California Legal Pot

It’s a mess. That is the assessment of growers, processors, newspapers, county officials, retailers, all licensees, law enforcement, radio hosts, state politicians, and the legislature about the California legal cannabis laws and regs. And where I am now, Ukiah in Mendocino county, they’ve got their own problems.

Mendocino County, one of the cannabis-growing counties of the Emerald Triangle, has about 1,000 state-licensed legal growing operations. Even after legalization in 2016, about 9,000 have yet to be licensed, so are “illegal”.

The great bureaucratic red-tape licensing procedure in California is to blame for this, everyone agrees. But even those 1,000 that have state licenses are only holding “temporary” licenses, due to expire at the end of the year until the state can figure out how to grant permanent licenses. When they do, Mendocino licensees won’t be able to convert because the Mendo county zoning rules conflict with state law. They’ve got to get it straight real quick or the entire county will be illegal. Kinda like declaring grapes illegal in Napa County.

Why? How in the world can California fuck up growing weed? Arrogance, hubris, “We’re California and we know how to do this”. Turns out they didn’t.

Start over, California. Your current cannabis laws are the worst in the nation.

Arcata

I’ve done it. I’m where I wanted to be. It was a good run down the Oregon coastline and it’s views.

I needed to complete a couple of tasks in Eureka, then went into Arcata to check out the town square. Today was the day for the Humboldt County Farmer’s Market. The town square is very small, and likely the most pliable place holding humans I can think of. It’s dynamics change by the seconds.

The market brought a load of people to the square; the sellers had colorful canopies set up. It looked great.

The city has planted blooming cherry trees around the square. Today was the peak day for the blossoms, covering the entire square in petals blown by a brisk wind off the ocean. I drove away through a fog of pink flowers.

364 Days

Tomorrow morning I’ll hook up and head south after 364 days, the worst 364 days of my life. I won’t go far, Sonoma County is my target, because I have to be back here June 1. But two months of moving on US101 will be just the ticket to shake up all the brain parts I haven’t used for a while.

I was vaccinated last week, and have been in a bubble of very low-risk people all year. I have no idea what the situation is in front of me, but I’ll stick to current personal behaviors for virus defense.

I want to clip along, but will travel only during good weather, and wait out the rain events wherever we meet up.

Marijuana, or Cannabis?

The assigned committee has passed unanimously a bill to change all uses of the word “marijuana” with “cannabis” in both the Washington state laws and the regulator’s rules. It should get to the House floor soon.

The thinking is that marijuana is a racist term, invented in the 1930’s as a pejorative against Latinos. Which is true. I anticipate to continue to use it as a slang term, like “weed” or “pot”.

Home Grow in WA?

It looks like Washington will finally pass a legal home grown cannabis law this year. The primary committee held a hearing yesterday, and there was very little opposition. But there are a few other tells: The committee chairman is the primary sponsor, and she lined up 16 co-sponsors. Testimony by many high-level experts was organized. The opposing testimony was anticipated and addressed, and there wasn’t any opposition from other members of the committee. All other things being normal, this looks like a given to become law.

I was reminded that WA is not the only state to restrict home grows: Illinois prohibits it, too, but it’s a civil infraction subject to a ticket with a $100 fine. In WA it’s a felony subject to jail and high fines. This bill will legalize it entirely subject to a plant limit and odor control. The LCB (Liquor and Cannabis Board) is prohibited from enforcing the law, and the Sheriffs association said they would be unable to enforce it.

In other words, it will be legal but don’t be a jerk about it.

WA State Legislature

The legislature has opened this week, so I’ll be watching and tracking the bills related to cannabis. I don’t anticipate much serious activity mainly because the agreement is that legislation not related to covid or economic recovery be kept to a minimum this year. Then, WA has reached the point after 8 years where dramatic changes to the law aren’t really needed anymore.

The capitol is surrounded by three levels of perimeter, manned by three different law enforcement agencies. There will be a try at conducting all the business remotely, which makes monitoring their activity much easier. We’ll see how it works.

Every year a bill is filed to legalize home grown marijuana; WA is the only state which prohibits it. This bill fails every session because it completely lacks support from anyone, or at least appears that way to the lawmakers. All bills require champions to see them through to passage, and the homegrowing folk don’t have an organization or lobbyists to play this role. Licensed commercial growers won’t pay any attention, and retailers won’t bother because they have all the weed they can sell. Those that currently have a personal grow are probably best served if they stay discrete and everyone involved keep the status quo. If it passes it will because a few lawmakers want to pass it so they don’t have to deal with it every year.

This session’s homegrow bill has a feature in it that I like: it specifically says that the existence of a personal grow cannot be a reason to seek or execute a search warrant of the premises, which can turn a routine service call to the police into a nightmare when they see four plants growing in the garage.

I’ll be writing about the bills as we go along, but things will be quite quiet this session.

Every two weeks…

I re-assess and adjust my plans for travel. While winter is setting in on the Peninsula, the weather has been extremely pleasant, far better than I expected.

The family situation is status quo, going nowhere. So it looks like I’m here through Xmas. Even if I did decide to head south, I see no positive reports on either my route or destination regarding the virus risks.

So I’m on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington state, near Port Townsend at a place called Chimacum. Luckily, a favorite place.

The Plan Right Now

Every two weeks I look at my situation and try to decide what to do next in terms of travel. I’d very much rather be in Arizona right now.

The family situation I have is not resolving itself and may not for a long while. From what I see about the virus, there is nothing at all positive about moving elsewhere. I’m currently in an extremely safe place and have been avoiding other people the best I can; that would go away en route or at my destination.So for now, I’m staying put.

Getting through the election was the most pleasurable sense of relief I’ve ever felt. Times ahead are a complete mystery, of course, but the chaos level should go down a bit.

New York

No one could have foreseen that South Dakota would legalize marijuana before New York. That’s a double strike against NY because New Jersey beat them to it as well. The race is now on.

New Jersey is interesting because they don’t impose any special marijuana tax on sales, relying totally on their existing sales tax (about 6.25%). That means if NY did legalize, and tax like all other states, NJ will always have the cheaper products.

Now consider that besides NY, Connecticut and Rhode Island and Delaware will be looking at legalizing as well, four more states that can act in 2021.

Meanwhile, New Mexico will almost certainly finally pass their law early in 2021. So depending on how things go, that’s 40 senators that come from legal states.

Legal and Illegal States

All of the legal states achieved legalized marijuana for use by any adult via voter-approved initiatives, except Illinois. All had and have an existing medical marijuana program of some sorts. Almost all the states enacted a regulation structure that issues licenses to grow, process, sell, test, use, and possess, as well as a taxation system.

Washington (2012) Considered a mature market and regulatory structure.

Colorado (2012) Considered a mature market and regulatory structure.

Oregon (2014) Considered a mature market and regulatory structure.

Alaska (2014) Considered a mature market and regulatory structure.

District of Columbia (2014) No sales allowed. Possession only.

Nevada (2016) Rapidly developing market and regulatory structure.

California (2016) A “legacy” market far bigger than any market in the world, with a regulatory structure so complex, so bureaucratic, and so expensive and time consuming to navigate, that it touches just a tiny portion of the market.

Massachusetts (2016) Implementation proceeding, albeit very slowly. Only a handful of stores are open in mid-2020. Decision-making is bogged down in slow deliberation.

Maine (2016) Politics prevented the state from implementing the legalization initiative, but the first licenses and sales are available in Oct 2020.

Vermont (2018) Grow, possess and consume only. In October 2020 they legalized sales; first sales due 2022.

Michigan (2018) Developing market efficiently and reasonably implemented in 2020.

Illinois (2019) The first to be implemented by legislative action. Stores in operation in 2020.

Arizona (2020) A solid medical program and market means they’ll be able to switch to fully legal almost immediately.

New Jersey (2020) The legislature has been preparing to move fast with the implementation. New Jersey is quite different because they do not impose a separate cannabis tax.

Montana (2020) The existing medical program will be a good start for full adult-use.

South Dakota (2020) They passed both medical and recreational at the same time. The governor will likely obstruct the implementation, though.

In 2012 and 2014 the primary objective of legalization was to remove criminal penalties from growing, selling, and possessing marijuana. State regulation and taxation were accepted as helpful compromises to accomplish the main objective, as well as meeting the requirements of the Cole Memo that limited federal interference.

Modern cannabis legalization laws are not just about whether people should go to jail for weed, but how those laws are implemented.

That’s the legal states, where THC does not get you a fine or jail. In the illegal states, any contact with THC involves arrests, fines, and possible jail. Those states are:

Alabama Georgia Idaho IndianaIowa
Kansas KentuckyMississippi Nebraska North Carolina
South Carolina TennesseeVirginia Texas
Wisconsin Wyoming

Considering the 15 legal states, and the 15 illegal states, that leaves 20 states with some form of medical marijuana laws. They generally permit contact with THC as if you were in a legal state, but you must register with the state as a patient or caregiver. Otherwise you are subject to the same fines and jail as the illegal states.