California became the latest state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Jan. 1, 2018. It was the sixth to do so and by far the largest as its population of 40 million dwarfs the previous largest one to: Washington (7 million). Also, preceding California on this ever-growing list were Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. Adding California has increased the number of people living in states where recreation use is legal from 7 percent of the country’s population to 19. When Massachusetts and Maine join later in 2018, that percentage will move to 21.
Purchasing marijuana for recreational use in California now enjoys legal protection similar to alcohol or cigarette use; those who are of the minimum age – 21 to buy marijuana in California – and show identification such as a driver’s license, identification card or passport, may buy. Showing an out-of-state license is fine.
However, places of employment are still allowed to test for marijuana use and refuse to hire or let an employee go if a positive drug test results. But the same is true for alcohol or cigarette use as employers can also refuse to have anybody who uses either of those substances work for them.
Effects of Legalizing Marijuana in California
Legalized marijuana in California is expected to earn the Golden State at least $1 billion more in tax revenue every year. However, those who have a medical marijuana identification card and are buying it through that option will still not pay any sales tax. Other benefits enjoyed by those with this card include a lower age limit (18) and less restrictions on how much may be bought and its potency.
Long lines will be waiting for some who want to purchase legalized marijuana in California in the initial days and weeks following the law going into effect. This is due to all of the red tape that many cities are requiring dispensaries to go through. However, about 100 retailers were able to receive their licenses by Jan. 1 and started selling marijuana from the opening moments. Although some were in more rural areas, most of those 100 were in or near places like San Francisco, San Diego and Palm Springs.
Some cities have gone a step further than requiring a bit of red tape as they are forbidding recreational sales altogether. A few of these are Anaheim, Pasadena, Riverside, Fresno and Bakersfield.
Federal Laws Regarding Marijuana Use
The use of this drug remains illegal under federal law. The Drug Enforcement Administration looks at marijuana the same as it does heroin, as a Schedule 1 drug. Being stopped by Border Patrol agents remains a concern too; they have jurisdiction up to 100 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and from the Pacific Ocean, an area so vast that it comprises the vast majority of the California populace.
When Recreational Marijuana is Not Legal
Another concern for those on California roads is keeping people who are under the influence of marijuana off of them. However, the state has yet to adopt a standard measure for marijuana impairment, and it is not easy to test for this substance, especially when compared to checking somebody’s blood-alcohol level. In extreme cases, people could still have marijuana in their body months after having last used it.
One thing that remains clear is that the use of marijuana in a vehicle, including as a passenger, remains illegal under California law. Marijuana use in public is also illegal in California although private cannabis social spaces, also known as cannabis lounges, are being set up throughout the state.
Although California was relatively slow in approving recreational use, it became the first state to legalize medical use in 1996. Sixteen years later, Colorado and Washington simultaneously became the initial ones to legalize recreational use. Today, 29 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medical use to go with the six, soon to be eight, that allow it to be used recreationally. This list of 29 includes the entire Northeast and Pacific Coast regions and part of the Midwest. The only states located in the South to be on it are Arkansas and Florida.
The first country to legalize recreational use on a national level was Uruguay, which did so in 2013. It can even be consumed in public places, but foreigners are not allowed to purchase it. Buyers need to be a citizen of this South American country of 3 million or a registered resident who has lived here for at least two years. Receiving marijuana as a gift while visiting Uruguay and then using it here is legal, however.
Ramifications of Legalized Marijuana for Recreational Use
The complete view of the future of legalized marijuana remains unknown, but undoubtedly, there will continue to be those for and those against the use of marijuana for any use. The effects of marijuana, both physically and socio-economically will surely come into higher scrutiny as marijuana is legalized in more areas of the country and world.
Photo credit: Joe Cooke