Here Are The Issues Facing Legal Weed In California
On January 1, 2018, selling and buying recreational marijuana in California became legal. High-lelujah! It was a glorious day for legal weed in California in theory—but how is it shaping up in practice? It’s only been a few weeks of fully legal recreational weed in California, but issues are already emerging. What are some of the problems people have noticed thus far?
The high cost of a good time
One of the chief complaints about legal weed in California concerns its cost. A mandatory excise tax of 15 percent is applied to all legal marijuana purchases—recreational and medical. This compounds with any local taxes, which are decided upon by each county, as well as the 6 percent California state sales tax. Medical marijuana patients in California are exempt from sales tax, but they will still feel the burn in other areas.
Some legal weed shops in California feel that the tax is unsustainably high because it will lead to those who cannot afford the spike in cost to return to the black market. Some areas—like Oakland—may see increases of up to 40 percent. Taxes will pay for research, law enforcement support, and community reinvestment, but only if people are paying them.
Okay, so it’s only been a few weeks, but legal weed in California still isn’t available everywhere. In fact, in some places like Bakersfield and the wider Kern County, it will remain unavailable. The state issues licenses for legal weed in California, but recreational dispensaries must first get approval from their local jurisdiction. Some areas will opt to license medical marijuana dispensaries only.
Even some places where recreational marijuana has been approved don’t have dispensaries set up to sell it yet. Cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles were slow to issue local approvals, which has held up licenses from the state. This hurdle is expected to take care of itself in the coming months once the backlog of licenses has cleared out.
Ganja, ganja everywhere, but not a spot to smoke
You can sell, buy, and possess recreational weed in California, but smoking legal weed in California is another story entirely. Prop 64 prohibits smoking in public (especially near schools), and as of yet, there are no licensed recreational lounges where folks can congregate to enjoy their purchases.
Smoking marijuana while driving is illegal as well. Apart from the obvious safety concerns, your car is considered a public place and most hotels and rental properties ban smoking on their premises. A business opportunity exists for lounges similar to Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops but for the time being, smoking legal weed in California can be tricky (especially for tourists).
Where to stash the cash
California banks were gearing up to support the legal recreational marijuana industry… and then U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions pulled the rug out from underneath them. Only three days after California went full recreational, Sessions rolled back the Cole memo, an Obama-era provision that prevented federal interference in marijuana affairs in states where it is legal.
Dispensary transactions must continue to be conducted in cash. Once dispensaries have the cash in hand, where should they keep it? How will they safely pay their employees? How will they easily pay their taxes? The only solution comes in the form of revised banking regulations, but that is unlikely unless change happens on the federal level. This snafu plagues medical and recreational marijuana markets across the United States and deserves to be properly addressed.
But what if…
Conjecture is the name of the game when it comes to the problems of recreational marijuana in California. No one can say with complete certainty how much tax revenue will be collected because no one knows how well the herb will sell as a recreational treat. It’s hard to project the effect legal recreational dispensaries will have on the black market because they’re currently in their infancy. Will there be places where people can legally enjoy recreational marijuana outside of their own home? How about weed-centric financial institutions—when will we see them?
Many of the problems with recreational pot in California will be resolved with careful application of time and patience. The kief will eventually settle on this landmark moment in marijuana history in the United States, and by then, there will likely be a whole new set of problems to address. Fifty years ago, state-sanctioned marijuana was but a pipe dream. Imagine where we might be fifty years from now! Stay calm and smoke on.
The Easiest Way To Buy Weed