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Everything you need to know about legal weed in California

Here's what to expect when California's marijuana law goes into effect Jan. 1

by Zeke Spector, Gabriel Connelly, and Alex Lubben
Dec 29 2017, 7:34pm

In 2018, weed will become legal in California.

In November of 2016 California voters decided by a 15-point margin that they wanted to make it legal to buy, sell, and consume pot recreationally in their state. And starting on Jan. 1, that law goes into effect.

But there are catches, and the new law doesn’t mean all pot-related activities are now suddenly legal. Here’s what you need to know about the changes going into effect in 2018.

What’s legal now, and what isn’t

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or Proposition 64, allows anyone over the age 21 to buy weed legally from a dispensary.

It also lets Californians legally grow up to six plants in their home or carry around up to eight grams of concentrates such as wax or oil, or up to an ounce of bud.

And because it’s legal, it will be taxed. Expect a 15 percent state excise tax on anything bought at a dispensary, plus local taxes of anywhere from about 8 to 10 percent. On cultivation, there’s a $9.25 per ounce tax for the plant’s flowers and $2.75 tax per ounce of leaves.

Don’t light up in public — that’s still not allowed

The proposition created a new charge, punishable with fines of up to $100, for smoking pot in public. Before January, anyone caught smoking in public would have been charged with possession.

And because pot is still illegal under federal law, any any marijuana bought in California cannot be carried across state lines. You also can’t bring your weed onto federal land, which means national parks and other property owned by the feds will still be off limits.

Your boss can also still tell you not to smoke. Per Proposition 64, employers still have the right to drug test and enforce a drug-free workplace.

Where you can buy, and where you can’t

Californians can now pick up their bud legally at any dispensary, but a bunch of cities haven’t licensed any dispensaries. Those cities include some of the bigger ones: There won’t be any place to pick up weed in San Francisco or Los Angeles on January 1.

The process of applying for licenses in these cities has been a strain on existing pot businesses, so much so that one local pot shop in Los Angeles is considering closing its doors, according to the LA Times. The city of Los Angeles isn’t handing out any recreational pot sale licenses until later in January.

What legal weed means for criminal justice reform

People who are serving time in prison for marijuana-related offenses can have their sentences reduced and get out of jail thanks to the new laws. They’ll have to petition a judge to re-sentence their case, though — it’s not an automatic “get out of jail free” card.

And the charges on people’s records can be wiped off — or reclassified according to the way the law reads now. For example, “possession with the intent to sell,” previously a felony, will become a misdemeanor with Proposition 64 takes effect in January.

“Big Weed” could start to hurt hurt small growers

There’s a concern, raised by some lawmakers, that a big weed industry could squeeze out the small family pot operations already in business in the state.

In the original legislation, there was a cap on the size of marijuana operations at between one and four acres, according to Marijuana Business Daily. That cap was lifted, and there’s now no limit on the size of grow operations.

Pesticides won’t be regulated for awhile

While California lawmakers have moved to regulate just about every aspect of the industry, growers are free to use whatever pesticide they choose — at least for the first six months that weed’s legal in the state.

The growers already operating in the state will be allowed to sell off their inventory for the first six months before they’ll be subjected to any testing for pesticides.

There’s already a lot of weed in California

California already produces about five times the amount of weed that Californians smoke, according to Leafbuyer, a marijuana industry website. That means that either the state will have to take efforts to curb production, or deal with the ramifications of having a lot of marijuana on its hands that has a lot of value on the black market.

Legal weed is going to be a big revenue source for the state

The legal weed industry in California net as much as $7 billion in annual sales, from which the state hopes to bank $1 billion in tax revenue. (For reference, Colorado banked about $500 million in tax revenue over the course of the first three years of pot sales.) And the state hopes the industry will create some 1,200 jobs.

That doesn’t mean you should cut ties with your local dealer just yet. Without dispensaries in some of California’s major cities, a lot of the pot trade will stay underground. Researchers estimate that 30 percent of marijuana sales in the state will remain in the black market — and so be untaxed.