7 things to know now that Prop 64 is law

1. You can grow it at home

Effective immediately, if you’re 21 or older, you can possess an ounce of pot and up to six plants in your home legally.

In addition, some sweeping changes to the California criminal code go into effect. For example, law enforcement can no longer use the smell of marijuana or the presence of paraphernalia as a basis for broad searches.   “Marijuana is now going to be a legal commodity like alcohol,” said Tamar Todd, legal director of Drug Policy Action, the advocacy and political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, which backed Prop 64. “By itself, marijuana itself is not considered contraband so the mere presence of somebody having it is not grounds to stop, search, frisk and detain somebody.” 

2. The tax money won’t come right away

The financial impact of Prop 64 is expected to be big — analysts at the Legislature estimate additional state and local tax revenues ranging from "the high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually." But the lion’s share of the new law consists of establishing the licensing, sale and tax collection regimes needed to oversee the industry. Licensing and taxation will not begin until January 2018. “The whole process will take time,” said Michael Cindrich, a San Diego attorney and the executive director of the county’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). 

3. You still can’t smoke in public

Smoking pot in public is still against the law and so is driving while impaired by marijuana.  Any potential recreational marijuana shop cannot be within 600 feet of daycare centers, schools and other youth centers. And businesses that sell alcohol or tobacco cannot sell pot. In an effort to avoid some of the problems seen in Colorado, labels on marijuana edibles will be just as detailed as any food product, including safe portion sizes and warnings about allergens.   The new law also prohibits advertising aimed at minors and requires businesses that sell recreational pot to check IDs to make sure buyers are not underage.

 4. Local communities still have a lot of power

Just as in the case of medical marijuana, local governments can ban commercial marijuana transactions by ordinance and if they decide to OK marijuana businesses, the local authorities can regulate them through zoning laws. Some communities in San Diego County dropped the hammer before Tuesday’s election. Poway’s city council on Nov. 1 banned the commercial sale and outdoor cultivation of marijuana, joining Santee, San Marcos, Lemon Grove and National City. But while communities can nix cultivation, they cannot ban the provision allowing up to six plants in a person’s home. “They can have regulations to prevent nuisance to neighbors and protect safety and things like that, but they can’t ban it across the board,” Todd said.

 5. You might be able to clean up your legal record

One of the major provisions of the law allows those with prior marijuana convictions to petition the courts to revisit cases that the new law legalizes. “For example, if your conviction was for cultivating less than six plants (in your house), now that six plants is legal, you can have that conviction wiped out,” Cindrich said. “If (the conviction) was a felony but is now a misdemeanor, you can have your charge and your record changed.”

6. The Catch-22 — Actually getting pot won’t be easy

Recreational use of marijuana in California may be legal now, but there’s a catch — at least in the short term.How does someone who wants to use pot legally get it? Medical dispensaries cannot sell to recreational users. Cultivators cannot legally sell it until they get licensed by the state, which won’t happen until January 2018. And potential customers cannot drive to a state such as Oregon where recreational use is legal and take it back to California because it’s against the law to take marijuana across state lines.  “That is all true,” Todd said. “There is a need. This is how it played out in other states (that passed recreational pot) as well.” Recreational users will have rely — if they don’t want to break the law — on using pot from their plants at home or by getting it from medical marijuana users. But it’s against the law for a medical marijuana user to sell pot to somebody else; they can only give it away for free. “A person cannot sell it to another adult but they can share it,” Todd said. 

 7. Hemp is now legal

Almost lost in the hoopla surrounding Prop 64 is the provision that allows for the production of industrial hemp by California farmers, which will be regulated by the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture.  “It’s a little more under the radar,” Todd said, “but especially for a state like California, it’s more significant than it was for states like Washington or Colorado because we have so much agriculture potential for it.”