With the passage of Proposition 64, California voters legalized recreational cannabis for adults over 21 years of age. Weighing in at over 60 pages, Prop 64 contains a lot of information to digest. Some of most frequently asked questions are: What’s the timeline for Prop 64? What does this mean for medical cannabis operators?

Let’s talk timeline first. As of November 9th, several aspects of Pro 64 went into effect – recreational cannabis became legal for personal use and certain cannabis offenses were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. No state licenses for recreational cannabis will be issued until after January 1, 2018, and many parts of the Proposition do not go into effect until that time.

As for the impact on medical cannabis operators, Prop 64 created a recreational framework that will run parallel to the medical cannabis system. Under Prop 215 and Senate Bill 420, qualified patients may come together as collective or cooperative nonprofits. These laws, along with Sonoma County’s 2006 Resolution, allow for medical cannabis operations to collectively produce on a larger-scale until state licenses become available in 2018. However, state law allows for medical collectives to continue to operate until a year after state license become available. No such allowance is available for recreational operations.

Regardless of whether you’re interested in medical or recreational licenses, local jurisdictions hold all the power, because local permits must be obtained prior to applying for a state license. Local permits are based on the actual physical location of the operation. Sonoma County and several local municipalities are actively holding policy meetings and making important decisions regarding cannabis permits. Now is the time to get involved and speak up!

Keep in mind that all cannabis laws and regulations, medical and recreational, are fluid right now. The State Legislature may change Proposition 64 so long as the original intent of the initiative is maintained, and we will likely see legislative changes to recreational cannabis in the coming year. At the local level, the Planning Commission is due to vote on the Sonoma County draft medical cannabis ordinance this Thursday, November 17th, and then it will move to the Board of Supervisors. There is a possibility that recreational cannabis could be added to the ordinance; however, County staff has recommended otherwise. This means that in unincorporated Sonoma County, permits for medical cannabis operations will be available before recreational permits. This Friday, the City of Santa Rosa is having a meeting at 9:00 AM at City Hall to discuss recreational cannabis.

Julie Mercer-Ingram is a Cannabis Law attorney at Canna Legal, a Division of Beck Law, P.C. in Santa Rosa. She has been working as a social justice attorney in California since 2009.

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