Although the 2016 elections did not go as expected for many, marijuana had a stellar evening across the nation. Which states passed marijuana measures, what do they mean for those states and for the rest of us, and where do we go from here? Many people are arguing that legalization measures passing in all of these states will force the federal government to revise its laws concerning marijuana used as medicine and regarding the penalties for marijuana use, possession, and sales – Earl Blumenauer of Oregon noted that this might include treating cannabis like alcohol. Let’s take a closer look into the measures and what will happen from here on out in the states that passed or expanded on medical marijuana measures (Arkansas, Montana, Florida, and North Dakota). Then, we’ll take a look at the new big five: the states that have officially legalized medical and recreational marijuana for 2017.
At a Glance
- Adults aged 21+ will be allowed to possess marijuana, and grow small amounts at home for personal use. Sale of marijuana will be legal and highly regulated to protect consumers and kids.
- This measure brings California’s marijuana market out into the open – much like the alcohol industry. It will be tracked, controlled, regulated and taxed, and we will no longer be criminalizing responsible adults or incarcerating children.
- Includes toughest-in-the-nation protections for children, our most vulnerable citizens.
- Protects workers, small businesses, law enforcement and local communities.
- According to the independent Legislative Analyst and Governor’s Finance Director, these reforms will save the state tens of millions of dollars annually in reduced taxpayer costs – and raise up to $1 billion in new tax revenues annually.
- Majority of revenues will be allocated to:
- Teen drug prevention and treatment
- Training law enforcement to recognize driving under the influence of drugs
- Protecting the environment from the harms of illegal marijuana cultivation
- Supporting economic development in communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition
- Prop 64 includes strict anti-monopoly provisions and protects small farmers, so California’s marijuana industry isn’t overrun by mega-corporations.
- The measure builds on the bipartisan legislation signed by Governor Brown to control and regulate California’s medical marijuana industry, and is modeled after national best practices, lessons learned from other states, and the recommendations of the Lieutenant Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy.
California Legalized Recreational Cannabis
We’ll start with the big one – literally. California finally got on board with recreational marijuana, a jump that was 20 years in the making following its 1996 legalization of medical marijuana. California was the trendsetter for medical marijuana, while Colorado became the worldwide example for recreational marijuana and what the industry was truly capable of. Over the years, various issues in California held the state back from fully achieving their goals with cannabis, and now the state has voted in favor of its recreational industry for the first time. What follows is anyone’s educated guess – increased state revenue, for one (and I hope some of that goes to California’s public school system), and the possibility of greater competition with the state of Colorado in the cannabis industry. Prop 64, which passed last night by a large margin of 11.6 percent, allows adults 21-years-old and above to purchase and consume recreational marijuana products in private homes or businesses with on-site marijuana consumption licenses (read: cannabis clubs). These adults can transport, possess, and buy up to 28.5 grams of cannabis for recreational use.
Funding for Prop 64 wasn’t lacking, as $23 million was contributed to the campaign (including some from Sean Parker, the former controversial Facebook president). On January 1, 2018, California will be have to start handing out recreational retail sales licenses for cannabis licensed businesses in their state, and adults can, as of today, possess and grow marijuana. That means people will still have to procure cannabis in some other way until the January 1 deadline (Colorado? Washington? Oregon?). Rob Bonta, Oakland, California’s Assemblyman, noted that medical dispensaries will “likely” sell recreational cannabis until the new licensing system for retailers is in place. There are more issues California has to address, such as whether the regulation system for recreational cannabis will be the same or different from the current medical cannabis system; effective immediately, the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation has been renamed the Bureau of Marijuana Control. Also in the works is the California Highway Patrol’s five-year study to begin creating protocols and regulations for marijuana-drive impairment – that will cost $15 million, but hey, I think California will be able to afford that, don’t you?
Another interesting aspect of California’s legalization that I never thought of – although inter-state cannabis transport is illegal, how can the police enforce that when marijuana is transported from legal recreational state to legal recreational state down the shoreline of the western United States? And really, what’s the point?