Shortly after 6 am on Jan. 1, someone will walk into a California marijuana dispensary, stride up to the counter and make a purchase with no credentials aside from a government-issued ID card that proves they’re at least 21 years of age.
As of Dec. 27, 34 dispensaries have licenses to sell cannabis on New Year’s Day and at least four of them plan to open before dawn, so there will be a few people who can call themselves among the first to purchase legal cannabis in California.
Given the number of dispensaries planning to open on Jan. 1, there is a high probability that at least one of the first few people to purchase adult-use marijuana will have been a medical-cannabis patient. If they are sensible, the early-bird consumer will remain a cannabis patient, and keep their physician’s recommendation renewed. For medical marijuana cardholders in California, the benefits of holding a medical recommendation card are many, including access to more potent products, the promise of an uninterrupted supply chain — and lower taxes!
Here are some of the most important benefits awaiting faithful medical-marijuana patients in 2018. But, first, a quick and salient reminder: Medical marijuana dispensaries aren’t going away. Some dispensaries have, at least for now, decided to eschew the recreational market and stay medical-only. This is of particular benefit to anyone between the ages of 18 and 20, and to any minor with an adult caregiver, for they’ll still be able to access their medicine.
For people with medical marijuana recommendations, keeping medical dispensaries in business means:
Stronger Products & Forbidden Edibles
Starting on Jan. 1, the standard for edible cannabis products is 100 mg of THC, and that 100 mg must be divided into identifiable servings of no more than 10 mg each. Topicals and tinctures with more than 1,000 mg of THC are similarly banned.
However, there’s a loophole, and an exception: Medical cannabis patients will be able to access topicals or tinctures with up to 2,000 mg of THC. And these medical patients will also be able to legally purchase otherwise contraband edibles. Products that don’t abide by the new 100 mg rule will be able to be sold in medical dispensaries until July 1, provided they’re affixed with a label identifying them as strong medicine.
More Plants, More Ounces
Recreational marijuana rules in California dictate that citizens can grow six plants at home and keep an ounce in their pockets — no more, no less. With a doctor’s recommendation, however, medical cannabis patients can expect more, as in more of everything. Prop. 215, California’s medical-marijuana law, provides for patient access to as much marijuana as their medical need requires, though most cities and counties have set specific limits that are nonetheless more permissive than Prop. 64. Exactly how much more depends on where you live, but let’s use San Francisco as an example. Article 33 of the city’s health code allows a cannabis patient to possess eight ounces (including at the airport, as in right before a flight) and cultivate up to 24 plants. That’s significantly more than six plants and a single ounce.
It’s a libertarian’s conundrum: Thanks to the government, medical marijuana is subject to lower taxes. Since November 2016, holders of California’s official state-issued medical cannabis patient ID card have been exempted from state sales tax. Other taxes, like the excise tax and any local taxes, will still apply, but this exemption to state sales taxes for medical cannabis products will continue. The state-issued medical ID card is $100 (and $50 for someone on Medi-Cal), but as Berkeley Patients Group put it, if you spend $100 or more a month on medical marijuana, the arrangement will pay for itself.
Fewer Interruptions, Fewer Disappointments
Just because Jan. 1 is the first day of allowable retail sales doesn’t mean you’ll be able to find a retailer open on that day. In fact, if you live in Los Angeles or San Francisco, you won’t be able to find an adult-use retailer. Not every city and county with thriving medical-marijuana markets has passed laws allowing for adult-use sales on the first day of the year. To avoid running low and to avoid the bitter disappointment of being turned away for lack of (medical) paper, best to keep yours active. At the least, you’ll walk away from the same dispensary as adult-use customers with a cheaper product.
TELL US, are you going to keep your state-issued medical marijuana card?