Path to Cannabis Legalization

Here’s a chart which shows major marijuana legalization milestones in California.

The Poison and Pharmacy Act of 1907
California passed the Poison and Pharmacy Act in 1907 that banned the sale of opium, cocaine, or morphine without a prescription. In 1913, cannabis was included on the list of banned drugs, making the Golden State the first to prohibit marijuana.
Marihuana Tax Act of 1937The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 made the possession or transfer of marijuana illegal across the United States under federal law. Medicinal use was legal but it created an expensive fee system to tax its use.
California Attempts to Legalize Marijuana in 1972The Golden State was the first in the U.S. to independently attempt to legalize marijuana in 1972 with Proposition 19, which attempted to decriminalize marijuana possession and sale. The law failed to pass with 66.5% voting against it.
Berkeley Marijuana Initiative I of 1973Berkeley voters passed the Berkeley Marijuana Initiative I, prohibiting officers from making marijuana-related arrests unless approved by the city council first.
Moscone Act of 1976The Moscone Act in California changed possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Berkeley Marijuana Initiative II of 1979Berkeley voters passed an ordinance that made growing, possession, transportation and sale of marijuana the lowest priority for police.
Judge Rules DEA Hindered Cannabis Research in 1988A judge ruled that the DEA hindered cannabis research and allowed the drug to be used safely, claiming it was a therapeutic product. Later that year, researchers discovered cannabinoid receptors in the human brain that lead to a better understanding of how drugs affect the central nervous system.
San Francisco Recognizes Marijuana for Medicinal Use in 1992The Board of Supervisors in California become the first city government to recognize marijuana for its medicinal purposes. That year, the enforcement of marijuana laws became the city’s lowest priority.
California Voters Vote to Legalize Marijuana in 1996Voters in California passed Proposition 215, legalizing the use and sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but the law conflicted with federal statutes.
California Introduces Medical Research for Marijuana in 1999The Golden State introduces a three-year program for medical research, gearing their focus on the drug as a medical treatment. The legislation led to funding the University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego.
Oakland Passes Measure to Allow Taxation of Cannabis for Adults in 2005Oakland passes a measure to allow regulation and taxation of cannabis for adult use, making the prosecution of adults who use or possess marijuana a low priority for law enforcement.
Governor Schwarzenegger Passes SB 1449 in 2010Governor Schwarzenegger passes SB 1449, making the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor and civil infraction in the state of California.
Oakland Approves a Citywide Plan to Cultivate Marijuana in 2010The city of Oakland votes to approve a citywide plan to cultivate medical marijuana in four factories. The plans were later dismissed after the Obama administration warned Oakland that they would be in violation of federal law.
Proposition 19 is Defeated in California in 2010Proposition 19 would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years and older but it was defeated - 54 percent voted against it.
US Attorneys Prosecute Landlords Allowing Marijuana Growth in 2011Four U.S. attorneys for the state of California begin to prosecute property owners and landlords who rent buildings used to sell or grow marijuana.
Mendocino County Ends Permit Program for Medical Marijuana Growers in 2012Mendocino County ends its permit program (the first in the nation) to medical marijuana growers after receiving pressure form the federal government.
California Voters Say They Would Legalize Marijuana in 2013In a state poll, at least 55 percent of voters agreed they would support the legalization of marijuana.
California Lawmakers Set New Regulations for Medicinal Marijuana Programs in 2015The Golden State begins to draft new regulations for medical marijuana programs, establishing rules for growing cannabis, setting fees and licensing standards.
Adult Use of Marijuana Act is Approved in 2016Proposition 64 is approved by California voters, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in the state.
Marijuana Legalization Goes into Effect in 2018After the approval of the Marijuana Act in 2016, weed will be legal in the state of California starting Jan. 1, 2018.

The History of California Lifestyle

California is one of the USA’s most famous states. It’s home to iconic San Francisco and Los Angeles, Napa Valley, Sierra Nevada mountains and Yosemite National Park. Sunny California is also famed for the enviable Californian lifestyle. Take a look at our tips and experiences for living like a ‘Cali’ local.

San Francisco

California has a history of being a lifestyle pioneer. In fact, it was the colorful streets of San Francisco that gave birth to the hippie movement and the subsequent Summer of Love back in the 60s. Use your free time in San Fran to explore the historic sites of Haight Ashbury, taking pit stops in the hipster cafes and craft beer pubs.

The Central Valley

California is the USA’s most organic state. Not only do Californians love to embrace an organic diet, but Californian farmers are responsible for a large majority of the organic produce sold in America.

To get an authentic insight into the industry, visit Salinas Valley to learn about fruit and vegetable production from a Local Specialist, or head to Earthbound Organic Farms in Carmel Valley to take a tour and try out the local produce.

Wine Country

As well as organic, Californians love to keep it local with their wines. To live like a ‘Cali’ local, take a tour of California’s wine country and try out the local varieties on offer.

Create, taste and bottle your own combination of Carignane, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel on a local family-run winery in Sonoma. Or head down to Napa to get on board the Napa Valley Wine Train for a unique wine-tasting experience.

California Weed Country

Or, enjoy the “high” life by taking a Cannabis-and-Wine Tour or by visiting a dispensary or tasting room. Some Tours will take you to cultivation sites where you can get up close and personal with the plants.

Parks and Other Outdoor Activities

When it comes to all-round well-being, California’s enormous National Parks can feed your body, mind and soul. As well as exercising your legs in the rugged National Parks, take a moment to reflect on your surroundings and take a long deep breath of fresh air. It’s not just the sheer expanse of California’s National Parks that give you a new perspective, but the enormity and beauty of the natural vistas that are around you.

Feel dwarfed by the “Land of Giants” as you walk through the Sequoia National Park, before spending the night stargazing with a naturalist as they take you on a journey through the night sky.

When visiting Yosemite, stay overnight inside the park, allowing more peace and quiet for your short stroll to Yosemite Falls. In Mammoth Lakes, head up into the mountains for a relaxing two-night stay.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles may be famous for the star-spotting and glamorous lifestyle portrayed in the movies, but L.A. dwellers are also extremely active. Californians love to get out into the great outdoors on a hike or bike ride, and L.A. has it all covered.

Are you coming to California? Check out Happy Travelers Tours for a unique and memorable experience in Wine-and-Weed Country!