Agencies aim to make cannabis regulations permanent
Last update: July 25, 2018
California’s work establishing a regulated cannabis program for adults continues. State regulators are now considering a permanent set of rules to govern cannabis business activity (which so far have been operating under temporarily-adopted rules). For the official announcement, including helpful links and scheduled hearing dates, click here. As of July 1, all cannabis products sold must meet state testing standards. It was a rough milestone for many, as businesses were forced to destroy all products that had not previously gone through the testing process.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are well into this year’s legislative session, and there are dozens of bills under consideration that would impact marijuana policy, even as the new regulatory system continues to develop. Here are some highlights.
SB 1294 would require the state to support local equity applicants – those applicants who are from areas that have been negatively and disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis. If passed, the measure would offer assistance to equity applicants in securing business locations and low- or no-interest loans. Another bill, AB 1793, would automatically remove (or expunge) cannabis-related offenses from individuals’ criminal histories, if the original offense was later made legal under state law. Finally, lawmakers are considering AB 2641, a measure that would allow local jurisdictions to authorize temporary cannabis-related events, even allowing local authorities to allow consumption such as smoking or vaping under certain circumstances.
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The current legal status of marijuana in California
Until the 2016 Election Day vote, possessing up to an ounce or less of marijuana was a civil infraction similar to a speeding ticket. Following the vote, possession of an ounce or less and the secure cultivation of up to six plants is lawful for all adults 21 and over.
While California had already reduced penalties before the vote, the state still punished tens of thousands of responsible adults each year for possessing a substance that is objectively safer than both alcohol and tobacco. A study released by the Drug Policy Foundation reported that despite the reduction in penalties, state law enforcement still arrested over half a million people in the past 10 years on marijuana-related charges, a huge number of which are minorities.
California stopped wasting precious resources citing, arresting, and prosecuting marijuana offenders and is now in the process of ensuring the profits of marijuana sales go to responsible businesses and state budgets, instead of the pockets of criminals.
At the same time, the state’s medical marijuana protections continue, and a regulatory system is being implemented for medical marijuana businesses in tandem with the non-medical program, but without the same tax burden.
Timeline of marijuana policy reform in California
1996: Voters approved the Compassionate Use Act, allowing for the medical use of marijuana.
2003: California’s legislature expanded the state’s medical marijuana law to allow patients and caregivers to collectively or cooperatively cultivate marijuana.
2015: California’s legislature enacted a licensing and regulatory system for medical marijuana businesses.
2016: Voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana for adults and establishing a regulated marijuana market.
2017: Licensing and regulatory system for medical marijuana businesses is paired with similar regulatory system being developed for non-medical, now under one agency.
2018: First legal sales for adult consumers began!
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