California Marijuana Laws Start January 2018
California marijuana laws changed remarkably under the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215), which decriminalized the possession of under 28 grams and introduced the legalization of medical marijuana. In 2016, California voters relaxed the laws even further when they approved Proposition 64. Starting in 2017, the recreational use of marijuana by those 21 and older legal was decriminalized in the state. By January 1, 2018, state officials will be finalizing the legal and regulatory framework of Prop 64.
While most criminal sanctions for marijuana were lifted immediately after the general election, the regulation of businesses, production facilities, and marijuana consumption establishments will be phased in over time. Licenses for growers are scheduled to be granted in January 2018.
Medical Marijuana Laws in California
California led the nation in legalizing medicinal marijuana almost a decade ago. Under California law, patients who meet certain requirements can obtain and use marijuana legally with a doctor’s recommendation. Recreational use has also recently been legalized in California, but all marijuana use remains illegal under federal law.
Most medicinal marijuana recommendations are made by doctors who specialize in evaluating patients for recommendation, rather than the patients’ general physician. The recommending doctor should review patients’ existing medical records before making a recommendation, including reviewing any other medications the patients are already using.
It is important to note that doctors do not “prescribe” marijuana. Federal law specifically prohibits prescription of Schedule I drugs, which includes marijuana. Instead, doctors can “recommend” marijuana for certain conditions. Patients who are living with “cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief” are mentioned in Prop. 215. Physicians have recommended marijuana for numerous other conditions, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, PTSD and many others.
Recreational Marijuana Laws in California
Recreational sales of marijuana don’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2018. Local governments across the state are still in the process of finalizing guidelines and assembling the infrastructure necessary to get the recreational marijuana program up and running. Marijuana will be legal for commercial sale once businesses receive proper licensing. However, counties can choose to ban commercial marijuana cultivation and can also place limits on licensed recreational marijuana businesses.
Prop 64 does not extend protections at the workplace. Employers can still choose not to hire an individual over a failed drug test or take action if marijuana is affecting the quality of their work.
For consumers, legislation and regulation will determine who is growing, handling and selling their marijuana – and how easy it is to purchase on the local level. However, there are also quality control issues that are being dealt with to help assure the quality of the marijuana being sold. One is the testing requirement established by law and reinforced with regulations. This affects both medical and recreational cannabis and will require strict testing to identify and disclose known psychoactive compounds in marijuana in addition to identifying contamination with mold, fungus, pesticides, and other contaminants. Testing should keep consumers safer in addition to helping the user to more accurately control their dosage.
In addition, UC San Diego is currently undertaking a study to determine when a pot consumer can and cannot safely drive. That study isn’t expected to be completed for another year.
- May not consume marijuana in public
- May not consume marijuana while driving or as a passenger in a car, plane, or boat
- Employers may still enforce “drug-free” policies that include marijuana screening
- Landlords may prohibit the possession of marijuana on their premises
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