On November 8, 2016, California Proposition 64 was passed. The marijuana legalization initiative was approved by a percentage of 57% to 42%. Medical marijuana had been legalized in California since 1996, California is the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Proposition 64 covered areas including the marketing and distribution of marijuana, the regulation, and taxation of marijuana and the resentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions. People with prior marijuana convictions can actually appeal to get their records destroyed, though there is as of yet very little case law as how this will proceed. It stated that the legal age for marijuana was 21 and designated state industries to license and regulate the marijuana industry.
With the passing of Proposition 64 recreational marijuana is now legal in California. Proposition 64 essentially allows those over the age of 21 to legally possess and consume cannabis. It is now permissible to smoke cannabis at home or in businesses who have a marijuana license.
Many residents and businesses are still coming to terms with the legalization. The regulatory infrastructure for growers is not fully established, and many are unsure where they can smoke and where to obtain it from. Businesses are not allowed to sell recreational marijuana until at least January 2018. Businesses are not permitted to sell marijuana near day cares, schools or youth centers. It is legal to grow up to 6 plants at home provided they are not publicly visible and other requirements are adhered to.
Marijuana Santa Barbara County
Under Proposition 64, local counties have the authority to restrict where marijuana businesses can be located. Local governments also have the power to ban marijuana from their jurisdictions. It would seem that the sale of marijuana is becoming truly decentralized and that it is being left to the people to decide for themselves. Even within states themselves, much power is being decentralized to local counties with regard to the management of marijuana.
One county gearing up to initiate rules and regulations on the licensing, production and taxation for the recreational use of marijuana in Santa Barbara County, located in Southern California. The Draft Cannabis Land Use Ordinance was released on July 12th and contains details on many aspects of recreational marijuana use. Among the items listed on the Draft Cannabis Land Use Ordinance are operation permits, lighting, noise, odor, fencing and security measures. The draft is relatively short, being a total of 36 pages.
The next step is that county staff will edit the document based on input from the public. It should be noted that much of the rules and regulations have already been put in place at the state level, such as how many plants per household are permissible and the marijuana legal age limit. The fine details of implementation are left to the local governments. Proposition 64 created 2 excise taxes on marijuana. First, there is a tax on marijuana cultivation, set at $9.25 per ounce and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. Then there is a 15% retail tax on the sale of marijuana, with taxes adjusted for inflation in 2020. There are certain tax exemptions for medical marijuana cultivations.
A Race Against Time
August 11th is the deadlines for all public comments and feedback to be given with regard to the Ordinance Draft, and after this date, the board of supervisors and planning staff members will review and edit the document. In its current state, it is very broad and will most likely be significantly expanded upon. In a meeting concerning the draft, members raised concerns over the odor and the commercial standards for lighting. The draft suggests designating an individual with the responsibility of taking care of all odor related complaints. Some suggestions were more extreme, which included surveillance cameras and constant monitoring and regulation over marijuana shops. Such security measures were outlined in the draft, as well as ideas on how to securely store and contain cannabis products.
Despite moving swiftly, it is unlikely that Santa Barbara will get permanent rules in place by the time January 2018 hits. January 2018 is the time where businesses will have or at least be able to apply for licenses to sell marijuana. Santa Barbara district supervisor Steve Lavagnino state that:
I am absolutely shocked the state is saying it’s on track for Jan. 1 …We are moving as fast as we can, and we are moving really, really fast. But there is going to be some delay on our part. I am glad we waited because there are some mistakes out there.”
The Future of California Marijuana
Hopefully, the level of security measures seen in the draft with regard to surveillance will not be taken too seriously. However, if it is what the local people want then they are entitled to get it, in a democratic process. The way that the marijuana legalization has unfolded is by and largely positive, with power being decentralized and decisions once again being made at a local and state level instead of through heavy handed federal authorities.