November is a huge month for cannabis. Eight states across the country will be voting on their own measures to legalize either medical or recreational cannabis within their borders. Even if some of those states were to approve their measures, it would represent a legal and cultural shift on the cannabis front that our country hasn’t seen in a generation.
California leads the charge
Perhaps no state’s cannabis legalization measure is as broadly significant as that being debated in California. The Golden State, America’s most populous, will vote on a measure that would legalize recreational cannabis.
This would, among other things, allow consumers to possess up to one ounce of recreational cannabis, along with six cannabis plants, for their own personal use. For any lover, or even observer, of cannabis, the California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) represents the Promised Land.
With such a momentous measure pending, it is worth examining the ways in which the passage of the measure would change California’s cannabis landscape.
1. Cannabis tourism
As Coloradans have learned, the legalization of recreational cannabis may result in the state attracting large numbers of tourists who have made their journey to sample the locals’ brands of cannabis.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Increased tourism may lead to greater economic opportunities for locals and can have a positive effect on the development of local culture.
There can be a drawback, however. Cannabis tourists are often unfamiliar with proper cannabis delivery methods, particularly when it comes to edibles, which may result in some less-than-positive outcomes. Education on edibles is very important.
2. More research
The initiative contains a clause that allocates an annual sum of $2 million culled from taxes on cannabis towards San Diego’s California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research.
The research would likely focus on studying medical cannabis’ efficacy and safety. This would lead the way in cannabis research, particularly if the DEA continues to refuse to reschedule cannabis from its status as a Schedule I Federally Controlled Substance.
3. Fewer arrests
California has seen a remarkable drop in cannabis-related arrests since 2011, the year that the state decriminalized the substance.However, data from the California Department of Justice indicates that thousands of people are still arrested each year in California and charged with cannabis-related misdemeanors and felonies.
Most of the arrests that take place are for things like cannabis concentrate possession and the free distribution of cannabis, among other things. Expect those arrest numbers to all but evaporate if the state approves the ballot measure, as those things would no longer be crimes under California law.
4. Recreational shops would finally open… in 2018
According to the text of the AUMA, “The Bureau of Marijuana Control, housed in the Department of Consumer Affairs, will oversee the whole system and ensure a smooth transition to the legal market, with licenses issued beginning in 2018.”
So while the recreational cannabis would still technically be legal within the Golden State, it will be at least another year before you can expect to start seeing those awesome Colorado-like dispensaries of which you’ve been dreaming.
5. And yet, not a lot would really change
The decriminalization of cannabis in 2011 meant that anyone with a qualifying medical condition would be able to receive cannabis. Indeed, many doctors who prescribed cannabis were all too willing to write prescriptions, even for the most dubious of medical conditions.
While cannabis will grow in the coming years into a multi-billion-dollar industry, most of the people who have been wanting legal cannabis have been able to get it for years. That should tell you something about what to expect if the AUMA passes in November.