Democrats, Republicans, and Independents overwhelmingly agreed on one thing this election: Medical and Recreational Cannabis.
It was a clean sweep on the medical side with Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota all approving their measures. For the recreational side, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and Arizona all had ballot measures-only Arizona’s failed, 51/48. This is a giant step towards lifting the federal cannabis ban, and ending the failed war on drugs because it shows a growing trend that Americans are growing more and more accepting of cannabis, and we have legislation to support that trend. Let's take a closer look at the immediate implications of prop 64 in California.
Cannabis is now legal, right?
The only legal recreational cannabis prior to 1/1/2018 is what you grow at home; with the passage of Prop 64, you are currently allowed to grow up to 6 plants. While an individual is allowed to give or receive up to 1oz of recreational cannabis to any person over 21, that only applies to cannabis you grow (until you may purchase it recreationally, starting 2018). You are not allowed to give anyone your medical cannabis (in the same way you are not allowed to share your prescription medication), or cannabis that was obtained in any other way. Nor can any business or licensee share or gift cannabis.
As a recent cultivator licensee in Alaska who shared a few joints from his personal stash found out, crossing the line between an individual, and a business or licensee can have severe consequences.
We’ve seen reports of dispensaries in LA opening their doors to any adult over 21 years; we recommend avoiding these shops, as the people who run these illegal shops are not likely to care about the quality of the medicine or the well being of patients.
As of right now, if you wish to purchase cannabis prior to January 1, 2018, you will still need a doctor’s recommendation letter.
Due to a mistake in the language of prop 64 (unintentional according to the drafters), all sales of medical cannabis to patients with a state issued Medical Marijuana Identification Card are exempt from state taxes.
This provision of prop 64 was meant to offer some tax relief to medical patients from the new 15% exercise tax, and near 10% cultivation tax, by offering an exemption from paying the state sales tax. The language does not explicitly state that it should only go into effect in 2018.
The Board of Equalization recently ruled that the medical state tax exemption goes into effect immediately:
“The resulting revenue loss for 2017 is estimated to be as much as $49.5 million,” said board member Jerome Horton, citing the total tax revenue collected from 1,632 dispensaries in 2014. “Local cities who anticipate preserving their revenue from medical marijuana may get nothing since Proposition 64 provides for a complete exemption from medical marijuana.”
Currently, only about 6,000 Californians have state ID cards, which cost $100 and require proof of a medical condition. The low number could blunt the impact of the ruling by the State Board of Equalization, or we could see a sharp increase in state ID demand.
The biggest immediate impact is in criminal justice reform. We saw many pending cannabis trial cases pushed until after the election, and now we see them being tossed out in court, or being lowered from felonies to misdemeanors.
There are currently around 7,500 people in California that are eligible for resentencing or early release. Beyond those in jail or awaiting trial on pending cases, an estimated tens of thousands of Californians on probation or parole have begun petitioning to reduce or end supervision, which would give them full rights to travel, refuse a search, and use marijuana medically. Many crimes that once yielded three, five, or seven years of probation now have a maximum term of one year under Prop. 64.
We’ll continue to cover developments, rules, and regulations regarding Prop. 64 as they progress.