The 2016 election brought about some contentious results, but amidst all the chaos and upset, some hope emerged: Three new states voted to introduce legal medicinal cannabis to their residents and four states voted to legalize recreational marijuana, including California.
When it comes to medical marijuana, Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota all voted to make it legal for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients. In addition, the state of Montana voted to ease recent restrictions on its current medical marijuana law. These are huge steps — especially for traditionally conservative Florida — in reducing the stigma and legal issues associated with cannabis. These three states join 25 others and Washington DC in providing medical cannabis to patients.
When it comes to recreational cannabis, however, only eight states (and Washington DC) have legalized the plant. The four newest states to approve it are Massachusetts, Nevada, California and Maine (though this last state only approved it by a slim margin and it is already being challenged).
California passed Prop 64 with a margin of 56% to 44%, proving that the majority of voters understand that cannabis is not something to fear. But with 62 pages of “legalese” to wade through, what can CA residents expect now? On the surface, many people are celebrating it, but it pays to understand exactly what it means and when it will go into effect.
If you are over 21, it is now legal for you to use, posses, share and even grow cannabis in your own home. You can have up to an ounce on you at any given time. But, here comes the tricky part: There are no recreational dispensaries and those without a medical card can’t walk into a medical dispensary legally. And, it is still illegal to buy a cannabis plant to start cultivating your own. So where are you going to get all this legal pot from?
Odds are, you won’t be able to walk into a dispensary and purchase recreational cannabis until sometime in 2018. Until then there is hopes that a sharing economy will develop where folks who already have legal medicinal cannabis growing can offer friends or neighbors a clipping or clone to get their own plants started. Although, make sure to check on the regulations for growing your own cannabis, as homes are not allowed to have more than six plants (regardless of how many people are living there), and they need to be in a secure space.
Once you’ve figured out where your legal cannabis will come from before dispensaries are opened up, make sure to know where you’re allowed to enjoy it. Your best bet is to stay in your house for now. Hopefully, in the next few years, Canna-café’s, like the ones open in Amsterdam will open up in the state, but until then it pays to be safe.
Luke Stanton, Managing Partner of Frontera Group, a CA law firm that focuses on legal issues surrounding cannabis, notes that there are both short and long term things to keep in mind:
“I think the biggest change we’ll see from Prop 64 in the short term is cannabis companies receiving greater access to the investment community and capital markets, which could help the industry tremendously. Long term, I think adult use recreational legalization here in CA is the big domino we needed to see fall nationally, and the harbinger of the end of cannabis prohibition in America. It’s not going to be immediate, but it’s coming.”
The rest of the country will indeed look on, seeing how California does when it comes to recreational cannabis. Hopefully it will truly be the push needed to legalize the plant on a federal level. But for now, we wait and see. And, for those in California… spark one up.
Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work has been featured in Bitch Magazine, Cosmopolitan, The New York Times, The Daily Dot, Rolling Stone, SheKnows, CNN, and more. Follow her online at @TheMamafesto.