Will California Be Ready for Recreational Marijuana?
December 04, 2017
As 2017 draws to a close, millions of Californians are anticipating the rollout of Proposition 64: the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). Prop 64 would make it legal for any adult 21 or older to purchase marijuana and cannabis products.
But that assumes that this previously unregulated, multibillion-dollar industry will be fully operational under all of the new complex regulations come January 1, 2018—less than a month away.
And it won’t. At least not completely.
Does This Mean I Still Need a Medical Marijuana Card?
All over the state, people are asking the same questions:
- Following legalization, will I still need my medical marijuana card?
- If I don’t have a doctor’s medical marijuana recommendation, should I bother getting one since legalization is just around the corner?
The answer to both of those questions is a resounding “yes.” If you depend on a trusted supply of cannabis to address health issues, your cannabis recommendation will help to ensure you have uninterrupted access to your medicine during California’s transition to legalization in 2018.
The expected delays to the full implementation of Prop 64 mean that you won’t be able to walk into your local dispensary on New Year’s Day. The only way to legally purchase cannabis in the vast majority of the state is with a medical marijuana recommendation. So if you don’t already have a medical marijuana card, get one now.
What’s the Latest on the New Marijuana Laws & Regulations
Cannabis farmers, distributors and entrepreneurs are working overtime to understand and implement more than 250 pages of regulations that cover everything from advertising to the size of cannabis farms. On Nov. 16, California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, Department of Food and Agriculture, and Department of Public Health released emergency regulations. They submitted these emergency regulations to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL), which gives the public until Dec. 4 to send in any comments. After the 4th, the OAL will review the regulations and decide on implementation.
What’s the Realistic Timeline for Recreational Marijuana?
Experts from the cannabis industry including Ca NORML unanimously agree that the state and most municipalities are woefully unprepared for a Jan. 1 rollout. It’s thought that it could take a minimum of months and possibly years for the regulations to be fully implemented.
Right now, businesses are applying for temporary retail sale licenses. The state isn’t even beginning to process these applications until New Year’s Day. On Jan. 1, cannabis retailers will be anxiously waiting for an email from the state approving their temporary licenses. Once those emails are received, retailers will be permitted to sell recreational marijuana to adults, 21 years of age or older possessing a valid form of identification.
Cities, Counties Still Formulating Marijuana Legalization Guidelines
There are 482 cities and localities in California’s 58 counties. Each is making independent decisions regarding the type, number and location of marijuana-related activities within their boundaries. Four nearly adjoining Southern California cities are each adopting completely different regulations regarding cannabis activities, resulting in confusion and uncertainty for consumers.
Most jurisdictions haven’t even completed approving their cannabis regulations. For specific questions, contact your local city and county offices for the latest updates regarding their legalization program. Because we’re less than a month away from January, and there’s still so much uncertainty, the best thing you can do is to keep your cannabis medical recommendation active. If you don’t have one, get one before the end of the year.
The Supply Chain: Marijuana Legalization’s Weakest Link
Come January, farmers, distributors, retailers and product manufacturers will be required by the State of California to track products to ensure adherence to state and local regulations. Companies that “touch the plant,” such as distributors, will be able to obtain licenses that will enable product to be moved safely, efficiently and legally from one location to another.
San Diego is one of the first cities in California to finalize their supply chain regulations. Eleven of 17 businesses within the city limits have been approved for operations, creating opportunities for manufacturers and indoor farmers.
Humboldt County’s Agricultural Commissioner’s Office is developing a pilot and software system that will track and trace cannabis from the farm to the retailer. Cultivators will apply a unique, secure stamp to packaged flowers. The stamp will record the size of the plant, strain, the name of the farm and more. As the package moves through the supply chain, the stamp will be scanned by each licensee until it ends up in the hands of the consumer.
Though the development of cannabis supply chains will provide a welcome degree of accountability previously not available to the consumer, this is one of the most daunting tasks faced by cannabis regulators and industry members, and will take considerable time to implement.
Your Medical Marijuana To-Do List
Legalization is already proving to be messy and challenging. Until the system is operating smoothly, here are some helpful tips:
- If you don’t have a doctor’s medical marijuana recommendation, get one now.
- If you have a recommendation, check your expiration date and make sure it stays active well into or through 2018.
- Contact your cannabis dispensary or suppliers, and ask if you'll be able to purchase medicine on Jan. 1.
- Ask your suppliers if they anticipate any reduction of their inventory.
- Check with your city and county regarding local guidelines on marijuana legalization.
Photo credit: Esteban Lopez