First of all, a Happy New Year to all of our readers (and our non-readers, too, although they’ll not get this message). We hope your legal pot parties went with grace and aplomb. And also, a Happy End of Prohibition Day as well, where “non-medical” marijuana users can finally go to a dispensary and buy “recreational” cannabis. This means that, in California at least, a person without a medical marijuana card can technically walk around without fear of arrest for marijuana possession as long as they’re keeping to the limits of the law (an ounce or under and not using it in public spaces, essentially).
For a short reminder, here’s a small, not-overly-detailed breakdown of what the law looks like for non-medical marijuana users …
- No penalty for possession of up to 1 ounce, or 28.5 grams.
- Possession of one ounce or less, on school grounds and aged over 18 years-old – up to 10 days’ incarceration and/or a $500 fine. For those aged under 18, the fine is $250 and the duration of the incarceration is spent in a detention center.
- Possession of more than 1 ounce is considered a misdemeanor, and can land a person in prison for up to 6 months for a first offense and/or a $500 fine.
- Distribution of any amount for compensation without an appropriate license can bring up to 6 months’ imprisonment and/or a $500 fine for a first offense.
- A gift of an ounce or less is not technically a crime, but may bring a fine of up to $100, meaning that there is potentially some violation code on the books.
- Selling or delivering to a person aged 14 – 17 can bring a prison sentence of between 3-5 years. To a person aged under 14, the sentence is 3-7 years. The fine is potentially limitless.
- No penalty for cultivating up to 6 plants. Cultivating more than 6 plants without the appropriate license or a premium MMJ card + Grower’s license is considered a misdemeanor and can bring up to 6 months’ incarceration and/or a $500 fine.
- No penalty for possession of up to 8 g of hash/concentrate. If you carry around 4 grams of hash/concentrate, your possession limit of dried cannabis flower is 14.25 grams. Roughly speaking, this means that 1 gram of hash/concentrate is equivalent to possessing 3.5625 grams of dried cannabis flower.
- Possessing 8 grams or more of hash/concentrate is considered a misdemeanor, with up to 6 months’ incarceration and/or a $500 fine.
- Unauthorized manufacture of hashish or concentrate can mean between 16 months and three years imprisonment and/or a $500 fine. Chemical manufacture of hashish or concentrate can mean between 3 and 7 years’ imprisonment and/or a $50,000 fine.
Now, we like to say “End of Prohibition” tentatively. As there are possession limits and a whole raft of other laws restricting the use, sale, cultivation and possession of cannabis, we can’t really say that “prohibition has effectively ended”. There is still some significant amount of prohibition left in the system, and many people opposed Proposition 64 for this very reason – i.e. “it’s not enough freedom for us!” Also, cannabis is still federally illegal, so don’t go around thinking that it’s impossible not to get charged with a cannabis-related crime in California or any other state where cannabis is legal for medical and/or recreational use.
Another big issue when it comes to cannabis is cost. Now, although legalized recreational cannabis has made it available to more people, this has not necessarily meant a reduction in prices. In fact, it seems that the whole supply-and-demand thing has turned a little topsy-turvy. The amount of tax some jurisdictions has decided to add onto recreational cannabis means that there are some severe price-hikes around the corner for many Californians. Now, although medical marijuana card holders are exempt from sales taxes, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t also see price-hikes, as the tax increases affect parts of the supply chain that apply to both medical and non-medical users. So, even though cannabis isn’t as prohibited in California as it once was, people may be prohibited to some extent cost-wise.
For now, dispensaries have first dibs on the recreational market. Once licenses are approved and everything gets moving, other pot shops will likely establish and set up market over the next several months, and federal lawmakers will have a pretty tough time of cracking down on those selling cannabis according-to-the-state-legally. So, for now, it’s more like the “end of the end of prohibition”, with a big fight coming down the way. A sort of final showdown, samurai- or guns-at-dawn Western style, between those who want cannabis legalized and those who want it restricted. In the meantime, dab,vape, microdose or tincture away, and enjoy the first day of being officially being able to buy weed legally in California. Check out our article “Will L.A. Be Ready for Legalization in 2018?” if you’d like to read more on our thoughts.