California Medical Marijuana Laws: What You Should Know

California Medical Marijuana Laws: What You Should Know

Per the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, three bills have been passed and signed by Governor Jerry Brown that change the regulations previously set in the Golden State. Backed by both growers and law enforcement, the new laws dictate what can and cannot be done regarding medical cannabis growth, transport, use and sale.

Changes Are Gradual

The California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act provide all current growers, sellers and transporters, as well as patients, with plenty of adjustment time. Laws do not go into effect until January 1, 2018. Anyone who creates a processed cannabis product, operates any dispensary and even provides wholesale services is subject to the new laws by that date. It took almost two decades for the legislation to be regulated after medical marijuana first became legal in the state in 1996. Recreational use remains an infraction of the law, with a $100 fine for violators.

Government Oversight and Revenue

The major changes to medical marijuana in California will be through government oversight. The industry has been largely unregulated for the past 20 years, but as of 2018, all people involved in the business will require a permit at the local level as well as a license at the state level. State licenses will require renewal annually. The state will perform inspections on products, and safety tests will be conducted in laboratories. The laws provide tighter oversight for taxing dispensaries as well as stipulations for local governments to create their own laws to generate revenue from taxing the product. Dispensaries may become for-profit businesses beneath the new laws.

Rules Are Unclear and Unwritten

A new government agency known as the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation will be in charge of modifying the specifics of the new laws, as they currently remain vague. Some of these will include the cost of the state license and local operating permits, how tracking will occur and how many licenses will be distributed. Farm size in the bill was outlined as up to one acre of land for large farms, but the legislation did not stipulate how many plants per farm are allowed, which could be another detail further addressed by the Bureau eventually. The Bureau will exist beneath the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Personal Gardens Remain Legal

As with the current system, patients may maintain small personal gardens with plant-number limitations beneath the new legislation. The law also remains unchanged in that local governments can opt to outlaw the practice as they deem fit. Personal growers do not require a license from the state to maintain their small crops of medical marijuana. Non-profit growing co-operatives between individuals, however, are outlawed beneath the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. Patients will continue to have the right to access medical marijuana as needed.

The new regulation framework was taken from state models currently in place to regulate the manufacturing, distribution and sale of alcohol. The Department of Food and Agriculture will continue to license outdoor growers. Language in the bill stipulates that patients can still only obtain medical marijuana when prescribed by an attending physician.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Robert Cicchetti.


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