What’s Next for the New States with Legal Cannabis?

With the 2016 Election in the history books, a lot of people are looking forward to being able to experience the freedoms that cannabis legalization provides.

Prior to the 2016 Election, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Washington D.C. had legalized adult-use cannabis for adults 21 and over.

With California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts being added to the list, the number of people living in a legal state more than quadrupled.

As it stands right now, roughly 21% of Americans live where people have voted in favor of legal cannabis. So when do these new laws go into effect and what’s on the horizon?

When does legalization take effect in Maine, Massachusetts, California, and Nevada?

Each state has a different timeline for actualizing their new legal cannabis laws.
When a state passes an initiative, cannabis or otherwise, there is usually a delay until the public policy change takes effect.

For instance in my home state of Oregon, voters approved legalization in November 2014, and the law didn’t go into effect until July 2015.

Out of the four initiatives that passed on Election Day 2016, California’s legalization initiative takes effect first, with some changes happening immediately. As it stands right now, California residents over the age of 21 can legally possess, consume, cultivate, and transport cannabis.

All three of the other states that passed (Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts) have a delayed implementation date.

The next state that will experience freedom will be Massachusetts. Massachusetts wrote a provision in its initiative language, which delays the personal possession and cultivation provisions from taking effect until December 15, 2016.

Nevada’s initiative takes effect on January 1, 2017. Nevada residents will be able to possess and cultivate cannabis after that date. However, it’s worth noting that cultivation provisions will change after business licenses are issued and stores are operational.

Nevada is the only state out of the 2016 class of initiatives that included a ‘halo provision’ in which home cultivation will be banned within 25 miles of an adult-use cannabis store.

Maine’s implementation will take the longest. Maine’s law will take effect 30 days after the Governor certifies election results. With a legal challenge pending in Maine that would require a recount of votes, there is no timetable right now for implementation in Maine.

When will consumers be able to make legal cannabis purchases?

A lot of work needs to be done before legal cannabis sales commence.
There are estimates as to when legal adult-use cannabis purchases will be allowed in Nevada, California, Maine, and Massachusetts, and there are a few benchmarks in some of the initiatives, but I can already say that they won’t be very reliable.

A lot of work needs to be done in order to bring states up to speed on adult-use cannabis sales. Committees have to be formed in legislatures, rules need to be written, agencies need to hire processing staff and regulators, and licenses have to be granted before sales can start.

The political world does not move very fast, and since legal sales involve government agencies, a lot of bureaucracy is involved which slows things down as well.

Whenever I get asked about when legal sales will start occurring, rather than offer up estimations for each state, I prefer to point to examples from other states that have legalized and how long it took them to implement sales.

Colorado voters approved cannabis legalization in November 2012. Legal sales did not start until January 2014.

Washington also legalized in November 2012, and legal sales didn’t start there until July of 2014, several months after Colorado.

In Oregon, voters approved cannabis legalization in November 2014, and limited sales started in October 2015, making Oregon the fastest state to implement adult-use sales, albeit with limitations.

Alaska just started making legal sales in recent weeks.

A big contributing factor to rolling out the implementation of adult-use sales is whether or not there was already a regulatory structure in place for medical cannabis in the state.

States that already had a system for regulating medical cannabis sales moved along much quicker (Colorado and Oregon) compared to states that had not done so prior to legalization (Alaska and Washington).

Creating a framework for a completely new industry is not easy, so I’d expect some delays in implementation in the states that voted to legalize in 2016, with some being longer than others.

Don’t don’t expect any legal sales until late 2017 at the earliest.

What other things can people expect to see in the newly legal states?

The newly passed cannabis laws will no doubt come with a few policy-level surprises.
Colorado and Washington have been grappling with cannabis legalization implementation for over four years now. Oregon and Alaska have been doing the same for the last two years.

Because Washington D.C. doesn’t allow adult-use cannabis sales, implementation went much faster there. Also, since it’s a district versus a state, that also made implementation much faster.

In Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Alaska, there were some things that each state’s implementation process had in common.

Each of the four states saw some changes to their medical cannabis programs, with Colorado seeing the least amount of changes, and Washington seeing the largest amount of changes.

Notably, each initiative stated clearly in their initiative texts that medical cannabis programs would not be affected by legalization.

However, each state’s legislature has the right to change laws, and each state used the opportunity to make changes to medical cannabis while crafting adult-use cannabis laws.

Also too, local bans and/or taxes are commonplace in states that have already implemented legalization. Similar bans and moratoriums were already popping up prior to Election Day, and I’d expect to see more of them being instituted in counties or townships throughout California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada.

One thing that I can guarantee will be seen in the newly legalized states is an increase in jobs, an increase in tax revenues, and a sky that will remain intact.

Legalization works, and that will be on display in California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts, just as it has been in the states that had voted to legalize adult-use cannabis previously.

Originally published on Green Flower by Johnny Green on November 16th, 2016