January 1st 2018. California becomes the largest state in the country to offer legal weed. After it was voted on in November 2016, the population spoke in its favor overwhelmingly. Proposition 64 legalized the sale and cultivation of recreational pot for adults, passed with 57 percent of the vote. There are other states with legal weed, including Washington and Colorado, but California is the biggest state by far. California is home to 1 in 8 Americans.
California will treat cannabis like alcohol, allowing those over 21 to purchase up to an ounce of pot at a time and grow 6 marijuana plants in their own home.
Is it really legal?
This is a fun one, yes and no!
It is still illegal on a federal level, but it is legal in California. We’ll let the two work it out on their own.
Authorities in Washington have kept their distance from medicinal pot in states where it is legal, but Congress has delayed renewing a little noticed rule that protects state medical marijuana programs from federal intervention. Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is an outspoken opponent of cannabis hinted towards a possible crack down on the federal level
Who would oppose this?
Because of the new taxes to be put in place by the state, some believe by the time the product is taxed it could raise the price by 70%. With the spike in price, opposers believe it could drive consumers back to the black market. And the state’s black market is vast, with an estimated 15,000 illegal cultivation sites in Humboldt County alone, a portion of land in Northern California’s “Emerald Triangle.”
What type of taxes are we talking about?
The state of California will impose a 15 percent excise tax on retail purchases of all cannabis and cannabis products, including medicinal cannabis. Then cultivators will pay taxes on buds and leaves they sell, which is expected to be passed on to consumers at retail counters, too. Local governments can slap on additional taxes as well. On cultivation, there’s a $9.25 per ounce tax for the plant’s flowers and $2.75 tax per ounce of leaves.
Despite the rise in prices, the state expects to bring in $684 million in pot taxes next year, with that number increasing to $1 billion in several years. Los Angeles has predicted that it could pull in $50 million next year.
Sweet! Where can I buy it?
It really depends on where you live. Some cities will have legal weed on January 1st, others will not. Certain places are not allowing collectives or dispensaries within it’s county lines. Los Angeles has delayed accepting applications for legal sales until January 3rd. Other counties, like Kern have banned any type of commercial activity. Some cities are waiting to see how things pan out. San Diego, Santa Cruz, Shasta Lake, San Jose and West Hollywood have given businesses’ the green light for recreational sales.
Does this mean there is no longer “Medical” Cannabis?
No, medicinal sales are expected to shrink but no entirely disappear. In cities like Los Angeles, patients will pay a lower city tax rate, which could made it an incentive for those in the medicinal market.. One age group caught in a gap between medical and recreational marijuana are those 18 to 20 years old. You have to be at least 21 to buy recreational pot, but medicinal is legal for anyone 18 and older. Some in that age range are likely to continue seeking medicinal purchases.
Can I smoke anywhere?
No, definitely not. You are still not aloud to smoke pot in public, or near any school or daycare where children are present. It’s a good general rule to not smoke anywhere tobacco is prohibited. Inside the storefronts themselves will be up to the city they reside in.
Just because it’s legal in California doesn’t mean it is legal everywhere. You can not bring any marijuana across state lines.
And unfortunately even though it is not legalized, your employer can still tell you not to smoke. They still uphold their right to drug test you.
Does this law then affect criminal charges for past crimes?
It does. Those who are serving time in prison for marijuana-related offenses can have their sentences reduced and be release thanks to the new laws. It requires a petition to the judge to re-sentence their case, it doesn’t automatically release the offender. Prior charges can be wiped off people’s records, or re-classified to the way the law is now. “Possession with intent to sell”, a previous felony, becomes a misdemeanor.
Also published on Medium.