Not So Fast: California Voted to Legalize Pot - But Here's Why Residents Won't See Big Changes Overnight

Tourists can now come to California to legally partake of marijuana, but there is no place for them to get it or smoke it. When Proposition 64 was adopted by voters, it created a commercial regulatory system that goes into effect in 2018. After that, it will take time for the supply chain to get into gear and outlets open around the state, so cannabusiness is in a transitional phase.

That probably means people are going to get their marijuana from some different source in the meantime. Fortunately, the restorative justice aspects came into play at midnight after the election.

Nonmedical adult use: Not everything was legalized by voters

A number of new infractions have been carved out of activities that were previously misdemeanors or felonies. Some misdemeanors remain on the books with a penalty cliff; for example, while possession of an ounce or cultivation of six plants is legal, a few extra grams or plants bumps you up to a misdemeanor with possible jail time.

For those who still engage in unlicensed commercial activity or out-of-state distribution, the penalties remain but at a greatly reduced level, for example the maximum sentence for non-aggravated sales drops from felony three years down to misdemeanor six months, an 83 percent sentence reduction.

So, it is important for people to know what the new marijuana laws entail. This chart below gives you a color coded summary of what you can legally do and where the lines have been drawn for now.


People who engage in these activities risk the penalties above. It is likewise important for people to understand that there remain some penalties that are particularly significant. Wobblers can be treated as felonies for third offenses and aggravating circumstances including environmental harm or sending cannabis out of state. Making solvent extracts remains a serious felony and as do illicit sales to or involving minors under age 18, with sentences up to seven years in prison.

Sales between patients being phased out by legislature

Medical marijuana patients still maintain a privileged position, retaining their legal defense to cultivate and possess any reasonable amount for their own personal medical use.

For the next two years, the SB 420 collective defense will also continue for patients. This phase in will  give people the opportunity to adjust from the old ways to embrace the future.

Plans are already being developed to go to the State legislature with requests to increase lawful quantities and reduce some of the remaining penalties, but until an amendment is passed, these are the new rules for Californians. One caveat is that local governments can ban outdoor personal grows, but if they do it will be an ordinance violation, not a state crime, and the locality will lose its law enforcement funding derived from the initiative.

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