The Wild West Of Pot: A Look At California's Recreational Marijuana Law

Jun 1, 2017

California is the sixth largest economy in the world, based on gross domestic product. And in November, voters legalized recreational marijuana, something that will further diversify the state’s portfolio.

Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick sat down with Amanda Rhoades of the Sierra Sun to talk about this new law and how communities around Lake Tahoe are approaching this growing industry.

KUNR: What are some highlights of the California law? What is now legal in the state?

Rhoades: As of November 9, 2016 Prop 64 made it legal for recreational marijuana consumers to have up to one ounce of marijuana on them, or eight grams of concentrate. You can also grow up to six plants inside your residence. Anything regarding whether or not you’re allowed to grow outside, or how far away from the fence you need to be, all that is kind of left up to the counties.

Proposition 64 - Full Text by KUNR Reno Public Radio on Scribd

What are you seeing in some of the communities around Lake Tahoe and how does that compare to some of the other areas?

Some of the counties around Lake Tahoe, like Placer County and El Dorado County, have definitely taken a more conservative approach. The town of Truckee on the other hand is taking a really interesting approach. They haven’t made any formal decisions yet, but for the last couple of months, they have been hosting community workshops with their town council and their community members, and each of those workshops has focused on a different aspect of Proposition 64, and what’s allowed and isn’t allowed.

The comments really run the gamut. Some people, they want everything to be illegal. They don’t want marijuana. But the majority of people seem pretty open to it. A lot of them are also I think are really open to the potential tax revenue.

The town of Truckee have been surveying community members at these meetings and also did an online survey. The responses, I would say generally 60 percent are very welcoming to marijuana. They want those retail establishments. They want to be able to grow.

You recently attended the Northern California Cannabis Summit. So what did you learn there and what did local leaders have to say on this issue?

The Northern California Cannabis Summit was essentially an all-day event, to essentially figure out how to keep kids away from recreational marijuana. And I’m not sure that there was any one plan on how to do that as much as there was just a broad concern from all of these different parties.

There were also a number of discussions that were brought up about how to handle things like DUIs and what do you do if one county decides not to allow marijuana retail shops in one county and not the next one over. How are you going to handle that if somebody’s driving with it?

There is without a doubt a lot of things that will be ironed out in the coming months.

What are some of those things that aren’t completely thought out yet?

One of them that comes up a lot, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Trailer Bill at all. The Trailer Bill came out in April. Governor Jerry Brown was trying to smooth out some of the inconsistencies between the Medical Marijuana Act and the Adult Use of Recreational Marijuana Act.

Trailer Bill - California Cannabis by KUNR Reno Public Radio on Scribd

Those discrepancies are, what do you do about “Big Marijuana” or corporate marijuana? There is a good amount of concern about how the production of these plants is going to be regulated.

So there’s some concerns from folks that “Big Marijuana” could come in and sort of take out all the competition?

Sure. “Big Marijuana” refers to the idea of monopolies, but it also refers to genetically-modified marijuana strains.

How is cannabis being taxed in this law? What is the tax revenue going to be used for?

There’s a 15 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana. And one of the interesting things about that is when Prop 64 went into effect on November 9, 2016 it basically removed any taxes that medical marijuana patients were paying. So there’s kind of been some talks from certain people about getting a medical marijuana card. That way they won’t have to pay tax.

The other thing is that counties or towns that decide that they do want to allow recreational marijuana shops are allowed to impose their own taxes, and that’s one of the other things that’s very much left up to the local jurisdictions.