Monday is Jan. 1 and that’s when recreational use of marijuana becomes legal and California’s legal, regulated cannabis market opens for business.
The new law legalizing recreational use of marijuana applies to adults 21 and older.
Use by anyone else is illegal unless they have medical reasons and a doctor’s recommendation. Medicinal use of marijuana has been legal in California since 1996. State and federal pot laws have conflicted in the Golden State since then.
The law change Monday will not be obvious here in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, and the rest of the Mother Lode, where anyone can already legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana.
Local governments in both counties are in the process of updating current laws that apply at local jurisdictional levels.
But some state laws will apply across the board.
Alex Traverso, chief of communications with the new state Bureau of Cannabis Control in Rancho Cordova, outside Sacramento, has some answers to common questions about marijuana and what the new state law means in the Golden State.
Where can you smoke it?
Adult individuals 21 and older can smoke cannabis for recreational use in his or her private residence or at a retail location where on-site consumption is allowed, Traverso said in a phone interview Thursday.
“It’s not a situation where you can be walking down the street and smoking cannabis,” Traverso said. “You have to do that in the privacy of your own residence or in a location that allows for on-site consumption.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the Bureau of Cannabis Control had issued 66 licenses for medical dispensaries and 42 for adult use dispensaries. Some businesses have applied for both licenses, Traverso said.
“If their jurisdiction allows for that we’re seeing some businesses apply for both,” Traverso said. “Some jurisdictions are getting their adult rules in place. In those places, the majority of retail locations that open Jan. 1 are likely to be medical dispensaries that have already been operating as such.”
Where can you buy it?
A state list of adult use and medical dispensaries includes businesses in Oakland and Berkeley that will be open Jan. 1.
An online listing of medical marijuana dispensaries put together by California NORML includes three locations within 50 miles of Sonora, in San Andreas, Oakdale and Merced. Other listings include a medical collective in Arnold.
“There will be locations up and running Jan. 1,” Traverso said. “We are licensing more and more every day. More than a hundred through this afternoon. I anticipate that will likely double by Monday. What we’re telling people is first of all is be patient. A lot of places are getting their rules in place.”
The local license is the first step, Traverso said. Every business that wants to be open Jan. 1 has to get a local license in order to get a state license. Not every city and county in California is going to be up and running on day one.
“The hope is that if I live in Sacramento, and Sacramento’s not ready, certainly Berkeley is ready and Oakland is ready,” Traverso said. “We’ve already issued some adult use licenses in those two jurisdictions. Hopefully you won’t have too far to drive if you want to purchase some cannabis on Jan. 1.”
Can you smoke it in a vehicle?
No one is allowed to smoke marijuana in a vehicle, parked or moving, under California state law. Local and state law enforcement can cite or arrest anyone who does.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal.
“You can possess a legal amount, up to one ounce, in a vehicle,” Traverso said. “But you can’t smoke it.”
Traverso said he’s already seen digital flashing signs next to roadways in the Sacramento area stating, “Get High, Get a DUI.”
Do you need a letter from your landlord?
Some people are wondering if they will need a certified letter from his or her landlord stating it’s OK to smoke marijuana in their rented apartment or home.
Landlords do have the right to prohibit marijuana use under the new state law.
“They can make it clear ‘We’re not allowing cannabis consumption in this property,’” Traverso said. “So it is left up to the landlord to decide in situations like that. I’m not sure how landlords are going to handle that. Will it be in the rental agreement or will just be something that’s vocalized? The onus is on the landlord to spell that out. If the tenant is concerned about that, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to ask the landlord directly about it.”
Can you smoke weed in the Stanislaus National Forest?
Keep in mind that California law differs from federal law.
For example, using and possessing marijuana are still illegal on federally managed public lands that include the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park. Marijuana possession will still be illegal at Border Patrol checkpoints up and down the Golden State.
The new law legalizing recreational marijuana use by adults age 21 and older that takes effect Monday has no impact whatsoever on federal law.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, so it’s in the same category as heroin, LSD, ecstasy, peyote and Quaaludes.
According to the DEA, Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Statewide, the Bureau of Cannabis Control is the lead state agency developing regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis in California. The bureau is responsible for licensing retailers, distributors, testing labs and microbusinesses. Bureau staff are currently accepting licensing applications.
A year ago, the Associated Press reported the California cannabis industry has a projected value of $7 billion, and state and local governments could eventually collect $1 billion a year in taxes. How accurate those projections are remains to be seen.