California marijuana strains are on display below a glass counter at the Outliers Collective in San Diego County, California in October 2016. (Vince Chandler, The Cannabist)

Answering 10 common California marijuana questions in the legal weed era

It’s been almost a week since Californians voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and we’ve received a steady flow of questions from readers asking everything from how Prop. 64 impacts medical marijuana rights to what will happen to prices when it’s legal to purchase.

Here are answers to some of your most common California marijuana questions.

Q: Can we buy pot from a delivery service now?

For now, only if you have a medical marijuana card. No recreational pot sales – at a shop or by delivery – are allowed until the state licensing program kicks in sometime before or on Jan. 1, 2018.

Q: I am currently a medical cannabis user. I do not smoke recreationally and have no plan to. My largest concern is the cost of medicine. Now that the sale of marijuana will be taxed, will medication be taxed as well? Will the price of meds go up?

Medical marijuana will soon be taxed, though at a lower rate than recreational marijuana.

In about a year, when new state licenses are rolled out and recreational shops can open, all cannabis sales will be taxed at 15 percent. If medical marijuana patients have a government-issued ID card, they can skip paying state sales tax, which averages around 8 percent. But they’d still pay the 15 percent special tax, for an overall increase of about 7 percent.

All consumers may face additional local taxes that might be approved by voters in cities and counties.

Still, after initial price bumps that tend to kick in briefly as stores get into compliance, every state that has legalized marijuana has seen prices go down substantially over time thanks to increased competition. So medical and recreational users can expect to pay less, eventually, even after new taxes factored in.

Q: If I’m a medical marijuana patient, does Prop. 64 affect what I am able to carry and grow?

Medical rights remain intact. So people who have doctor’s recommendations for marijuana are still permitted to smoke the drug in most places tobacco where smoking is allowed. And, while recreational consumers are limited to growing six plants at a time, medical marijuana patients continue to be allowed to cultivate up to 100 square feet of pot plants.

Q: Will there even be a reason to keep your medical marijuana card now that weed is finally legalized?

Californians who don’t have major medical problems no longer have to spend time and money getting a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana. However, medical patients do hang onto some additional rights that recreational users don’t have:

Patients who pay for a state-issued ID card will be exempt from state sales tax (see above).
Medical marijuana patients can grow more marijuana at home and use it in more places than recreational consumers (see above).

You only need to be 18 to get a medical marijuana card, where you need to be 21 to use recreationally.

There’s a good chance that a number of cities may only allow medical shops and not recreational, so you might have more access as a patient. Also, recreational pot shops won’t open for a year, while medical shops can continue to operate.

Q: How can we repeal this initiative?

Ballot measures can be repealed by qualifying your own measure for a future ballot that undoes this one. Information on how to go about that is here.

Q: What about possession on a federal highway, even in a closed container or in trunk?

As long as that highway is in California and the container is sealed and locked away, it shouldn’t be a problem. Federal authorities have been letting legal marijuana states essentially carry out their own programs, with some limits. For example, don’t cross state lines and don’t go into a federal park.

Q: Since marijuana has become recreational and medical is allowed in a few more states, what about carrying a closed container of marijuana on a plane from a legal state to another legal state? Is this still illegal?

That is still illegal. Marijuana remains illegal federally. And even legal states – including California – have laws that specifically state you cannot cross state lines with it.

Q: Is it legal to mail marijuana inside of the state of California?

Since marijuana is illegal at the federal level, you can’t send it through the U.S. Postal Service. Most private carriers, such as FedEx and UPS, state you can’t use their services to ship anything that’s federally illegal. And delivery services will need special licenses from the state to transport recreational marijuana inside California. Those licenses aren’t expected to be available until around Jan. 1, 2018, which means recreational pot deliveries aren’t legal right now.

Q: I’m 21. I don’t smoke weed but now that Prop. 64 passed I’d maybe like to grow a plant for myself and maybe start. Do I need a license to grow and does it need to be monitored and regulated by someone?

You don’t need a license to grow up to six plants per home. You can start today and keep what you harvest. Just be sure the grow site is not visible to the public and that whatever you harvest is locked away inside your home.

You should also check with your local city, since some are passing rules that say you can only grow indoors or that you need a permit. But in general, the state law says you can grow up to six on your private property.

Licenses will only be needed for people who want to grow more than six plants and sell it on the market. Those licenses will be handed out starting in about a year.

Q: What if I only smoke at home and I never go to work high. Can I still be fired if marijuana is in my system?

In short, yes. Your employer still gets to set the rules. So if they say you can be fired for having it in your system, you could still be at risk even if you weren’t high while you were working. Nothing in Prop. 64 changed that.

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