12 Changes to Cannabis Law in California that Affect Everyone

By Charlie Tetiyevsky on January 9, 2018

The final year of California’s pot prohibition is one of many reasons to celebrate leaving 2017 behind. As of January 1, 2018, recreational sales became available across the state—with a few caveats. Here are a dozen things to be aware of if you’re planning to make a trip to get recreational weed in California. 

1. Not every dispensary is going to offer recreational cannabis—yet

Only a couple dozen dispensaries, mostly scattered around Northern California, San Francisco, San Jose, the Coachella Valley and San Diego, are licensed to sell recreationally right now. But the list is rapidly expanding, and more rounds of licenses are due to be issued in 2018, so expect to see a lot more dispensaries offering recreational cannabis as the year progresses.

2. Recreational smokers are out of luck in Los Angeles for now

Los Angeles won’t even start accepting applications for the first round of recreational dispensary licenses until January 3, and dispensaries need to get both local and state approval to move forward with recreational sales. The market will likely develop fast, though. Head of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation Cat Packer estimates "that roughly 200 businesses might [already] fit [the] requirements and that many could get temporary approval from the city within roughly three weeks." The City of West Hollywood is the only place in L.A. County with permitted shops like MedMen and Alternative Herbal Health Services already selling cannabis to long lines of enthusiastic smokers. In Orange County, a few shops like ShowGrow and 420 Central scored last-minute permits to sell in Santa Ana. 

3. Supply will be low to start

Just as problematic as the dispensary regulation timeline is the plan for issuing manufacturing and growing businesses recreational licenses. They won't even be able to apply until April, and other pot businesses will have to wait even longer to be able to apply. Presumably this temporarily lowered supply will mean high recreational cannabis prices to start—and it’s not a big help that so many farms were burnt in the wildfires earlier this year.

4. The other reason prices are going to jump: taxes

Sales tax rates vary based on location, but Prop. 64 set the mandatory cannabis state excise tax at 15 percent. Growers incur a tax of $9.25 for each dry ounce of flower—not an insignificant amount to take off the top—and $2.75 on each ounce of shake. 

5. Medical marijuana patients will get a break on taxes, but you’ll need a special card

The regular paper recommendation from a doctor isn't enough anymore to qualify you for tax-free tokes. You'll now need an official medical marijuana identification card from the California Department of Public Health to be exempt from having to pay sales and use taxes. The price on these is capped at $100 for regular patients and $50 for those who have Medi-Cal.  

6. You’ll have to be at least 21 years old and bring a valid ID

Just like now, you won't be able to get into a dispensary without identification. 

7. You won't be able to buy as much as you want

You're not going to walk out of the dispensary with a sack of bud, but you'll be able to buy up to an ounce of flower and eight grams of concentrates and edibles.

8. You'll be able to grow plants

Up to six of them! Medical marijuana patients can grow even more depending on the laws set where they live.

9. Edibles and topicals will have THC caps

A relief to anyone who's eaten too much of a Korova cookie and freaked out, after July 1 there will be a 100mg limit to the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content in edibles. It must be divided into 10mg servings, helpful for knowing how much you’ve eaten. And portioning is not a bad standard to keep, especially with consideration for novices. Topical products are getting a 2,000 mg THC limit, up from 1,000 mg.

The THC cap, especially for edibles, might not be in the favor of certain medical patients. Those in serious chronic pain or suffering from a terminal illness often need strong levels of THC in an edible form, and to make it unavailable in medical markets is somewhat troublesome and probably means an impending resurgence of homemade brownies. 

10. Don't fire up the BHO machines

You're not allowed to make "volatile substances" like concentrates at home.

11. You still technically can't smoke in public

Anyone who's been to Venice Beach—or anywhere in California—knows that the smell of weed is constantly floating around. Technically, it's illegal to smoke in public (or within 1,000 feet of a school), and it's the sort of rule that often targets people of color, who are disproportionately arrested for these low-level offenses.

12. You'll be able to bring some weed to the dinner party

Forget the bottle of Bordeaux and gift your host some pre-rolls or freshly picked flower. You'll now be able to give "personal amounts" of cannabis to adults 21 and older.

Photo credit: Sean Stratton.

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