You would be hard pressed to find a place in the world where New Year’s celebrations were crazier than in California.
Not only did residents celebrate the start of 2018, they also welcomed in new recreational cannabis laws which will enable many to access the plant without fear of legal repercussions.
But what exactly changed at 6am on January 1 and how can residents access legal cannabis for recreational purposes in the most populous state in the nation?
What Has Changed?
- Yesterday morning at 6am Pacific Time, California became the sixth state in America to permit licensed shops to recreational cannabis to anyone 21-year’s-old and over, providing they have a valid ID. No approval from a doctor is needed, one can simply purchase up to an ounce of cannabis from a licensed shop at any time.
- The new regulations will require all products sold in California to be tested for purity, molds, pesticides and other contaminants. All products sold at licensed dispensary will also be required to show their cannabinoid content. The state will be setting limits as to the amount of THC sold in certain products but this is yet to effect any of the products being sold currently.
- Retailers who wish to sell recreational cannabis must obtain a permit. The majority of cities in California have not allowed shops to access these permits. Furthermore, retailers who are licensed to sell medical cannabis will still need to apply for a permit to sell recreationally. This means that, for now, you will still need a doctors recommendation upon visiting your local medical marijuana dispensary. There are a number of online resources that keep you updated as to the whereabouts of licensed recreational cannabis retailers.
- Medical cannabis users living in California have as much of a reason to be happy about the law changes as recreational users. Firstly, if you have a medical marijuana card, you will not have to pay state sales tax on any purchases, saving substantial amounts of money. Medical users will also gain access to a plethora of new, more potent products.
- Unsurprisingly, the new law should see a sharp upturn in the price of cannabis. In California, legally sold recreational cannabis will be subject to a special 15% tax. Additional state sales tax will also be added onto this, which totals around 8%. Local governments are also expected to include their own tax on cannabis sales (around 5%). However, once the market has adjusted to its new surroundings, expect the price to drop again.
What Hasn’t Changed?
- Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it must be remembered that cannabis is still illegal under federal law. The perennially divisive Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not hidden his displeasure at cannabis in all forms. However, an amendment to the federal budget has blocked any further resources from being used to pursue businesses or citizens that are acting lawfully within their states cannabis laws.
- Despite the introduction of legal recreational cannabis, Californian citizens are still not permitted to smoke or consume the plants in public places of any kind. Being caught consuming cannabis on the streets will still result in a hefty fine. Californians are already allowed to consume their cannabis in the privacy of their home or other private property.
- There has also been no change regarding the cultivation of cannabis in private property. Since November 2016, Californians have been legally allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants at a time in their household, so long as they are kept away from public view.
- The new recreational laws will have no impact on the act of employee cannabis testing. Proposition 64 clearly states that employers can test current and prospective employees for cannabis use at any time. While some companies have relaxed their stance on cannabis, it would be advisable to check with your workplace to see where they stand.
- No legal changes will be made to the way that law enforcement views the act of driving a vehicle under the influence of cannabis. While research is ongoing as to how to measure the effects of cannabis on driving ability, police officers will still be allowed to charge you with driving under the influence if they believe you have ingested cannabis. To avoid a criminal record, place any cannabis that you have bought legally in the trunk of your car, unopened, until you return home.