Golden State voters trail-blazed the way for the legalized use and sale of marijuana on November 8, 2016. The California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, known as Proposition 64, was welcomed with open arms (and maybe a little cotton mouth) by the nation’s largest economy with a vote of 56% in favor of the law.
But don’t leave your sofa for the convenience store or snack aisle just yet. Recreational use of the Green Dragon in the Golden State remains quite limited, and its sale substantially regulated. Only adults of 21 years and older may possess, transport, consume, or share up to one ounce of marijuana. Marijuana concentrates, such as waxes, oils, and other cannabis-extracted products, are controlled to an even greater extent–with eight grams as the maximum. Individuals can grow up to six plants in their home for personal consumption. Public use remains prohibited under California law, as does driving while impaired. Violating the law will result in fines and required drug education or counseling. Possession and use of marijuana is still illicit under federal law, although enforcement by the Drug Enforcement Administration has been lax in recent years. That may change with President Trump taking the Oval Office in 2017.
The law potentially creates the largest market for marijuana products in the U.S. California is already known for its fine wine and craft beers–expectations are quite high for bud to do just as well. A state license is required to join in the fun, so not just any pothead can set up shop. And, it may be a challenge for green entrepreneurs to obtain commercial space, as well as financial lending, given the federal government’s ban.
Marijuana sold for recreational use in California will be subject to a 15% excise tax, resulting in an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue to California according to the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office. A substantial portion of these funds are allocated under Prop 64 to subsidize youth substance abuse prevention and education, support state and local law enforcement, and provide needed economic assistance to low-income communities. The California Departments of Consumer Affairs, Public Health, and Food & Agriculture will oversee the regulation of recreational marijuana sales, testing and manufacturing, and cultivation, respectively.
California joins Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, the District of Columbia, and now Nevada and Massachusetts in becoming a test tube to determine the proper breadth of marijuana’s use. Time will tell whether California’s different demographic makeup and larger population will play into determining whether the experiment is successful or not. But until the voters determine otherwise, that time appears to be 4:20.
Prop 64’s passage may require certain employers to make changes to their employee handbooks and written policies. In our experience addressing inquiries about Prop 64 and other states’ marijuana laws, we have seen some handbooks that were drafted broadly enough to account for this type of change. Other handbooks have required significant revisions. Addressing workers who appear under the influence at work may also be an issue for employers. For better or worse, these are individualized inquiries that are not typically susceptible to a boilerplate solution. All in all, time will tell if the grass is truly greener now with recreational marijuana on the books in California.