As of New Year’s Day, California became the largest state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Colorado and Washington are already selling marijuana in retail settings, so will California marijuana do so as well?
History of Marijuana in California
In 1996, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, setting a trend across the country that has gained significant momentum over the last decade. After California, Alaska, Oregon and Washington quickly joined the medical marijuana movement and legalized medical use of this substance in 1998. As of 2016, 29 states and D.C. allowed for the medical use of marijuana.
Thanks to the numerous studies on the benefits of marijuana, the interest in using the psychoactive drug have grown widely. According to these studies, marijuana decreases seizures, stops cancer from spreading, slows Alzheimer’s and even treats Glaucoma, just to name some of its medical benefits. For many people, it’s no secret that cannabis can act as a sort of miracle drug, but does that mean it should be sold for recreational use also?
Before the legalization of medical marijuana, people have found ways to attain the drug illegally. This continues even after states have legalized medical marijuana. A High Times’ article points out that obtaining an MMJ card is fairly easy, which means many people may have been using cannabis for recreational purposes already, which makes legalization of recreational cannabis not only a logical but essential step in controlling this substance.
Laws on Marijuana Sales
In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use; however, only people 21 years of age or older are allowed to use this substance. In order to purchase and possess cannabis, you will need a government-issued identification, which is either a driver’s license or passport, as there isn’t any other type of registration system in place. In Colorado, residents and tourists are allowed to purchase 28 grams in a single transaction and because “single transaction” can be somewhat subjective, most places will only serve each customer once a day to err on the side of caution.
Washington’s laws are much different when it comes to cannabis purchasing and possession limits. Residents and tourists are allowed to purchase one ounce of cannabis flower at a time, seven grams of concentrates, 16 ounces of edibles and 72 ounces of liquids. That is also how much a person can have on them at any given time. If they are caught with more than those designated amounts, it’s possible to be charged with intent to distribute, which entails a substantial fine or even jail time.
California’s voters set the plan for recreational marijuana in motion in Nov. 2016. Similar to Colorado and Washington, adults 21 years of age and over are legally allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants and possess an ounce. Finally, after much anticipation, as of Monday, Jan. 1, 90 shops were set to open to sell the substance to anyone over 21, and that’s not the final number.
Alex Traverso, the spokesperson for California Bureau of Cannabis Control, stated that the agency was working throughout the weekend to process as many licenses as possible and will also be issuing them on New Year’s Day. The agency has issued over 300 permits for California marijuana distributors, cultivators and, of course, retailers.
Concerns over Recreational Marijuana
Even with two predecessors with substantial state laws regarding recreational marijuana, this is still a huge step for California lawmakers and with many hurdles to jump and more to come. While recreational sales of weed will certainly be beneficial to the economy, there are certain risks that need to be addressed.
The influence of marijuana on a driver, the additional cost of enforcing those new laws while also policing the “black market” of pot, the allure to younger people because the drug is becoming a normal thing are all valid concerns raised by the California Police Chiefs Association. They openly opposed the ballot in 2016 but will have to roll with the new laws and regulations, and they are skeptical if the legalization of recreational marijuana will all balance itself out.
However, marijuana’s influence on humans could be compared to that of alcohol and, in some opinions, should be handled the same way. It will certainly be a change for many people and organizations across the state.
With all the hype over California marijuana, purchasers are startled by the lack of places to get the coveted pot. Many people thought that buying a joint would be as simple as picking up a pack of cigarettes, but some cities have rejected retails sales all together while others are taking a low-key approach to retail sales.
Big cities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, are late to the ganja-selling game and won’t be offering permits until later, meaning shops won’t be open for business at the same time as other places across the state. In Fresno, Riverside, Anaheim, Bakersfield and Kern County, marijuana shops are prohibited from opening and Long Beach currently has a temporary ban on retail sales of California marijuana. It is quite different from the expectation of many that shops are not opening up left and right.
Maybe it’s the process of attaining a permit from the state and clearing all the red tape from localities, or maybe it’s the fear of breaking laws that deter the opening of marijuana retail shops. Despite what is stopping most shops, the ones that did open have been slammed with business. Phones ringing off the hook, higher need for more employees and a necessity for security are all major realities for new shops selling California marijuana to people who once needed a medical card or a dealer.
Clearly, there are wrinkles to iron out for the retail sale of weed to be 100 percent successful, but other states have been doing it for several years and are still doing well. Certainly, there will be more laws and regulations in place to ensure that things run smoothly. With California now on board with recreational sales and use of marijuana, other states will undoubtedly follow suit and pot will surely become as normal as cigarettes and alcohol.