In November 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, and California became the fifth state in the United States, after Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, to legalize recreational marijuana use, TIME publishes.
As clarified by KCRA, the new law allows:
- Adults over age 21 to possess up to about an ounce of pot at a time
- Use of marijuana in private
- The sharing of marijuana with others
- Adults to cultivate and grow up to six plants for personal use
At this point, there is still no legal place to buy pot for recreational use. Medical dispensaries cannot sell to recreational users without a medical marijuana card, and those growing cannabis plants are not allowed to sell the drug. They can share it with others, but no money can change hands. Individuals cannot use marijuana in public or drive under its influence.
By January 1, 2018, recreational dispensaries are set to open their doors, and the sale of marijuana will be taxed, thus exponentially increasing tax revenue for the state of California and potentially bringing in billions of dollars, Business Insider reports. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, however. As a result, it is often included in employer drug tests at this point, although the Los Angeles Times publishes that companies may be looking to exclude marijuana use from future drug testing in states where the drug is legal.
Issues with Legalization
Legalizing recreational marijuana paints pot in a whole new light – as a drug that can be used by responsible adults much the same way that alcohol can. That being said, this legalization is not without potential risks. Arguably, this new law will provide more access to the drug, and more access generally means more users and potentially higher rates of dependency and addiction.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns that marijuana is an addictive drug that can cause dependence with regular use. It is especially risky for adolescents and children to abuse, as NIDA reports that those who use marijuana under the age of 18 are between four and seven times more likely to struggle with problematic drug use and addiction later in life.
The legalization of marijuana may change perceptions about it being a dangerous drug, and it may become more easily accessible to teens. There will likely also be less stigma associated with use of the drug, contributing to higher use levels, the journal Substance Abuse warns. Marijuana use and dependence rates among adolescents have risen in recent years, although studies are inconclusive on whether this is a direct correlation to its legalization and decriminalization, the American College of Pediatricians publishes.
In states where the drug is legal, actions should be taken to ensure that teens are educated regarding possible hazards of using the drug. Colorado experienced an uptick in calls to poison control centers and emergency department visits related to the exposure of children to marijuana, particularly edibles, after pot was legalized, CNN reports. California plans to clearly label all marijuana products, pack edibles in child-resistant packaging, and discourage marketing that is attractive to children.
The legalization of marijuana in California remains a hotly debated issue with strong advocates on both sides of the issue.
As with any mind-altering substance, pot should only be used safely and responsibly by those who are of legal age.