Legalization of Cannabis in California
Last November, California voters passed Proposition 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act) which decriminalizes cultivation, possession, and use of cannabis for recreational uses-with certain restrictions. Persons over 21 can now legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis or eight grams of cannabis concentrate, and grow up to six plants for personal use. Even though Proposition 64 passed in the State, cities and counties still have control over cannabis policy in their jurisdictions and must decide how they want to locally regulate and tax cannabis by 2018.
It depends on where you live. Each city and county in California can choose to regulate differently. If you live in unincorporated San Joaquin County, things may change, or they may stay the same. Right now, San Joaquin County prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries and all medical marijuana cultivation; but the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors plans to make a final decision about local cannabis regulations before January 2018. Decisions made by the County Board of Supervisors will only affect what happens in the unincorporated county. All of the cities within the county will need to establish their own regulations for what is allowed within city limits.
With the legalization of cannabis for medical and adult uses (i.e., people 21 and older), there are some potential changes that could benefit the county, such as the ability to tax transactions and ensure the safety of any businesses through legal compliance and oversight. Your participation in this workshop will help to inform the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors in deciding which options are best for your community.
The State has set up a license category for different parts of the cannabis industry, such as cultivation, distribution, and sales. In order for a business to obtain a State license, the State requires that the business ALSO obtains a license from their local jurisdiction. This means that a small cultivation business would need both a license from San Joaquin County AND the State of California in order for their business to be legal. The County can decide if they want to make the local-level licenses available. If they do not, then those businesses will not be legal in the county.
Proposition 64 allows for cultivation of cannabis for personal use. The County can adopt "reasonable regulations" regarding personal use cultivation, but cannot altogether ban it.
Does Prop 64 legalize everything about Cannabis?
No. Proposition 64 legalizes adult cannabis use (i.e., use by persons 21 and older), but it also restricts certain aspects. San Joaquin County can reasonably regulate that use. For now, the State restrictions for users include:
What about Medical Cannabis?
Will the Medical Card Program go away?
Medical Cannabis is regulated under a separate law: the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA). MCRSA was amended in 2015 and created a licensing system for businesses working with medical cannabis. There are many similarities between the rules for medical and non-medical cannabis business and consumer and patient uses.
Proposition 64 does not abolish the Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) program.
Do I still need a doctor's recommendation to buy cannabis from a dispensary?
Yes. Currently, dispensaries are only licensed to sell medical cannabis, and will be prohibited from selling non-medical cannabis to individuals without a doctor's recommendation. The initiative calls for licensing authorities to begin accepting applications and issuing licenses for non-medical cannabis dispensaries in January 2018, at which point any adult 21 and older may purchase non-medical cannabis at an establishment with the correct license. Medical cannabis licensing and non-medical cannabis licensing will remain separate, though some dispensaries may be able to obtain both types of licenses. For now, you will still need a medical card in order to buy cannabis from a medical cannabis dispensary.
Now that the law has changed, can old criminal records change, too?
Yes. Each case is unique, so it will depend on the details of each individual situation, but the new law intends to make resentencing a possibility. If someone was sentenced for a crime related to cannabis, a resentencing would need to be requested.
What about Federal Law?
Cannabis use, possession, and distribution is illegal under Federal law. California law cannot override Federal law. In 2013, the Obama administration issued a memorandum outlining expectations for state and local governments that enact cannabis-related laws. According to current guidelines, Federal prosecutors are to consider whether a cannabis case is located in a state with a "strong and effective regulatory and enforcement system" for legalized cannabis when deciding whether to prosecute. We cannot predict whether or how that guidance may change in the future.
How will the State know if the new law is working?
One concern over the legalization of cannabis is a mixing of the regulated and black market products. How can a medical or recreational user know that the product they've purchased is safe?
The California Department of Food and Agriculture is establishing a track-and-trace program, similar to what has been used in other states where cannabis has also been legalized. California's track-and-trace program will monitor the movement of cannabis and cannabis products and will document their journey throughout the supply chain, from cultivation to sale.