Los Ángeles – Agencies.
One in five Americans will have access to legal marijuana as of Monday, when California joins the list of states that allow the trade and consumption of marijuana for recreational use. With the chimes of New Year’s Eve, California, the most populous state in the United States, becomes the largest legal marijuana market in the world. The moment is considered by the defenders of marijuana as the point of no return on the road to decriminalization.
California approved in a referendum the legalization of recreational marijuana in November 2016, in the same elections that Donald Trump won. The basic rules of the marijuana trade in California since January 1 are these. Those over 21 can buy up to an ounce (28.5 grams) per person each time, in authorized stores. You can only have one ounce, so to buy more you have to use the product or give it to someone (individuals can not sell). You can not smoke in public or within 300 meters of a school or playground, in accordance with the already-leonine Californian laws on tobacco. Neither driving. You can grow up to six plants at home. The product can not leave the state, not even through the borders with Oregon and Nevada, where it is also legal.
The state will charge a 15% tax on the sale. The municipalities can add their own taxes (10%). Each legal marijuana plant will be identified. Authorization to marijuana dispensaries depends on local authorities. While cities such as San Francisco or San Diego have already authorized dozens of shops, Los Angeles will not start doing so until January, which will delay the actual start-up.
Until the passage of at least one year, the figures of the business will not be clear. The lowest estimate is that the legal market will amount to 5,800 million dollars in 2016, according to the consultancy specialized in marijuana Arcview. Other estimates raise it to 11,000 million a year. In any case, for about two years the state has been experiencing a real green-gold fever around the new market. “This is the time to get involved, it’s once in a lifetime,” said Dan Humiston, organizer of the Cannabis World Congress in Los Angeles last year. “There is an industry that is emerging and needs people, needs business.”
With the opening of the market in California, the legal contradictions surrounding marijuana in the United States will also be exacerbated. The plant is considered an illegal substance at the same level as heroin by the federal government. That is, it is illegal in the United States but legal in eight states, and at the same time it is legal in some cities of those states, where local politicians refuse to facilitate their trade. Formally, the FBI can stop anyone who buys or sells marijuana that is perfectly legal in their state, with the purchase ticket in hand and up to date with taxes.
The attitude of the Department of Justice with the states where marijuana is legal was that of a kind of gentlemen’s pact during the Barack Obama Government. While order is maintained, only those who take advantage of the market to become big drug traffickers are persecuted. But with the new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, that can change. At the end of November, Sessions made clear that the law is to apply it and that he personally considers marijuana a harmful substance that should not be normalized. There is no definitive guideline yet, but Sessions’ attitude will keep the marijuana market, at least the first months, a disturbing sword of Damocles for the merchants.
California was the first state to approve the medicinal use of marijuana, in 1996. Since then, 28 states have done the same. In California there are more than 200 dispensaries, regulated by the municipalities, where you can basically buy legally with a patient card and a medical prescription. The law is a strain and that recipe is obtained without problems. But that is still a submarket that has never come out of the shadows and is subject to certain arbitrariness of the prosecution.
When the time came for full legalization, Californians rejected it at the polls in 2010. It was Colorado, in 2012, the first to approve legalization and become a laboratory of what would happen, especially on two fronts, the sanitary and the fiscal. In the first, Colorado has not seen an increase in overdose of other drugs or drug-related crime, but there are other concerns about the police, for example, the difficulty of detecting drivers under the effects of the marijuana
In the fiscal aspect, which is the main incentive for governments to consider legalization, Colorado boasted of an enviable 135 million dollars in taxes on marijuana in 2015, 77% more than in 2014 and double of the collection for alcohol. The Government of California estimates that tax revenues can reach 1,000 million a year in a state whose public accounts are always anemic. The Secretary of the Treasury has come to consider creating a bank to manage the income of cannabis.
Since then, six other states have approved the trade and consumption of recreational marijuana: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, Washington DC, Massachusetts and Maine ( these two begin in 2018). But the largest of them, the state of Washington, has 7.2 million inhabitants. California has 39 million inhabitants, an economy the size of France, 270 million tourists a year, land border with Mexico and the ports of entry for trade with China. Starting on Monday, this little experiment becomes global.