Legalization Steadily Moves Forward in CA

Prop 64 Legal Marijuana Cannabis Now

Today is Day 3 of life after legalization in California – and, aside from an unseasonable warm spell in the Bay Area and the second of two straight nights of protests over our new commander-in-chief in most of our major cities, life for the state’s marijuana users has continued much as it did before.

On Tuesday, nearly five million people voted in favor of Prop. 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, giving legalization its biggest victory by a handy margin, 56 percent for to 44 percent opposed.

Legalized weed has a real mandate. Prop. 64 won every coastal county in the state, including conservative Orange and San Diego counties, losing big only in hardcover Central Valley conservative hotbeds like Fresno and Bakersfield. Despite fears of opposition from economic-minded medical marijuana growers, worried about a price crash, Prop. 64 also carried the rural pot-producing counties in the Emerald Triangle and Sacramento Foothills.

This means that as of midnight Wednesday, all adults 21 and over could possess an ounce of cannabis and grow up to six plants in their homes. Nearly every cannabis-related felony crime is now a misdemeanor at worst, with sales to children under 18 the main exception.

Hooray! So… where’s the party?

For now – and, possibly until 2018 – the party’s back where it started, at the medical marijuana dispensary. And for folks out in Fresno, the party might require a drive to L.A.

Cannabis is indeed legal, but casual smokers and would-be marijuana tourists will have to wait a while to go to the neighborhood weed shop. Adult retail sales will have to wait until cities and counties create a permitting process, which must happen no later than Jan. 1, 2018. (Cities and counties can also choose to be off-limits to retail cannabis shops – a brown county instead of a green county, let’s say.)

This means that the only places available to acquire any cannabis are the same places you patronized before the vote on Tuesday: the local dispensary or delivery service, the friend-indeed with a few plants or a greenhouse in production, or the black-market fellow plying his trade out on the corner.

The biggest change in the short-term is at the dispensary cash register, where patients are saving on state sales taxes – but only if they have the optional state-issued medical cannabis ID card.

Marijuana sales are now subject to a 15 percent tax as well as state sales taxes. Sales tax ranges from a 7.5 percent baseline to as high as 10 percent in some localities – and, according to the Board of Equalization, patients with the official state ID card don’t need to pay the sales tax. (How do you cop a card, you ask? Contact your local county health agency, which sets the price and issues the card.)

Anyone looking to celebrate in public should also beware of the ban on cannabis smoking in public. Police can stop and issue a $100 ticket to anyone using cannabis in public, and that could be on top of any local citations for disobeying existing smoking bans – most of which, as written, don’t draw a distinction between combusting tobacco or marijuana. And, sorry vapers – vaping in public is technically the same thing as well.

But the biggest and most important change is for the people doing time in county jail or state prison for a marijuana offense. They can immediately petition a judge for reduction of their sentence – and, if they’re inside for a crime that’s now a fine or legal, they can expect to come home soon. With that in mind, waiting a year or so to go to a retail cannabis shop isn’t such a big deal.

TELL US, are you ready to smoke legal cannabis in California?

Chris Roberts has written about medical cannabis, drug policy, and legalization ever since spending a few months in Humboldt County in 2009, with bylines for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and SF Weekly. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cbloggy.

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