How will you vote on Prop 64 this November?
Before you answer, do you really know what’s actually in the 62-page proposition? It’s a lot more complicated than just deciding whether or not you want to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.
This massive ballot initiative lays out a pretty comprehensive plan for taxing, regulating, permitting, and licensing the cannabis industry along with eliminating or lessening penalties for possession.
If that makes your eyes glaze over, it’s understandable. After pouring through the hefty document, we’ve come up with 10 surprising facts about Prop 64 you might not know.
1. Prop 64 is about the regulation of marijuana, not just about toking up legally.
While the passage it will mean adults over 21 can use recreational marijuana (at some point), Prop 64 is mainly about regulating the marijuana industry in California and gathering millions (possibly billions) in taxes and fees each year.
That means clear(ish) rules about permitting, testing and overall transparency in the California cannabis industry. Some are worried that the layers of state, county, and city permitting may be debilitating to California’s small growers. Testing regulations, however, that address issues of mold, dosing, and THC levels could lead to safer and more consistent products.
One big plus for small growers is the Cottage Cannabis Farmer’s Bill just signed by the governor that allows modified rules for grow operations smaller than 5,000 square feet or 50 plants. Large commercial growers (more than one acre outdoors, or 22,000 square feet indoor) will not be licensed until 2023.
2. Even if marijuana is legal in California, you aren’t necessarily going to have easy access…
So here’s a big issue: Localities trump state law. Cities and counties can allow voters to choose whether or not to allow cannabis businesses. But here’s the rub: Areas that ban the businesses won’t reap cannabis-related money allocated to police and safety programs. If localities allow adult use, there are many issues (like zoning and permitting) that will have to be decided at the local level. For example, Sonoma County has extensive zoning regulations currently under consideration that cannabis businesses will have to comply. Regardless of local mandates, if Prop 64 passes, adults will still be able to grow up to 6 plants (sort of, because there are a lot of rules on odor, visibility, and leased properties) and possess limited amounts of marijuana legally.
3. …Or be able to light up a joint just anywhere. Actually pretty much nowhere.
Anywhere you can’t smoke a cigarette, you can’t smoke marijuana. Add to that any public place, park, federal land, your car or anywhere near where children are present. You can smoke in a private home (as long as you aren’t bugging your neighbors or your landlord) and at certain businesses licensed for on-site consumption. Think coffee shop or lounge, but no booze or tobacco can be sold in these licensed locations.
4. Recreational marijuana isn’t going to be available for a while. Like maybe 2019?
Don’t plan to line up at the dispensary on Nov. 9 and get legal marijuana. You’ll still need a physician’s recommendation for medical marijuana to buy legally as the permitting process for adult recreational use goes into effect. Prop 64 opens the gate to legalized adult use of marijuana, but many timelines are unclear, especially at the county and city level. Permitting processes will begin in January 2018 at the state level, providing a path to regulating the industry, but it will take time for states and localities to get in sync with clear permitting and zoning laws. Plan to cool your heels for a good while.
5. How much is 28.5 grams?
Under the ballot measure, adults would legally be able to possess 28.5 grams of marijuana (flowers, leaves) and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana (bubble hash, shatter, concentrates, etc.) If you’re not familiar with the measures of bud, that’s about an ounce, which doesn’t sound like much until you know how marijuana flowers are usually measured. A “dime bag” is usually about a gram, while 1/8 ounce (3.5 grams) or 1/2 ounce (14 grams) is a typical measurement sold in dispensaries. For a recreational user, an ounce is actually a pretty decent amount of marijuana.
6. What about the black market?
Prop 64 aims to “incapacitate the black market” in California with regulation that will be enforceable. Easier said than done, but it does make clearer those who are operating inside and outside the rules of compliance. With such a long history of operating in black or gray markets, it seems unrealistic to think that the entire cannabis industry is going to want to be subject to regulation. Black-market operators who circumvent not only the growing, but transportation, legal processing, and testing will lessen their overall costs and raise profit margins. Tempting, right? However, those in the regulated businesses will likely not want to jeopardize their licenses by working with black market businesses and law enforcement will have clearer targets.
7. Protecting children is addressed extensively in Prop. 64. But is it enough?
One of the most divisive issues of this Prop. 64 is “normalizing” marijuana usage and exposing children to recreational use of what the federal government still classifies as a Schedule 1 drug. Opponents say we’re going down a dangerous path that could result in higher drug usage by kids, exposure to media messages advertising marijuana and concerns about safety for youngsters. If passed, significant tax revenue would be set aside for youth drug education, drug treatment programs, police enforcement and public safety. Prop. 64 also sets out rules about labeling, packaging, marketing, and child-resistant packaging, along with advertising guidelines. Does it go far enough? Opponents say no, but the proposition does allow for a lot of wiggle room to make changes to the law.
8. Organic Mendo Gold is gonna be a thing
Get ready for marijuana with a pedigree. Prop 64 allows for AVAs similar to wine, so regions known for primo cannabis (like Humboldt or Mendocino Counties) can advertise that fact (as long as it’s really grown there). Also, there are regulations and testing for using the term “organic” on cannabis.
9. Wild salmon love Prop 64
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but Prop 64 finally puts some serious teeth into the environmental effects of growing and processing—notably water. In a drought-stricken state, water is a big issue and unregulated farming and processing resulted in some serious environmental damage, including pesticides, waste runoff and damage to public lands. Money will be set aside to deal with damage, with state agency oversight regarding water usage and environmental impacts.
10. The price of pot is gonna go up
Growers will be paying cultivation taxes, along with permitting and licensing taxes (to some degree it’s mind boggling how many hands are going to be dipping into their pockets) from the state level to the city and county level. Consumers will pay 15% state tax as well as any additional local government taxes (county, city). Though it’s still a bit unclear, medical patients may be taxed at a lower rate.
Oh, and just so you know, even if California votes YES on Prop 64, marijuana growing, possession and transport are illegal according to federal law.
This is just a first pass at a few of the details of Prop. 64. Much bigger issues of social justice and public safety will be investigated more thoroughly in future articles.