Californians Can Legally Smoke Marijuana Now — But Not Buy It Yet

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Smoking weed is now legal for adults 21 and older in California — but acquiring it is still a challenge because California businesses aren't expected to be licensed to sell recreational marijuana until Jan. 1, 2018.

One exception is West Hollywood, where dispensary doors could be open for recreational weed as soon as January 2017. Medical marijuana consultant to the stars Dina Browner, known as Dr. Dina, says there's a closed-door City Council meeting on Thursday to decide how WeHo dispensaries will comply with the new law and when they will be able to sell pot for adult use. Dina says there's a provision in the local regulation that allows medical marijuana businesses to easily expand into the recreational realm in the event of a change in legalization status. 

"The big issue is the proposition doesn't say anything about charging the excise tax until January of 2018," Dina says, adding that business owners wouldn't know which agency to send those taxes to. Given that complication, she says, West Hollywood may hold off another year. 

“I woke up to 750 emails from strangers asking me questions,” she says.

Here are some of the answers: Prop 64 doesn't make it legal to smoke weed in public. There's still a fine for doing that. Outside of the home, people can carry up to one ounce of marijuana or eight grams of THC concentrate. People who have medical marijuana cards will no longer pay sales tax at dispensaries.

The big question: how can people legally acquire recreational pot if it isn't for sale? 

"You can give up to an ounce to someone as a gift," says Dina, adding that growing it yourself is also an option. It's now legal to grow up to six plants at home, but you'd need seeds or a cutting to start and the same rules of sale apply to those.

When it comes to the workplace, pot is unlikely to be treated like cigarettes. So make sure to check company policy before getting high and don't expect 15 minute smoke breaks. 

“It will definitely be treated like alcohol,” Dina says. “If a workplace decides it does not want its employees to smoke cannabis, it can restrict that.”

It's also important to note that Prop 64 gives municipalities the option to allow adult marijuana use, but some cities and counties may choose to reject it. However, Dina points out that any municipality that chooses to ban weed won't share in the 15 percent excise tax revenue. Given that marijuana is projected to be a multibillion-dollar industry, some otherwise pot-averse cities may look the other way to cash in. 

Dina says the legalization will cause some growing pains and there will likely be another bill in the future to fix any unexpected issues that arise.