The Definitive Guide to California Prop 64


Kelly Weimert

August 8th, 2017

Policy, Top News


California State Flag on cannabis background. Drug policy. Legalization of marijuana

With some states not legalizing marijuana in any form, others legalizing it only for medical purposes, and still more permitting its use for both recreational and medical purposes, it can be tough to discern what’s allowed and what’s not on the legal front. And that’s without even mentioning the fact that cannabis isn’t federally legal at all. That being said, if you’re still scratching your hand around what, exactly, California’s passing of Proposition 64 means for the cannabis user, you’re not alone. So, let’s break it down.

What is California Proposition 64?

Proposition 64 is a lengthy, complex document that details recreational cannabis regulation in California. It outlines how the state will tax and regulate marijuana growth for personal and business purposes, how it will be transported, and discusses the ins and outs of cannabis sales for recreational use.

But perhaps most importantly, the passing of Proposition 64 means that the recreational use of marijuana is now legal in California, with a handful of contingencies.

Who can legally smoke cannabis under Prop 64?

Just like alcohol, if you’re not 21, you can’t legally smoke pot in California. If you are 21 or over, however, you’re now welcome to possess, transport, and purchase up to 28.5 grams of cannabis for recreational purposes.

And not only can you possess, move, and buy marijuana, but you can also grow it. If you’re not keen on buying it from a dispensary, Prop 64 has made it legal for you to grow and enjoy up to six marijuana plants. And if you’re a medical marijuana patient, you can grow and possess as much of the plant as you need—even if those needs exceed the 28.5 gram limit for recreational use.

If you’re 21, can you legally ingest marijuana anywhere?

Under Proposition 64, you’re not allowed to smoke marijuana in any public spaces unless it’s explicitly permitted by a local ordinance. It also can’t be smoked anywhere that already outlaws tobacco smoke, like restaurants and movie theaters. Additionally, it’s illegal to smoke cannabis within 1,000 feet of a daycare center, school, or community youth center whenever children are present. And, of course, if you’re driving a car, operating a boat, or flying an airplane, you’re not allowed to smoke pot while doing that either.

If you’re caught smoking pot in a public space you can expect a fine up to $100. But if that public space happens to be one near a school or one where smoking cigarettes is already prohibited, that fine can reach $250.

Do patients still need a medical marijuana card?

The short answer is, yes. If you’re a medical marijuana patient you’ll want to hang onto the medical card (or a written recommendation for your doctor, which serves the same function) that indicates as much. At least for the time-being. That’s because, despite the passing of Prop 64, medical marijuana dispensaries are prohibited to sell cannabis to recreational users until 2018.

Moreover, if you’re someone whose needs exceed the 28.5-gram recreational limit mentioned above, then you’ll need a medical marijuana card to be able to legally possess that amount.

Fortunately, it really couldn’t be easier to get a medical marijuana card in California. Because it’s been legal for medicinal purposes in the state for quite some time, there are a wide number of online and in-person doctors who can issue it right away, with very little effort or time commitment on your part.

When and where can you purchase recreational marijuana?

Here’s one of the catches of this bill. Even though it’s now legal to smoke, grow, and possess recreational marijuana in California, stores are not yet permitted to sell it.

Similarly to alcohol, recreational marijuana and marijuana products can only be sold at a licensed retailer called a dispensary. At present, California is working on developing a state program for recreational retail licenses and has stated that retailers for recreational marijuana are permitted to begin selling cannabis on January 1, 2018.

That said, dispensaries are presently welcome to apply for a temporary state license now, but even if approved, it won’t take effect until next year.

How much will recreational marijuana be taxed under Prop 64?

Recreational users can expect a 15 percent excise tax on all marijuana sales, which will be in addition to the local and state sales taxes already in play. Even existing medical marijuana users will have to pay this new excise tax, but they can be exempted from paying a sales tax if they hang onto their medical marijuana ID card.

Wait, if all marijuana is still federally legal, how is it recreationally legal in California?

Yes, it’s true that using marijuana for any reason—medical or recreational—is still technically illegal under federal law. However, in 2013 the United States Department of Justice conceded that they will not target lawful marijuana businesses or cannabis use in states where it’s legal. In other words, if you’re smoking a joint for recreational purposes in California, you don’t need to worry about the feds knocking on your door. They’ve agreed to look the other way.

Are there any new rules around edibles?

Due to a lot of edibles mirroring the looks of popular treats that appeal to children, new regulations are being put into place to help ensure kids don’t unknowingly ingest the drug thinking they’re eating ordinary candy and baked goods.

Therefore, edibles in California have to be in low-dose amounts that break off into sections of no more than 10 mg of THC per serving. Edibles will also need to come in childproof packages and can’t be contained in a package that is likely to appeal to children.

If you’re traveling, can you take marijuana with you?

No. Due to the aforementioned federal prohibition of the drug, it is forbidden to take marijuana for any purpose across state lines—even if that purpose is a medical one. All legal cannabis and cannabis products must be grown and consumed in the legal state only and can’t be transported to another one, even if it’s legal in that state as well.

It is worth mentioning, though, that on their website the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) states:

“TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. In the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”

Basically, TSA officers aren’t looking for pot on your person or in your checked bags, but if they happen upon it, you can still get in trouble. So, travel with marijuana at your own risk.

Does this mean there will soon be weed commercials like there are for alcohol?

Not at this stage. Prop 64 bars any marijuana marketing efforts that could reach minors, which means no advertisements for cannabis can use symbols, language, music, or cartoon characters that appeal to underage kids.

Additionally, no billboards for the drug are allowed on interstate highways or any state highway that crosses borders of another state. Ads are also not permitted within 1,000 feet of daycare centers, schools, playgrounds, and community youth centers.

And because federal law still designates marijuana as illegal, federally-regulated radio and television states can’t advertise it. However, if and when the federal law changes, Prop 64 contains a provision that requires any marketing for cannabis to be displayed to an audience where at least 71.6% of those people are reasonably expected to be 21 or older.

Bottom line

To put it simply, if you’re in California, Proposition 64 says you’re legally allowed to ingest, grow, and possess cannabis for fun as long as you don’t exceed 28.5 grams. And by early next year, you’ll be able to buy recreational marijuana from licensed retailers as long as you’re at least 21 years old.

Kelly Weimert

About Kelly Weimert

Kelly is a full-time freelance writer based in Austin, TX. A happy hybrid of geek and hippie, when she's not nestled into her couch crankin' out crafty prose with her miscreant Chihuahua, you can find her frolicking outside to keep her sanity in check.


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