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18 Mar 2016

Cannabis in the CV: What Would Legal Recreational Marijuana Use in California Look Like?

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Earlier this month, the 2016 Marijuana Business Factbook estimated the retail cannabis market would more than triple by 2010—becoming a $44 billion industry.

That will amount to a huge economic boost to the states that are legalizing weed. But which states will collect on the green rush first? And how will this all go down here in California?

Here's a look at what legalization may look like here in the Golden State, along with a breakdown of the states that are pretty much slam dunks to legalize this year.

California was first to legalize marijuana for medicinal use in 1996, when voters said yes to Proposition 215. Now, 20 years later, voters may very well legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults. There are more than a dozen initiatives vying for the attention of California voters, but the one expected to get the job done is the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Backed by venture capitalist and former Facebook executive Sean Parker, the act boasts the support of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Medical Association, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the California Cannabis Industry Association, Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Highlights of the AUMA:

  • Adults 21 and older can possess an ounce of flower and 4 grams of concentrates.
  • Localities may ban your personal outdoor grow, but not your indoor grow. However, your landlord can still prohibit indoor grows. Personal grows are limited to six plants per residence (not per adult).
  • Lighting up in public would still be illegal, well, just about everywhere. Except …
  • Localities can allow on-site cannabis use in designated public places (marijuana lounges!), possibly including private limos and buses.
  • The law preserves the right of employers to drug-test their employees if they desire.
  • The bill gets interesting when it comes to licensing: Cannabis-business licensing in California would begin Jan. 1, 2018. The bill puts safeguards in place to protect small businesses and artisanal growers: Cultivation licenses are tiered by square feet of canopy, and large-scale grows of more than 22,000 square feet are banned for five years in an effort to keep major corporate interests at bay. Also, anybody who was not a California resident as of 2015 would be ineligible for any kind of permit until 2020.
  • There is also a special licensing class for “microbusinesses,” meant for small artisanal operations that want to stay vertical with cultivation, extracts, distribution and retail.
  • Cannabis products will carry a 15 percent excise tax. The cultivation tax is $9.25 per ounce of flower, and $2.75 per ounce on leaves, plus any state and local sales taxes. Subject to ballot approval, counties have the option to impose an additional tax.
  • Other highlights include consumer protections including lab testing and organic certification standards; parental-rights protections for medical marijuana patients; and the expungement of marijuana crimes if the crimes would now be considered legal or misdemeanors.

Nevada and Vermont are also expected to legalize marijuana for recreational use this year, while legalization initiatives in Arizona, Connecticut, Michigan, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, Missouri and Ohio face tougher odds.

Regardless of the outcomes in these tougher battlegrounds, legalization is gaining momentum. The appearance of these initiatives on this many state ballots is a clear sign that national opinion and public policy are embracing legalization and the opportunities it presents.

Other Cannabis News

  • Pennsylvania is on track to become the 24th state to legalize cannabis for medicinal use, with the state House voting 149-43 in favor. As of this writing, the bill was moving to the state’s Senate—which passed a similar bill in 2015 by a comfortable margin.
  • Unionization is spreading through the cannabis world, offering protections for workers in this emerging and sometimes unpredictable industry. South Coast Safe Access in Santa Ana recently became the first dispensary in Orange County to unionize, as workers entered into an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 324. The UFCW seems to be looking to bolster its ranks by representing cannabis workers is all states where the plant is legal.
  • Three-time Duke all-American and former Chicago Bulls guard Jay Williams is calling for the NBA and other sports leagues to loosen up where cannabis is concerned, claiming that 75-80 percent of NBA players use cannabis. Williams told FoxBusiness.com: "I’m not condoning for anyone under 18 to use cannabis or marijuana, but from a medical perspective, it’s about time some of these brands like the NBA and MLB become a little bit more progressive and start thinking forward instead of being held captive in the past."

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