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Legalized recreational use of cannabis

Legalized Pot, What Does it All Mean?

Sep 27, 2017
by Debra Newby, Newby Law

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DEAR READERS: Do you have a legal question on your mind? If so, please email me at debra@newbylawoffice.com. Your name will remain confidential. This Q & A Legal Column is intended as a community service to discuss general legal principles and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Dear Debra:

Now that California has legalized pot, what does it all mean? Will I be able to shop legally for cannabis products soon? 

 Signed: Anxious Mary Jane

Dear MJ:

Ah, yes. The world is moving so fast. Change. Flexibility. How will the progressive state of California deal with the passage of Proposition 64, which legalized the “recreational use” of cannabis for adults age 21 years or older? Keep in mind that the new law does place certain restrictions on the recreational use of cannabis, for example, users may still be subject to a misdemeanor charge/infraction resulting in a $500 fine and up to six months in jail IF they have more than one ounce of cannabis buds or more than 8 grams of cannabis concentrates in their possession. Also, at-home grow operations are limited to six plants.

The new law takes effect on January 1, 2018. Does this mean that you will be able to walk into any pot shop on New Year’s Day and buy whatever cannabis products you desire? Some observers doubt such, as the infrastructure of this new law is still being debated, legislated, and open for public comment and hearings. [Disclaimer: This article was written in mid-September 2017 and the topic is a moving target. Much can change between the time of publication, and indeed, even between now and the end of the year as the rule-making process continues.]

First, dear readers, you have to realize that the oversight of this new law is being shared by three California state bureaucracies:

1) The Department of Food and Agriculture (which will focus on grow regulations);

2) The Department of Public Health (which will focus on manufacturing, including edibles); and

3) The Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (which will develop rules for the licensing of retailers, distributors, and labs). 

One might ask, how will there ever be any sensibility to the rollout of this new law, especially given the fact that we are dealing with a $4 billion to $7 billion dollar industry that we are trying to bring into the light in order to eliminate the “black market”.

Now, arguably California is already ahead of the game, given that the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has been legal since 1996. As noted in a May 2017 Rolling Stone article by journalist s.e. smith, California has two main choices – to develop dual regulatory tracks (one for medical and one for recreational, like the state of Washington, which was a bit messy) or attempt to streamline the two tracks (like the state of Colorado, which is still experiencing growing pains). All indicators are that California will attempt to stream-line the rollout, as evidenced by a 79-page budget trailer bill (which I have not analyzed or studied fully). Many issues need to be addressed or clarified through the rule-making process, such as quality control, taxation, tracking of purchases, water usage, pesticide controls, dosing limits for edibles…the list goes on and on. The three state agencies are in the process of formulating rules and regulations that will address the lingering issues.

As a side note, Sonoma County residents should know that Sonoma County passed several ordinances dealing with Medicinal Cannabis (Ordinance 6187), Taxation (Ordinance 6188) and Land Use (Ordinance 6189). Marijuana growers in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County are granted an extension until October 31, 2017 to submit a one-page application to avoid hefty land use fines. Check out SoCo’s website at sonomacounty.ca.gov/Cannabis or call 707-565-2420 for more information.

This is a complicated issue and deserving of more attention. So…next month I will get to the heart of your question and address how our local cannabis dispensaries will be implementing the new law as we enter the New Year.Stay safe. Stay tuned.

Barrister Bits by Debra Newby

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