Even though marijuana has been legalized for recreational purposes in California, that does not mean that it impossible to get into legal trouble for having or using it. The rules and regulations that govern the consumption of marijuana are numerous and surprisingly strict. Running afoul of one of them can get you into significant legal trouble.
Knowing at least the basics of the law is crucial if you intend on exercising your new rights to the use of recreational marijuana in California. Having a skilled drug and marijuana attorney on hand can make a huge difference if you get in trouble.
California's Law for Recreational Marijuana
While California was the first state in the country to pass a law that allowed marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes, it fell behind several others in passing laws that allowed for the recreational use of the drug. This finally ended at the beginning of 2018, when Proposition 64 – which had been voted into law by Californians in the 2016 election by a 57 percent majority – went into effect.
Now codified as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, the law allows adults to buy, use, carry, and even grow marijuana plants for purposes that are not necessary medicinal. However, the regulations that are associated with this law are extensive, limiting those rights to a significant degree.
Who Can Use Marijuana for Recreational Purposes?
Under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, only people over the age of 21 can legally buy and use marijuana for recreational purposes. If you are over the age of 18 but have not yet turned 21, you can only use marijuana for medicinal purposes, significantly hampering your ability to buy the drug – underage users need to have a licensed physician's recommendation to obtain marijuana. However, medicinal patients are allowed to carry significantly more marijuana than those who are exercising their recreational rights under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.
One big complexity that the Adult Use of Marijuana Act does away with is the primary caregiver designation from California's medicinal marijuana laws. This status proved difficult for law enforcement to comprehend, resulting in numerous arrests and legal troubles for people who were acting within their rights. Now that all adults can obtain and possess a limited amount of marijuana, the need to be designated a caregiver for a patient who needs medical marijuana is substantially decreased.
Who Can Sell Marijuana?
Legalizing marijuana for recreational use came with a huge logistical hurdle to overcome – one that was largely responsible for the long period of time between the passage of Proposition 64 and the effective date of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. This hurdle was where marijuana could be sold, and how to regulate those outlets.
The result has been the implementation of California's Bureau of Cannabis Control.
This Bureau oversees and regulates all of the aspects of the sale of marijuana, and requires retail outlets to have a license before they can sell recreational marijuana. Failure to obtain a license from the Bureau can expose marijuana sellers to significant legal trouble.
How You Can Legally Buy Recreational Marijuana
Even though the Adult Use of Marijuana Act permits recreational marijuana, that does not mean that buying and using it is unrestricted or even easy to do. Wary of the possibility that nefarious actors could somehow lace marijuana with other drugs or sell lesser strains by labeling them fraudulently to deceive consumers – but also to promote business and tax revenues – the Bureau of Cannabis Control requires marijuana to be bought and sold at licensed dispensaries in the state of California.
As a consumer, this means several things that are entirely foreseeable.
- You will have to travel to a licensed dispensary, rather than rely on the more convenient deliveries that were popular before legalization
- There will be a noticeable increase in the standardization of strains that are available, so you will not have to rely solely on what a seller tells you
- Transactions will become much safer, as they will happen in a relatively familiar environment that is similar to an average convenience store
However, as time has passed since legalization and transactions have become routine, several relatively unexpected outcomes have surfaced, as well.
- Purchasing recreational marijuana requires cash. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, banks that do business outside the state of California or rely on federal law for financial protection – as nearly every bank does – cannot facilitate marijuana transactions. Therefore, despite the normalcy of buying and selling marijuana in California, you will still have trouble using a debit or credit card to make the purchase.
- Several layers of taxes. While not entirely unforeseeable, the numerous levels of taxation that intrude on every marijuana purchase often comes as a surprise to buyers. Not only is there a state excise tax of 15% on every purchase; there is a county tax of between 7.5% and 10%, depending on the county. Finally, cities have also been imposing their own tax on marijuana sales. The Los Angeles Times has put together a helpful tool to figure out how much you will spend. These taxes decrease, though, if you are buying medical marijuana rather than recreational marijuana.
Unfortunately, your ability to buy marijuana legally is also restricted by how much you can legally travel with it.
Traveling With Marijuana in Your Possession
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act allows you to have marijuana in your possession, but only small amounts at a time. This limits the amount that you can buy at once.
If you are 21 or older, the Act lets you possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana, up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis in other forms, and up to 6 plants.
Carrying more than these amounts at any one time – including when you first make a purchase – can lead to legal trouble.
Additionally, crossing state lines and leaving California can be problematic, even if the state you are entering also has recreational marijuana laws. Flying, therefore, is illegal under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.
How You Can Use Recreational Marijuana Without Breaking the Law
While buying marijuana is fraught with complications, using it can be even more complex. Numerous regulations restrict your rights on where you can smoke or consume marijuana, while others prevent you from traveling out of state with it. Perhaps worse, these regulations are evolving quickly and constantly, adding a level of uncertainty to the process that can get unwary users into severe legal trouble.
Where You Can Use Recreational Marijuana
One of the most restrictive regulations dealing with recreational marijuana is where you can use the drug. Regulations prohibit smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana in public, eliminating a huge swath of places for users to enjoy their rights.
Even in private places, though, your rights are restricted, as well: partially due to California's laws regarding driving under the influence (DUI), you cannot use marijuana in your car or any other motor vehicle. You also cannot smoke marijuana in any private location – like a bar or restaurant – that already prohibits smoke tobacco. Even in your own home, you could face restrictions on your recreational use of marijuana: California law allows landlords to prohibit smoking or the use of marijuana through specific provisions in their rental lease. If you rent, you could face legal repercussions if you smoke in your own home.
There is a bright point on the horizon, though: municipalities and cities are allowed to grant permits for businesses to open as marijuana cafes, under certain conditions.
How Recreational Marijuana Laws Impact Medicinal Marijuana Laws
The intersection of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which allows for the recreational use of marijuana, with the Compassionate Use Act, which allows for the medical use of marijuana, is one of the most complex issues in marijuana law, today. People who want to transition from one status to another face considerable legal risk and should consult an attorney. However, there are some clear answers.
- Medical marijuana is better for taxes. Californians who have a physician's recommendation to use marijuana for medicinal purposes will pay less in taxes when they buy marijuana than those who are merely using it for recreational purposes.
- Medical users can carry more marijuana. Additionally, while recreational marijuana users can only carry up to 6 plants, 8 grams of concentrate, and 28.5 grams of marijuana, medical marijuana users can have as much marijuana on hand as their physician recommends.
Recreational Marijuana Attorney William S. Kroger
The myriad rules and regulations that pertain to marijuana are difficult to comply with and are constantly changing as lawmakers juggle how best to handle legalization. Consulting with a marijuana lawyer to make sure you are doing things by the book can prevent a costly arrest and charge for a drug crime. If it is too late, a drug defense attorney can be your best bet to beat the charge.
William S. Kroger is Los Angeles' marijuana and drug defense attorney. Contact him online for the legal help you need.