Congratulations! Your state just legalized cannabis. Now what?
Cannabis legalization is slowly but surely coming to fruition in the US. In 2016 alone, a handful of states, including Arkansas, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, eased restrictions surrounding the selling and medicinal consumption of the plant. Getting this far is a huge accomplishment and now that cannabis is legal, it will be treated like other regulated substances and medicines on the market today.
Below are three things you can expect to happen, now that cannabis is legal in your state.
No Laws, No Service
If you thought passing laws was the hard part, think again. Previously, since legal cannabis regulations were non-existent, the first challenge for states that just legalized the herb is to create guidelines for the industry, which must be completed within a specific timeframe. Taking Florida as an example, the state is in the process of finalizing cannabis regulations. Lawmakers are still deciding how patients will be assessed to qualify for a medical marijuana card. So at the moment, medical dispensaries aren’t popping up around the area – not yet. Before that can start happening, licensing regulations must be setup for businesses to follow and legitimize their establishment.
Adhering to Consumption Guidelines
Patients interested in consuming cannabis, in a state that offers it legally, will be required to adhere to strict consumption guidelines. Lighting up in public, next to a school or on federal property is a big no-no and will likely get you in trouble. Furthermore, there are age restrictions for people partaking in the plant, as well as for businesses selling to customers. For instance, in Colorado, where cannabis is legal on a recreational level, individuals must be over the age of 21 to hold or use herb purchased in a retail environment.
It is important to educate yourself about these guidelines as they are implemented, because each state abides by a unique set of laws for cannabis consumption. If you cross state borders often for work or weekend trips, it is crucial to understand how guidelines differ on the other side. In some cases, you may find that neighboring states still view cannabis as an illegal substance (e.g., crossing over from Florida to Alabama, where medical consumption of psychoactive cannabis products is prohibited).
Possession and Limitations
How much you can buy and hold is also closely regulated under legal cannabis. Again, this varies greatly from state-to-state. On the far end of the spectrum, Oregon-based residents are able to possess up to 24 ounces of medical cannabis and up to six mature plants (18 immature seedlings). While in Montana, registered medical cardholders may legally hold up to an (one) ounce of cannabis and 12 seedlings.
“Now that weed is legal, it’s also taxed and regulated; unfortunately though, many tourists (and Nevadans) don’t have any idea what those regulations look like. It’s incredibly important that anyone who plans to participate in the consumption of marijuana knows the rules in order to stay safe and legal,” said Cassidy Leslie from the University of Nevada Reno.
A Montana resident is working to get an initiative on the 2016 ballot that would alter the state’s current provisions regarding recreational marijuana.
Anthony Varriano, a writer with the Glendive Ranger-Review, submitted language recently that would amend the state’s constitution to allow for the regulation and taxation of recreational marijuana within state borders. It would allow consumers over 21 to possess and purchase recreational cannabis in limited quantities, and an additional stipulation would mandate that the first $40 million raised in product taxes would be put toward Montana public schools.
Varriano, 29, said his ballot measure is based largely on a similar recreational marijuana law passed by Colorado voters in 2012. Because the proposed initiative (provided it first passes a required legal review) would change the Montana Constitution, almost 50,000 resident signatures are required in order to land the initiative on the ballot next year.
“I’ve got the hard part ahead of me. But the reaction has gotten me really excited; I think if we got it on the ballot it would pass.”
If so, Montana would join four other states that have already legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. Currently, Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon allow retail sales of the product within state lines. While Washington, D.C., now allows residents to possess cannabis in small amounts and cultivate at home, retail sales are not permitted.
Varriano’s initiative joins two other marijuana-related measures already submitted to the Montana Secretary of State. One involves removing certain regulations which restrict the medical marijuana industry and cites the state’s vote to legalize medical marijuana back in 2004. The other, submitted by Billings-based car dealership owner Steve Zabawa, would repeal Montana’s medical marijuana law and ban cannabis use in the state completely.
Zabawa previously attempted to land the measure on the 2014 ballot, but was unable to do so due to an inability to collect the necessary number of signatures within the time allotted.
A pro-medical marijuana group in Montana is asking that the public be allowed to vote to alter existing provisions that make it difficult to grow and dispense the product within state lines.
The Montana Cannabis Information Center, an organization that advocates for the use of marijuana exclusively for medicinal purposes, recently submitted the 2016 ballot measure to the Secretary of State. The group’s hope is that the effort will lift current legislative restrictions on medical marijuana, which Montanans voted to legalize back in 2004.
Montana Cannabis Information Center President Mort Reid, in reference to Senate Bill 423, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, said:
“In 2011, the Legislature overturned it in a devious way by going after doctors and growers,”
Under SB 243, Montana doctors who prescribe medical marijuana to more than 25 patients in a calendar year are automatically flagged for review by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners. Furthermore, the bill also set restrictions regarding cultivation and supplying medical marijuana, making it a crime for growers to provide medical cannabis to more than three patients and for growers to charge for the product in the first place.
Reid argues that these strict provisions essentially kill any hope for the industry to thrive and for patients to receive adequate care. Based on patient registration numbers, that may be the case. After the passage of SB 243, the number of registered medical marijuana patients in Montana fell from roughly 30,000 to about 8,000. Currently, the state has 12,017 registered medical marijuana patient. Reid said,
“People still have the option to grow their own but how does an 80-year-old with cancer have that ability to grow marijuana?”
One Montana district court judge already ruled against the provisions set by SB 243, but members of the Montana Cannabis Information Center are not hopeful about an upcoming appeal.
The newly submitted ballot measure now lies in the hands of the Secretary of State. After review, backers can then begin to gather the almost 50,000 signatures required to land it on the 2016 ballot. The new measure joins two other marijuana-related measures that have already been submitted for review. One would ban its use completely as long as it remains federally prohibited, while the other would legalize it for state residents over the age of 21.
A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that a small but notable majority of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization.