The big winner on Election Day was marijuana. Voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada approved ballot measures legalizing the use of recreational marijuana. Several other states passed medical marijuana initiatives. However, voters in Arizona defeated a marijuana legalization measure by a margin of 52.2% to 47.8%.
Disconnect between states and feds
The success of the ballot measures yesterday will spark renewed debate over the disconnect between the laws in a majority of the states and the federal government. The federal government, through the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, putting it in the same category as heroin.
Majority support legalization
The passage of the legalization measure in California is of particular importance to those that support ending the prohibition on the use of recreational marijuana across the U.S. As the 6th largest economy in the world and home to 12 percent of the U.S. population, California cannot be ignored. As other states see the tax revenues that will be generated by the sale of marijuana in California, they will likely want to get on board. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of citizens favor legalizing marijuana nationwide.
The position of President-elect Donald Trump on marijuana has been contradictory in the past, and it’s unclear what stand the Trump White House will take on marijuana.
The prospect of Rudy Giuliani or Chris Christie as attorney general does not bode well. There are various ways in which a hostile White House could trip things up. Donald Trump personally could probably go any which way on this. — Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance
A key contributor and supporter of the California measure was Sean Parker who was the first president of Facebook. Mr. Parker contributed nearly $9 million to committees supporting the passage of Proposition 64.
How it will work in California
Here a few things to know about using marijuana in California now that it is legal with the passage of Prop. 64:
· It takes effect immediately. Anyone who is 21 or older can possess an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their home. Police can no longer use the presence of marijuana as a means to conduct a search or make an arrest.
· The measure is expected to produce upwards of $1 billion annually in new tax revenues. However, it will take until January 2018 to fully implement the infrastructure to license and sell marijuana, as well as collect taxes.
· It is against the law to smoke marijuana in public and to drive while impaired. The state will need to develop standards to determine how to measure impaired driving while under the influence of marijuana.
· People who have been convicted of marijuana convictions in California can petition the courts to have prior convictions expunged from their records.
· In the short term, there is no clear cut way to obtain marijuana even though it’s legal. Medical dispensaries cannot sell to recreational users, and commercial grow operations won’t be up and running until January 2018. Given that each person can grow up to six plants in their homes (subject to local laws) it is likely that a personal supply network will quickly spring up.
· Employers can still prohibit employees from using, possessing, or being impaired while at work. Pre-employment drug testing for THC will still be allowed, and an employer can refuse to hire someone who tests positive. Since THC can reside in a person’s blood for up to a week or longer, this is likely to create controversy and may require legislation to resolve.
Different rules for different states
Each of the four states that legalized recreational marijuana yesterday will need time to develop their individual policies and procedures. Anyone living in a state that permits the use of medical or recreational marijuana should carefully study their local laws to determine what is allowed and what is not.