California’s Recreational Marijuana Law Would Allow Cannabis Cafés and No Stoned Driving Limit

The most highly anticipated marijuana initiative in California—perhaps even across the entire United States—was finally submitted earlier this week to the state attorney general. ReformCA, the financially endowed coalition working to legalize recreational marijuana in the Golden State during the 2016 election, recently announced that their proposal, the Control, Regulate, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016, was simply waiting for the approval of state officials before they launched a mega-campaign that could change the course of prohibition for the entire nation.

“We believe this effort has the most statewide input and consensus, and thus the greatest likelihood of succeeding on the 2016 ballot,” Dale Sky with ReformCA said in a statement. “We engaged in extensive discussions with thousands of stakeholders across California, including community leaders, activists, elected officials, city and county employees and locals.”

Running along the same vein as other initiatives that have been passed in America over the past few years, the ReformCA measure would establish a regulatory model for the cannabis trade, allowing adults 21 and over to purchase weed in a manner similar to way they do alcohol. It would also eliminate the criminal penalties for possession by allowing adults to hold up to an ounce of weed, while also permitting residents to grow up to 100 square feet of cannabis.

Similar to Oregon’s model, the initiative would not give state regulators much time to drag their feet before providing consumers with an outlet to purchase legal weed.

An extension of the Department of Consumers Affairs—called the Office of Cannabis Regulation—would be created, which would be forced to issue temporary licenses to the medical marijuana sector, so that recreational sales could begin as early as July 2017. Meanwhile, the state would be required to begin drafting definitive regulations for the new market in order to make it fully operational by the turn of 2018.

When it comes to taxes, the initiative suggests the following: Commercial cultivation houses would be charged $2 per square foot; $15 per ounce would be applied to the first sale; and a 10 percent retail sales tax would be applied and split by the state and local government.

However, what really separates the ReformCA initiative from others, like Colorado’s Amendment 64, is that it comes with very liberal rules in regard to pot consumption on private property. It also paves the way for the opening of cannabis cafes.

All consumption of marijuana, with the exception of “in a public street, school, playground, public transit vehicle, or any public property” would be permitted. Of course, renters would still be at the mercy of their landlord because property owners have the right to ban the substance on their land. However, the proposal does not appear to prevent businesses from setting their own pot policies, which would technically open up the market to marijuana-friendly bars and restaurants.

As it should be, the initiative does not outline a measurable THC limit for determining marijuana intoxication while behind the wheel. Rather, it suggests that “a person shall be deemed to be under the influence of cannabis if, as a result of consuming cannabis, his or her mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle or operate a vessel with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances. This standard shall be the sole standard used in determining driving under the influence allegations.”

Although the initiative could possibility be amended before moving forward (the group is accepting feedback until Wednesday), the final language of ReformCA’s bid to end prohibition in California could swing balls big enough to hit Congress right on the chin if it makes its way to the ballot in the next presidential election.

Earlier this year, High Times published a report in which California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom said, “A lot of eyes are on California” when it comes to legalizing marijuana “because of the scale and the magnitude of the change and what it will represent across the country.”

Once the ReformCA initiative is approved by the state, organizers will need to collect around 365,000 signatures in order to get the proposal in front of voters. Early reports indicated that a push of this size would cost the coalition approximately $20 million to see to fruition. The implication embedded in the statements of supporters like the Drug Policy Alliance is that the majority of these funds have already been secured.

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