2018: A Smoky, Tokey New Year

What a time to be alive. As we Californians head into the new year, and our shiny new legalized cannabis laws take effect, I’d like to pause for a moment and enjoy a tiny victory dance.

I feel you, girl.

Let’s talk brass tacks. Having just completed a round of holiday get-togethers, I’ve heard from lots of friends and strangers who are operating on pure rumor around what’s happening in the world of local legalization, but, bless their little hearts, just keep on talkin’ and spreading that misinformation.

What’s Legal?

So, let’s clarify: we Californians passed Prop 64 back at the end of 2016, which has now come to flower here at the beginning of this auspicious year. Cannabis is not legal at the Federal level, and still on that pesky and antiquated Schedule 1 drug list, along with cocaine and heroin. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe any state legalization laws will be retracted, though it’s no comfort knowing our CA effort succeeded by a narrow margin (56%); we still have a lot of work to do, and advocacy from responsible users is highly necessary.

Remember, while Central and Northern California (SF Bay all the way up to Humboldt) have had structures in place to deal with medical cannabis growing and distribution  for the better part of a decade, Southern California was still fairly disorganized all the way through the end of 2016. Even as select dispensaries opened their doors 6:00am on January 1, 2018 up north, non-medically licensed cannabis users in Los Angeles residents shouldn’t expect to walk into a dispensary until March or April this year, due to slow issuance of licenses. That said, I’ve heard tell of several dispensaries opening in the West Hollywood area in the first weeks of 2018. Point being: make a call or check online to find out where you can purchase recreational cannabis in your area, rather than just showing up at a dispensary.

Bear with me; there are still some unknowns in this transition. How we handle medical and recreational cannabis is strongly affected by local/regional ordinances, so you won’t have a standard experience just because you’re in California. Right now, cannabis growing operations are handled by agricultural agencies, while everything else is being handed off to the California Cannabis Control Bureau (CCB) in the same way alcohol distribution and consumption is handled by its parent agencies. Local communities will determine availability and the rate at which product will be taxed at every level of production, distribution, and purchase.

What This Looks Like for…

The Consumer

People 21+ can legally possess, transport, and grow marijuana for recreational use. You are allowed to possess 1oz. flower, 8g concentrate, and up to 6 plants. Penalties for possessing more than you’re allowed are now classified as misdemeanors. Locally, communities have the power to push out dispensaries by prohibitive zoning laws, but local measures cannot prohibit individuals from growing, transporting, and possessing cannabis. Even if you’re traveling to and from another state where cannabis is legal, you still cannot: take it out of state, fly with it, buy it elsewhere and bring it back. You may share your cannabis with any adult 21 or over, but only licensed businesses may sell it.

Your Taxes

Medical licensees will not pay tax on purchases. Recreational buyers will be charged a 15% state excise tax + 9.5% county sales tax. Additional taxes based on local ordinances and restrictions may be passed on to the consumer.

From this really good article in LA Mag, where does all that tax money go?

After the government takes a piece of that cash to cover its costs, the money will be spread around, including:

  • $2 million to the UC San Diego Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research
  • $3 million a year for five years to the California Highway Patrol to establish DUI protocols
  • $10 million every year until 2028 to a California public university for legalization-related research
  • $10 million in 2018 to areas disproportionately affected by criminalization. The figure will grow by $10 million a year and remain at $50 million in 2022 and beyond

Of any remaining funds, 60 percent will go toward drug education, treatment, and prevention for youth; 20 percent will be distributed to state and local law enforcement; and 20 percent will be put toward cleaning up environmental damage caused by pre-regulation grow operations.”

The Businesses

Businesses are required to hold a specific license for recreational cannabis sales. Labeling standards for edibles and other cannabis products include full and clearly marked nutritional labels, accurate THC quantity by package, recommended dosage, and cautionary information. Package of edibles may not exceed 100mg THC, which must be delineated or separated into 10mg doses. Only licensed medical patients and caregivers may be gifted free cannabis products. Businesses are prohibited from purchasing and reselling cannabis from other states. Certain restrictions in advertising are meant to ensure cannabis is not advertised to children.

Your Rights

It’s easiest to think of cannabis in the same way you would alcohol. Don’t smoke and drive. Don’t smoke in public places or on the street. Don’t do it around kids — within 600 feet of a school, after-school or recreational facility, daycare, etc.

Police can no longer use the smell or possession of cannabis products as a legal reason to detain or search you or your home; It is illegal to smoke while operating a motor vehicle, so I’m sure they can still search your car if they smell cannabis — in the same way as if you were pulled over with alcohol on your breath.

Medical patients are not at risk of losing parental rights solely on the basis of being licensed cannabis users.

Criminal penalties for possessing over the legal quantity of cannabis have been reduced to misdemeanors. Some really fantastic news to come out of this transition are that older cases can now be reviewed, potentially allowing release of prisoners incarcerated for possession or cultivation, and the expunging of felony drug charges from some records. One of the really unfortunate aspects of the green boom we’ve seen here is that many people of color have been disproportionately punished over the years, and because of this, disproportionately not given the opportunity to participate, as licensees were refused based on presence of criminal/felony record. So, many of the people who risked their own well being to serve this need to the rest of us over the years, the people on whose backs were built our cannabis communities, have not been able to reap the benefits. From the above link to the LA Mag article, a good little chunk of that tax money goes toward rectifying this through case review, future education, and legal representation.

This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of all the new cannabis-related laws and regulations. Please be sure to do your own research if you have questions, and this is a good place to start: Bureau of Cannabis Control, California.




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