California changed the marijuana landscape by voting to legalize recreational marijuana on November 8th, meaning that all Californians age 21 and older will have the right to buy, possess, cultivate and transfer marijuana — not just medical marijuana patients with a doctor’s recommendation.
However — don’t abandon medical marijuana dispensaries for recreational shops just yet. The passage of Prop 64 in California created a new set of rules for recreational marijuana users that differ from those for medical marijuana users, and it’s easy to see the benefits of retaining your rights as a medical marijuana patient.
Limits don’t apply to Medical Marijuana
Prop 64 makes recreational marijuana legal, but it also lays down some strict guidelines on who and how much marijuana is legal. For example, recreational users must be 21 to legally possess marijuana, whereas Californian medical marijuana patients may be 18, or even younger with parental consent.
Furthermore, medical marijuana users do not have rigidly defined limits on the amount of marijuana they cultivate or possess. Recreational users do. A recreational user may cultivate only six plants, whereas a medical marijuana patient may grow as much as they require for personal use, with the guideline considered to be keeping plants in a growing area at or below 100 square feet.
For users of recreational marijuana who do not grow their own plants are limited to possessing one ounce of flowers, or eight grams of marijuana concentrate. Medical marijuana users have no such caps, and are allowed to possess whatever they need for personal use, or any amount that may be justified, within reason.
Still no recreational license
The second thing to understand about the new rules governing recreational marijuana in California, is that while possession, cultivation, and even gifting marijuana is legal effective immediately, selling marijuana is not. Until the state begins issuing recreational sales license, no one may sell cannabis legally — except for medical marijuana dispensaries.
That effectively means no one can legally buy marijuana in California yet — except for medical marijuana patients.
The state will not issue licenses to sell recreational marijuana until 2018, and even then it’s too early to tell how many licenses will be granted, nor to whom, nor the impact local municipalities will have on when and where shops will be allowed to operate. In other words, the legal sale of recreational marijuana is still up in the air. However, medical marijuana dispensaries are still allowed to operate under the same rules.
Pay no sales tax for Medical Marijuana
That is, under Prop 64, medical marijuana dispensaries will operate under the same rules, except one: taxation. The new law creates a 15% marijuana excise tax that will be applied to all marijuana sales beginning January 1st, 2018.
However, the proposition’s language allows that medical marijuana patients will no longer be required to pay the state’s 7.5% sales tax. Recreational uses will be subject to both excise and sales tax, plus additional taxes applied by local municipalities. Such a tax has already been approved by San Diego voters, adding 5% tax to gross receipts of recreational marijuana businesses, rising to 8% in 2019. Medical marijuana businesses won’t be subject to that San Diego tax.
Better yet, since the no sales tax for medical marijuana rule went into effect immediately, but the excise tax doesn’t go into effect until 2018, medical marijuana users get a one year de facto tax holiday. So don’t abandon medical marijuana dispensaries for recreational shops just yet — dispensaries like Point Loma Patient Consumer Co-op offer the best source of legal marijuana now, and will continue to do so going forward, for years to come.