Recreational Pot Is Officially Legal in California
People lined up before dawn outside a cannabis dispensary in Oakland, Calif., on Monday. Credit… Jim Wilson/The New York Times Thomas Fuller OAKLAND, Calif. Retail cannabis shops in California opened their doors on Monday for the first time, inaugurating what proponents say will become the world’s largest market for legalized recreational marijuana.
A transaction that remains illegal in many parts of the country seemed almost banal on Monday for the customers at a dispensary in Oakland who picked out their marijuana, showed their driver’s licenses and walked into the brisk morning air with their drugs in a paper bag.
“This is a whole new world opening up,” said Diana Gladden, 48, who bought marijuana for herself and her aging parents. “My mother, a very strict Southern Baptist, now thinks it’s O.K. because it’s legal.” One customer left with more than $1,000 worth of cannabis in a large grocery bag.
Medical marijuana has been legal in California for more than two decades but the arrival of full legalization in the state is a milestone for the nation’s fast-growing cannabis industry. Pot is now sold legally down the entire length of the West Coast, plus Alaska.
Advertisement Continue reading the main story A slow and halting rollout of California’s new cannabis regulations limited the number of shops offering the drug on Monday to just a handful of cities across the state, including Berkeley, Oakland, San Jose and San Diego. But more municipalities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, are expected to issue licenses soon.
Alex Traverso, a spokesman for California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, said around 100 dispensaries in the state were licensed to sell recreational cannabis on Monday.
Outside the dispensary in Oakland nearly 200 people waited in line before dawn for the 6 a.m. start of sales.
“Happy New Year!” Steve DeAngelo, the executive director of the dispensary, shouted through a bullhorn. “We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time.” But in a state where marijuana has been widely available for so long, the enthusiasm was relatively muted. Outside a dispensary in neighboring Berkeley only a handful of customers waited in line before sales began.
Advertisement Continue reading the main story California is the sixth state to introduce the sale of recreational marijuana, after Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Nevada. Massachusetts and potentially Maine are expected to begin sales this year.
A customer, right, at the dispensary purchased more than $1,000 worth of products. Credit… Jim Wilson/The New York Times Legalization here may further raise tensions between the state and federal drug enforcement officials led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a vocal opponent of legalization. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration considers marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, the same category as heroin.
opinion polls have shown a gradual and steady approval of legalization. Californians voted for recreational use of the drug by a 57 to 43 percent margin in a November 2016 ballot initiative. The law prohibits smoking in public, although such bans are already commonplace in California cities.
Unlike the other states that have legalized, California has a vast industry producing the drug, much of which is illegally sold across state lines. By one estimate, California produces seven times more marijuana than it consumes.
Legalization here will test whether that vast black market of growers, many of whom have been reluctant to join the legal market, will come out of the shadows.
It is unclear how much legalization will increase consumption of the drug in California. Since 1996 marijuana has been available from medical dispensaries for adults with an easily obtainable recommendation card. And even those without medical cards have had little fear of prosecution. It has been many years since police officers in California made arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to Jennifer Tejada, the chairwoman of the law and legislative committee of the California Police Chief Association.
Advertisement Continue reading the main story Jonathan Duenas, a college student and one of the cannabis customers in Oakland on Monday, said he had come for the novelty but probably would not return.
“I have a friend who grows it,” he said. “I can get it much cheaper.” Even as more cities in California prepare to issue cannabis licenses, a number of questions remain about the effects and implementation of the new laws.
The head of the Bureau of Cannabis Control has raised concerns that there may not be enough licensed cannabis distributors in the early days of retail sales. A similarly bumpy rollout took place in Nevada in July when the governor, Brian Sandoval, took emergency measures to combat a shortage of legal marijuana soon after legal sales began.
Opponents of legalization warn that California could see an increase in traffic deaths, as appears to have happened in Colorado since stores in that state began selling recreational cannabis four years ago.
Traffic deaths in Colorado involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled from 2013 to 2016, according to a study published by a federal government agency in October. The report also noted a 35 percent increase in emergency room visits related to marijuana.
California has not yet adopted a standard measure for marijuana impairment, an issue highlighted on Christmas Eve when a California highway patrolman was killed after a man whom the police said was driving under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana rammed into the back of the officer’s vehicle.
The History of Marijuana in California – Civilized
California has a long history as the Golden State and as the “Green State” because its marijuana history spans over a century, all the way back to the Poison Act of 1907. The Poison and Pharmacy Act of 1907 banned the sale of opium, cocaine, and morphine without a prescription. In 1913, an addendum was added to include cannabis on the list of banned drugs, making California the first state source: civilised life
Cannabis in California
has been legal for medical use since 1996, and for recreational use since late 2016. The state of California has been at the forefront of efforts to liberalize cannabis laws in the United States , beginning in 1972 with the nation’s first ballot initiative attempting to legalize cannabis ( Proposition 19 ). Although it was unsuccessful, California would later become the first state to legalize medical cannabis with the passage of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 In November 2016, California voters approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64) to legalize the recreational use of cannabis.
As a result of recreational legalization, local governments (city and county) may not prohibit adults from growing, using, or transporting marijuana for personal use. Commercial activities can be regulated or prohibited by local governments although deliveries cannot be prohibited.
Following recreational legalization, existing growers and suppliers of medical cannabis were required to register, comply with regulations, and apply for permits. Over half of the nonprofit dispensaries legally providing medical marijuana closed. Local agencies have been slow to approve retail stores selling cannabis for recreational purposes with most cities and counties banning retail with a wait and see approach. Many existing growers have been slow to apply for permits as it has been estimated that 60 percent or more of all cannabis consumed in the United States comes from northern California. The export of marijuana to other states remains illegal since the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers it a Schedule 1 drug.
Reducing illegal activity is considered essential for the success of legal operations who pay the considerable taxes assessed by state and local authorities. Many people do not have nearby retail stores selling cannabis and continue to buy from unlicensed sellers. Illegal growing continues in remote rural areas. Raids and confiscation by law enforcement of illegal retail and grow operations has continued and in some cases stepped up after legalization.
Current state and local regulation
Companies must be licensed by the local agency to grow, test, or sell cannabis within each jurisdiction. Cities and counties ( unincorporated areas ) may license none or only some of these activities.Deliveries by state-licensed firms cannot be prohibited by local jurisdictions as of January 2019 per BCC Regulation 5416.Unlicensed sales were not reduced as fast as many expected.Due to the continued operation of much illegal activity, heavy taxation is an important issue for licensed operators.They are concerned about the perceived lack of sufficient enforcement against illegal activities.The legal market includes the cost of mandatory testing.Authorities warn that the illegal market may contain pesticide or other chemical residues and mold.Other products sold illegally that have not been tested include edible products vaping pens Since there are many communities where no stores have been allowed, state legislators have introduced bills that would force many local jurisdictions to allow some retail establishments especially if a majority in the area voted in favor of legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes.Local governments have been critical of the proposal and were joined by a May 2019 editorial in the Los Angeles Times that was critical of this type of legislation.State legislators argue that the lack of access to legal establishments is one reason the illegal sales continue.Besides being licensed by each local agency, the industry is under three different state regulatory agencies. Retailers, distributors and testing labs are regulated by the Bureau of Cannabis Control . Cultivators are under the Department of Food and Agriculture Department of Public Health deals with product manufacturers.The California Bureau of Cannabis Control has prohibited the export of marijuana to other states since with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers it a Schedule 1 drug.California grows up to five times more than its residents consume by some accounts. Others have estimated that 80% of the crop is shipped out of state. Exported cannabis not only escapes taxation or regulation by California but users in other states will pay a much higher price.Federal Bureau of Investigation has investigated officials in several cities and counties.Source: en.wikipedia.org
Local governments may not prohibit adults from growing, using or transporting marijuana for personal use. An appeals court ruled that inmates who possess small amounts of marijuana in prison are not guilty of a felony crime.
Xavier Becerra ‘s office had argued that possessing small amounts of marijuana is legally banned in prison which can result in significantly increasing a prisoner’s sentence.
Cannabis is estimated to be the largest cash crop in California with a valued of more than $11 billion.
The state provided most of the cannabis consumed in the United States prior to legalization which was intended to provide a transition to legal, licensed growing. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a detailed analysis of the environmental impact of growers operations. Statewide, 208 growers had obtained regular, annual licenses by July 2019. At this point of some 18 months into legalization, 1,532 growers were still operating on provisional permits as they went through the CEQA process that requires extensive paperwork.
Smaller farms were given five years to become established under legalization before larger growers were allowed to enter the market.
Under the regulations set to expire in 2023, growers can have only one medium licence but there is no limit on the number of small licenses an individual grower can have. This loophole has allowed larger growers to operate.
counties have long been known as Northern California’s Emerald Triangle as it is estimated that 60 percent or more of all cannabis consumed in the United States is grown there. Registering and applying for permits has not been an easy decision for many long time growers in these three counties.
Santa Barbara County , cannabis growing has taken over greenhouses that formerly grew flowers. In the first four months of legalization, the county had almost 800 permits issued for cultivators, the most of any county in the state.
Calaveras County registered more than seven hundred cultivators after county voters approved a tax in 2016.
Local power equals ongoing prohibition?
Local governments in California can regulate the marijuana industry as they see fit – or simply ban it from operating within their borders.
“Legalization was avoided by having local control in Prop 64,” said Kenny Morrison, president of the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association. “You can’t even call it legalization when more than 70% of the state doesn’t (allow for marijuana retailers).
“That’s legalization looking more like prohibition. That’s pseudo-legalization.” But was local control avoidable? The answer isn’t clear, and neither is the path around it.
Before California launched legalized adult-use sales in January 2018, and even a year after that , medical marijuana collectives could operate without fear of criminal prosecution.
But local officials have pushed back on cannabis industry growth in California for years, even before the state Legislature passed an MMJ regulatory structure in 2015.
Local control was a key priority for the California League of Cities, which represents various municipalities in lobbying efforts at the state Capitol in Sacramento and in many political campaigns.
So when the California Legislature finally approved three bills on Sept. 11, 2015, to regulate the growing cannabis industry – collectively titled the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) – local control was an important element.
That framework became the foundation for Proposition 64, formally known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).
The local control written into MMRSA also reflected California case law that had already established municipalities’ rights to ban medical marijuana commerce.
That meant the drafters of MMRSA and Prop 64 had to write a proposed law that wouldn’t get thrown out by the courts for preempting home rule authority, said Max Mikalonis, a legislative advocate at Sacramento-based K Street Consulting.
One of the triggers in MMRSA was a requirement that localities enact MMJ regulations by March 2016 – just a few months after the law passed the Legislature – or state regulations would take precedence. That led directly to the first wave of local industry bans, Mikalonis recalled.
Local control also was adopted by the Prop 64 drafters to head off a political opposition campaign in 2016 by the League of Cities against recreational legalization, said Nate Bradley, who worked closely with the Prop 64 campaign as a co-founder of the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA). He’s now the executive director of the Cannabis Consumer Policy Council and is not affiliated with CCIA.
Tax origins When MMRSA was approved, one of the most vital unsettled issues was how the state would tax medical marijuana.
On the same day that MMRSA passed, two more bills were brought to tackle MMJ taxes:
Assembly Bill 1548 , which proposed a cultivation tax, and Senate Bill 297 , which would implement an excise tax.
The author of the Senate measure later introduced Senate Bill 987 in February 2016 with a 15% excise tax.
The cultivation tax rates from AB 1548 and the 15% excise tax both were written into Proposition 64.
“When those bills were introduced, those were placeholder numbers,” recalled Hezekiah Allen, who was negotiating with state lawmakers at the time as the executive director of the California Growers Association (CGA). Allen now chairs the board of Emerald Grown, a co-op of small cannabis farmers in the Emerald Triangle.
Allen said that the author of the excise tax bill, Sen. Mike McGuire from Humboldt County, originally wanted a 20% excise tax, and by the time the bill was shelved in the summer of 2016 it was amended to a 10% At that time, it was too late to change the language of Prop 64, so taxes were set.
As Prop 64 developed, the rates themselves weren’t as contentious an issue as some other debates among insiders over what to include in the measure, recalled Tamar Todd, former legal director at the Drug Policy Alliance, who helped write the law.
And one of the goals was to get the rates to work so that state income from cannabis taxes would hit $1 billion a year, Todd said.
That $1 billion in tax revenue turned into part of the campaign’s message to voters, said Allen.
“Being able to promise California $1 billion a year was a big factor in how the policy came down,” Allen said.
Now, the tax rates are part of the blame game, especially because the state recently increased the markup rate for cannabis.
To lower the tax rates would take two-thirds support in both chambers of the state Legislature or a new ballot measure – both of which are hefty political lifts and uncertain shots at best.
lawmakers are attempting again this year to lower MJ taxes, to ease the industry’s financial burden.