How the Next 5 Legal Marijuana States Differ From the Current 4 Legal States for Consumers

Next year promises to be a banner one for marijuana legalization, with legitimate attempts to legalize via ballot initiative proposed in five states: California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine. More states may also legalize by initiative (Ohio), through their legislatures (Vermont, Rhode Island), or for medical use (Missouri, Florida) in 2016.

I took a look at current legalization and compared it to eight legalization proposals – one each for Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine, and four[*] competing initiatives for California. Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine proposals are all known as the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) and are backed and written by Marijuana Policy Project, except Maine’s effort was written by Legalize Maine.

In California, I’m looking at the so-called Sean Parker Initiative, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA); the ReformCA Initiative, known as the Control, Regulate, and Tax Cannabis Act (CRTC); the “open source” Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act (MCLR); and the so-called Jack Herer Initiative, the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative (CCHI).

For this review, I’m only looking at those issues that matter to the cannabis consumer. In Friday’s Rant, I’ll cover the commercial differences among the proposals. And the usual disclaimer applies: I’m no lawyer, check the hyperlinks for actual language, which may change between now and the election.

Personal Use and Possession: Every current and proposed legal state requires you to be 21 or older to be in legal possession. The limit for possession is an ounce everywhere, except Washington DC (2 oz) and Maine (2.5 oz). California’s MCLR sets no specific limit on any personal possession or cultivation, but allows limits to be set later. California’s CCHI allows for 12 pounds.

Edibles and Liquids: Oregon and Washington allow 1 pound of edibles, like brownies or gummies, and a six-pack (72 ounces) of liquids, like tinctures or sodas. All the other current and proposed legal states allow for their marijuana limit within the edibles or liquid – but how would anyone ever know? How much marijuana is in a pound of brownies?

Concentrates: Marijuana concentrates are still illegal in Washington DC. Possession of just 4 grams is proposed by California AUMA; 5 grams in Arizona and Massachusetts; 7 grams in Nevada and Washington; an ounce in Colorado, Alaska, and California’s CTRC; and 2.5 ounces in Maine. Oregon specifically allows an ounce of extracts – those concentrates made with explosive hydrocarbons (like BHO or PHO) or super-critical CO2 – but Oregon allows 1 pound of concentrates made with alcohol, fats, oils, ice, water, or pressure. California’s CCHI allows for 12 pounds.

Possession Felonies: In Oregon, Washington DC, Massachusetts, and all the California proposals, it is impossible to get a felony for merely possessing[†] marijuana, no matter what the amount. In Maine, it takes a pound to get a felony; in Colorado, 12 ounces; in Alaska, 4 ounces; in Arizona, 2.5 ounces; and in Washington State, just 40 grams gets you a felony. In Nevada, over an ounce can get you a felony on your fourth offense.

Home Grow: Washington State still does not allow home growing of cannabis plants. Oregon allows just 4 plants per household, while Colorado, Alaska[‡], and the California AUMA allow for 6 plants per adult. Washington DC, Massachusetts, and Arizona also allow 6 plants, but limit households to 12 plants. Maine allows for 6 mature plants, 12 immature plants, and unlimited seedlings. California CTRC allows for 100 square feet of canopy and California CCHI allows for 99 flowering plants and unlimited immature plants. Nevada’s CRMLA, while it purports to allow 6 plants per person and 12 plants per household, actually bans home grow if it is within 25 miles of a licensed marijuana retailer.

Home Possession: If you’re home growing, most of the states allow you to possess “the results of the harvest,” which can be a whole lot. But California CCHI limits harvest possession (that which stays at the grow) to 12 pounds, Oregon limits it to 8 ounces, and Washington DC limits it to two ounces. Massachusetts will allow adults to possess 10 ounces at home, as well as the results of the harvest, so presumably, non-home-growers could possess 10 ounces at home.

Marijuana Lounges: Washington State just felonized the providing of any club space for gatherings of adults to consume cannabis, popularly known as “cannabis clubs”. They’re illegal in Washington DC, legally murky in Colorado, and Oregon recently amended its Clean Air Act to ban all indoor toking and vaping, killing its cannabis clubs. But Alaska has recently approved cannabis clubs and all the 2016 initiatives for legalization contain some form of licensing for cannabis clubs.

Marijuana DUIDs: Washington State infamously included a 5ng per se DUID in its legalization. Colorado’s legislature changed their laws to include a 5ng permissible inference of DUID[§]. All of the other legal states and those proposing legalization for 2016 rely on the current law that demand police show a driver’s impairment to prove a DUID charge, except Nevada, which already has a 2ng THC per se DUID, as well as a 5ng THC-COOH (metabolite) DUID.

Consumer Rights: The currently legal marijuana states all fail to protect the employment, housing, parental, and medical rights of adult marijuana consumers. Massachusetts, Maine, and California’s MCLR and CRMLA prevent employment discrimination based on metabolite testing. Only Arizona and California CCHI prevent housing discrimination and most of the rest allow landlords to ban cultivation and smoking on their properties. Parental rights are protected in all the forthcoming initiatives but Nevada and California AUMA. Organ transplants may not be denied to consumers in Massachusetts, Arizona, and California CCHI.

[*] There are more than four, but we’re concentrating on the four with the most visible campaigns. The Sean Parker Adult Use initiative in California was just amended as of press time, but the amendments don’t seem to affect the basics of personal use legalization.

[†] Possession with intent to sell, however, can still earn felonies in some circumstances and states.

[‡] Alaskans have a personal privacy right to cultivate up to 25 cannabis plants in their home
[§] “Per se: means if you’re over the limit, you’re guilty. “Permissible inference” means if you’re over the limit, you’re guilty but you can try to argue you weren’t impaired.
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