When the clock strikes 4:20 you may be packing your bong to smoke, but you still can’t do it in public. As of Jan. 1, recreational marijuana can now be purchased legally as long as you are 21 years or older and have a valid California ID.
While cities around the state with medical cannabis dispensaries still allow the sale of marijuana to people with a doctor’s referral, other cities are now allowing businesses selling to those who use recreationally.
Santa Ana is leading the way with 17 licensed shops, the only ones in Orange County, due to the city’s quick action in completing requirements.
“It wasn’t a difficult transition, because there already had been medical marijuana sales in Santa Ana, and the existing retailers were already used to the regulations,” Santa Ana Assistant City Manager Jorge Garcia said.
At the start of the year, medical marijuana retailers were busy preparing their shops, trying to reach compliance standards and be ready for customers to enter their doors. The Bureau of Cannabis Control also had a busy time reviewing applications from interested Californians and has issued around 2,500 permits so far this year.
“Leading up to Jan. 1. [was] miserable to be honest, with insane amounts of overtime and no breaks,” said Mark Kapur, general manager for From The Earth, a Santa Ana dispensary. “I worked ten days straight, at least 13 or 14 hour days. We just had so much to do. It was a mad rush to get in compliance with the law.”
With the state government’s law on recreational marijuana, consumers should expect increased taxes. Cannabis retailers charge an excise tax of 15 percent of the market value, according to the California Department of Taxes and Fees Administration.
With Santa Ana having the highest effective marijuana tax rates in the country, consumers pay the 15 percent state weed excise tax, the city licensing tax, which is at about 15 percent and 10 percent for county sales.
Adult use patients may receive tax breaks if they obtain a medical recommendation including the benefit of strains with a higher grade of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical compound responsible for the psychotropic properties of cannabis.
“There are probably more people who are looking to get that medical card because it does save the consumer money on taxes,” said Alex Traverso, Chief of Communications for the BCC. “The tax savings are going to be worth it, to continue to hold onto the card as well as the fact that you are going to be able to buy stronger products than the adult-use consumer.”
Cannabis-related products are prohibited on the Santa Ana College campus, so students, staff and faculty can expect disciplinary actions if found consuming.
“It is a district policy that it is prohibited to use or possess alcohol or drugs [on campus], including marijuana,” said Santa Ana College Safety and Security Sgt. Ray Wert.