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Clearing the air on statewide recreational pot use

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Just a month from today, adults 21 and older in California who would like to use marijuana recreationally will be able to do so legally, since Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), will take effect Jan. 1.

The new year will also bring the issuance of the first state licenses for any type of pot business, ranging from those who cultivate the plant for medical applications to those who distribute it for recreational use.

However, those planning to “light up,” vape or eat cannabis in a public park or before heading out for a drive should think twice. There will be regulations in place, and they will not be the same across the state.

Although most criminal sanctions for weed were eliminated right after the 2016 election, the regulation of retailers, cultivation operations and pot-consumption establishments is being phased in the coming months.

Under the new state law, those 21 and over may purchase, possess and consume up to one ounce of cannabis and up to eight grams of concentrated cannabis (separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from cannabis) in private residences and in establishments licensed for its use. They also will be able to grow up to six marijuana plants and consume the herb produced by it, but it must be consumed in a secure place that is not visible to the public.

Users may only buy marijuana at retail outlets licensed by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control. Even though adults 21 and older may legally possess weed, it is illegal for them to sell it without a license.

Under the state law, consumers can use cannabis on private property, but they may not use, smoke, eat or vape cannabis in public places, and they may not smoke cannabis or cannabis products in places where it is illegal to smoke tobacco, according to the California Department of Public Health. Furthermore, property owners may ban the use and possession of marijuana on their privately-owned properties.

Wikipedia Creative Commons
Adults 21 and over will be able to use, grow and possess marijuana legally in one month. However, there are regulations in place for cannabis, and they will differ from city to city throughout the state. Pictured is a California-grown cured flower of the cannabis strain Orange Cookies.

Additionally, consumers may not use cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center or youth center while children are present.

Although marijuana use will be legal under California law, it still may not be consumed or possessed on federal lands such as national parks, even if the park is in the state.

To make matters even hazier, the laws will vary from city to city.

Seven months after California voters approved Prop 64, in November 2016, paving the way for a statewide regulatory and licensing framework for adult-use marijuana businesses, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), merging regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis into a single regulatory system. MAUCRSA allows local governments to regulate and/or prohibit commercial cannabis activity within their jurisdictions, and indeed there are differences in how Long Beach and Signal Hill are proceeding in terms of cultivation and sales.

Currently, information on the City of Long Beach’s website indicates that it will be six months before a draft ordinance is available.

“On Nov. 14, 2017, the Long Beach City Council voted to request the city manager to work with affected City departments to develop recommendations to legalize and regulate commercial adult-use (recreational) marijuana businesses in Long Beach,” the website states. “The city attorney will report back to City Council with a draft ordinance to allow, license and regulate the retail sale, cultivation, manufacture, distribution and laboratory testing of adult-use marijuana in Long Beach by June 2018.”

Effective last Nov. 14, a temporary ban is in effect for 180 days, forbidding any commercial adult-use marijuana activities in Long Beach. The city council did not approve commercial adult-use cannabis businesses to operate in the city.

Likewise, Signal Hill will not be allowing marijuana retailers to operate within its 2.178-square-mile area.

At its Nov. 14 meeting, the Signal Hill City Council approved two ordinances that prohibit all commercial marijuana activities, including selling, manufacturing, cultivating, testing, distributing and delivering, as previously reported in the Signal Tribune. The ordinances also ban growing marijuana outdoors for personal use— despite its being allowed by state law unless otherwise prohibited by local governments— and limit cultivation indoors for personal consumption.

That indoor cultivation is limited to six plants at any one time, and the ordinance includes such restrictions as a family cannot hire outside assistance for cultivation, and it can only occupy one room of a residence.
Recreational-pot users need to bear in mind that the AUMA does not permit individuals to drive under the influence or with an open container of cannabis. It also does not allow smoking of marijuana in public or anywhere tobacco use is banned.

While pot consumers may be ringing in the new year in celebration of the new law, the new associated costs may be a downer.

Beginning Jan. 1, a 15-percent excise tax will be imposed upon the purchase of cannabis and cannabis products. Retailers must collect the tax from the consumer to pay it to the distributor.

The “dark cloud” hovering over all the new information concerning pot use in the state is this: users need to keep in mind that the cultivation, possession, sale and use of cannabis in California may remain unlawful under federal law.

More information for Californians’ recreational use of marijuana is available at

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Clearing the air on statewide recreational pot use