At the stroke of midnight on the first day of 2018, California became the most populous state to legalize cannabis. The Golden State joins Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in legalizing pot, the eighth state to do so.
So, as of January 1, a buyer no longer needs a medical marijuana card to purchase pot. As long as the buyer is 21 and over, they’re able to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana, or eight grams of concentrated cannabis.
While there are more than 1,300 pot dispensaries in California, only 94 have been granted temporary licenses to sell marijuana for non-medical use, but more applications are expected to be approved consistently. State rules dictate that these retailers will not be able to sell their products between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“Distributors are waiting to get approved by local municipalities as well as the state,” said Michael Dunaway, co-owner of Green Bean Pharm. “My company is in the same boat. We are approved to be one of the recreational storefronts in Woodlake but we are still waiting for our construction permit among other things.”
The cities of Woodlake and Farmersville in Tulare County have approved the retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products. On November 7, 2017, voters in both cities overwhelmingly approved measures to implement a cannabis tax, which is bound to add some much-needed revenue to their respective city coffers.
“The City of Woodlake continues to work on its permitting process,” said Ramon Lara, city administrator. “While the City has issued multiple cannabis regulatory permits, no cannabis group has made it through the entire permitting process to become operational. We are two to three months out from that happening.”
Besides the local tax and other red tape, there will be a 15 percent state excise tax imposed on retail buyers. There will also be a state tax on the cultivation of cannabis that is bound for the commercial market.
Medical marijuana patients will be exempt from the retail sales tax on medical cannabis if they possess a Medical Marijuana Identification Card issued by the California Department of Public Health.
“It’s actually harder to get cannabis legally in California than it was at this time last year,” continued Dunaway. “It will remain that way at least in the short term while businesses get their permits approved. People need to become aware of the differences between the previous laws
regarding how cannabis will be purchased and those being put into effect in 2018.”
Some of those new laws include those 21 and older may now grow personal marijuana plants, up to six at a time. The plants can only be grown indoors, or inside an enclosed structure.
Whatever these plants produce may be kept by the grower, but it must be in a locked container and out of view from the public.
Smoking marijuana in public is still illegal and brings with it a $100 fine. It is also prohibited to consume marijuana near schools and day care centers, and marijuana is never allowed to be carried onto school grounds.
And, of course, anyone under 21 is prohibited from possessing marijuana of any amount.
No smoking and driving, either. Marijuana can be in the vehicle but driving while under the influence of marijuana is illegal, just like driving under the influence of alcohol. Also, that marijuana must be in a sealed container. If that seal is broken, you’ll have to put your pot in the trunk of your car.
Just like with alcohol, no open containers. Use common sense, folks.
And, remember, a buyer is only allowed to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana. Any more and it’s a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine or a few months in jail.
If you’re growing marijuana, you can keep as much as your plants (no more than six) harvest.
If you have never used cannabis, or if it has been a long time since you have, you need to know that pot isn’t just consumed through joints and bongs anymore. Consumers also use vape pens, edibles, and other products.
The major categories of marijuana are indica, sativa, and hybrid. Indica is generally sedative and can be used as a sleep aid.
Sativas generally produce a more stimulating mood — a happy feeling. Hybrids are a cross between indica and sativa.
Marijuana in the 21st century has higher amounts of THC — the psychoactive ingredient in pot — than it once did. In the early 1990s, the average amount of THC in confiscated marijuana samples was roughly 3.7 percent, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Now, many retail strains test in the high 20s and some even top 30 percent.
Proceed with caution. Dispensaries selling recreational weed can point you to the products that best fit your needs and experience. Just take the time to talk to the budtender. Like bartenders, budtenders work behind the counter and offer advice about the products.
Michael Seib contributed to this article.