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Weed is Legal in California. Now What?

by Kristen Henderson, published

San Diego, CALIF.- One of the big California statewide Propositions, 64, passed last Tuesday, making recreational marijuana legal in California. San Diegans also passed the complementary Measure N, imposing a tax on the marijuana industry and addressing the expected rise in law enforcement costs.

However, unless you have a medical marijuana card, don’t get too fired up. Most likely, there won’t be any commercial “pot shops” for at least another year. The state isn’t required to begin issuing licenses for the sale of recreational marijuana until January 1, 2018, and local and state governments have a multitude of rules and protocols to work out in the meantime.

Medical dispensaries, which are only licensed to sell medical marijuana, will continue to be off-limits to non-card holders until they receive the necessary recreational licenses.

Prop 64 allows people over the age of 21 in California to legally possess, use, and share marijuana (to other adults over 21). Buying or selling of marijuana on the black market remains illegal, however -- even though the weed itself is not.

Each household is now allowed to grow up to 6 plants in a “secure” location for personal use. Plants cannot be sold without a license. So, if you’re interested in growing your own cannabis and know somebody with a marijuana plant, you’d have to kindly ask him or her to share with you.

As a point of reference, Colorado Amendment 64 was passed in 2012, but the state didn’t start its recreational sale of marijuana until 2014. Californians will likely have a similar waiting period before Prop 64 is fully enacted.

In the meantime, here are some reminders outlined by non-profit organization CA NORML to help ensure responsible and legal marijuana consumption:

  • Don’t consume it in public. Until stores have acquired licenses for marijuana consumption, it’s illegal.
  • Don’t smoke or vape marijuana in any non-smoking areas or near a school, day care, or youth center while children are present.
  • Don’t consume marijuana or possess an “open container” of marijuana while driving or riding as a passenger in any motor vehicle, boat, or airplane.
  • Don’t have more than an ounce of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis on you at any given time.
  • Don’t bring it across state lines.

Prop 64 imposes state taxes on sales (15%) and cultivation ($9.25/oz of flowers and $2.75/oz of leaves) of recreational marijuana. The initiative also permits local governments to set their own regulations and taxes. According to the California Legislature’s Nonpartisan Fiscal and Policy Advisor, net state and local tax revenues are estimated to range from the “high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually.”

The Sacramento Bee reports there were over 50 city and county ballot measures in California addressing the potential impacts of Prop 64 at the local level, with a number of municipalities approving a local tax on marijuana. Voters in Marysville, Cloverdale, Del Ray Oaks, Humboldt County, and the City of San Diego, for instance, approved their local tax initiatives and expect additional revenues in the millions of dollars.

San Diego’s recreational marijuana sales tax will start at 5% (on top of the 15% state tax). It will increase to 8% in 2019, and, eventually, will cap at a 15% local sales tax. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the initial 5% rate is expected to bring in $22 million in annual sales taxes for San Diego.

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