How Will Legal Pot Roll Out in California?


Voters gave a green thumbs up to Prop 64 making recreational use of marijuana legal for adults in California. It passed with 56% of the vote. But implementing Prop 64 will not be simple. Complicating things are the medical marijuana laws that are already in effect from Prop 215  passed in 1996.  

Here are answers to some questions you may have about how Prop 64 will roll out.

Q: Can I buy pot right now?

No. Not yet. The only pot you can buy is medical marijuana. The whole system for growing, distributing and selling recreational marijuana has to be set up.

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Q: So when will I be able to buy it?

Officials are estimating it will be early 2018 before retail sales will happen. In the meantime you’ll have to grow your own or get it free.

Q: Why will it take so long?

The state has to implement hundreds of regulations governing growers, packagers, distributors and retailers. It has to process and issue 19 different license categories covering everyone from cultivators, packagers, marketers, distributors and sellers. Law enforcement has to be brought up to speed on the new law and figure out how to measure pot intoxication. The Department of Pesticides Regulations has to issue standards for pesticide use on marijuana. The Water Resources Control Board has to be sure growers are complying with environmental standards. The Bureau of Marijuana Control has to set standards for drivers delivering commercial pot. The list goes on and on.

Q: Can I grow my own pot right now?

Yes. Up to six plants. Grown at your residence for your personal use.  (Medical marijuana users can grow more.)


Q: Where can I get seeds?

Ask around. Another adult can give them to you but it's illegal to buy them unless you have a medical marijuana card and get them from a dispensary.

Q: Can I sell pot for recreational use?

Definitely not. That right will be reserved for licensed retailers. The process of getting a license will be laid out by the state’s Bureau of Marijuana Control, which will be very busy this coming year.

Q: Can I be in possession of pot?

Yes. Up to an ounce. (28.5 grams).

Q: What happens if I’m caught with more than an ounce?

You can be fined $500 and/or sentenced to six months in jail. It’s a misdemeanor.

Smoking marijuana

Q: Where can I smoke pot?

In your home, but not in public.  Not even in an outdoor smoking area.  (However, medical marijuana can be ingested in smoking areas at licensed dispensaries.)

If local governments permit them, there will eventually be “bars” operated by licensed retailers where people over 21 can gather and smoke pot. However alcohol will not be permitted. Only marijuana, and munchies I would imagine.

Q: Can I give pot away?

Yes. But only to fellow adults.

Q: What about driving while high?

It’s illegal. Just like driving while drunk. But they have yet to come up with a way to measure levels of “high.” Stand by on this one.

Q: Can I sit in my car and smoke it?

No. It is illegal to be in your car and ingest pot. And that goes for passengers too. However you can transport up to an ounce for personal use.  But it’s best to have it packaged. (Kind of like the "open container" rule for alcohol.)

Q: What does this do to the medical marijuana laws?

They stay in effect although there are some technical issues to work out. And remember cities and other local  jurisdictions often have differing regulations for medical marijuana.

Q: Can a city or county governments ban commercial pot sales? 

Yes. They can, but as a result they would not get to share in any of the tax revenues from the sale of commercial pot. Even if they do ban it, they can’t keep anyone from growing it inside their homes.

Q: Who will be allowed to grow and sell recreational pot?

Licensed growers and retailers. But note that for the first five years only small businesses and farmers will be licensed. Then in five years -- starting in 2023 -- large growers will be able to get licenses.  The idea is to give the small guys a head start. But you can be sure the big guys will move in as soon as they can.

People who have run medical marijuana dispensers legally will be given priority for commercial pot licenses.

Note: If you have a liquor license you cannot have pot license.

Q: Will commercial pot  be taxed?

Oh yes. Starting January 2018 there will be a state excise – or product -- tax of 15%. This is in addition to the regular state sales tax of 7.5%.  That brings the total tax to a hefty 22.5%. And get this, if cities and counties want to, they can add their own taxes to commercial pot sales.

Q: Why would anyone bother with medical marijuana if recreational pot is available?

Medical marijuana users can grow more of their own pot. They also don’t have to pay the 7.5% sales tax. But they will still have to pay the upcoming 15% excise tax.

Q: Can employers still refuse to hire you for being a smoker.

Yes, they can.

Q: Will there be a warning label on commercial pot?

Yes. It will say “This package contains marijuana, a schedule I controlled substance. Keep out of reach of children and animals. Marijuana may only be possessed or consumed by persons 21 years of age or older unless the person is a qualified patient. Marijuana use while pregnant or breastfeeding may be harmful. Consumption of marijuana impairs your ability to drive and operate machinery. Please use extreme caution.”

Note: Information for this article came from California Norml. For further details go to California Norml Guide to AUMA.







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