California has always had an interesting and contradictory relationship with marijuana. The state is well known, of course, for Haight-Ashbury, the enclaves of Berkeley, the LA jazz scene, and other marijuana-heavy enterprises. But the drug has also been a great way to stall or even kill a promising movie career, and the fierce political backlash against marijuana and the drug culture led to strict laws and even stricter TV cops (like Jack Webb).
But on November 8th last year, when most of the world was distracted by the presidential elections, voters in California voted Yes on Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana usage and cultivation—with limits, of course. The law went into effect the next day, but the ramifications of it are still shaking out.
For older adults, these relaxed laws can be a huge blessing. Some of the medical benefits of marijuana for seniors have become widely known. In a follow-up article, we’ll take a deeper look at the benefits and drawbacks of marijuana use, and how to be safe with it. But in this piece, we want older adults and their caregivers to understand the law, how it works, and how it will impact them. If aging well is about choices, and doing what is right for you, Prop 64 has given California’s seniors another choice about how they want to live their lives.
Prop 64’s Rules and Regulations
The first thing to understand about Prop 64 is that the other big election that happened that day put the results in legal jeopardy. The Trump Administration has hinted that they may enforce federal law over state law on marijuana usage (something the Obama Department of Justice did not do), and new Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long been a foe of the substance.
It remains to be seen whether the Administration will follow up on that threat, or if it will be low priority—and it remains to be seen what California will do to fight back. Federal law does have supremacy, but it isn’t unreasonable to think that the issue could be tied up in court for years, in which case it is very likely that the law will remain intact as voted on until a decision is made otherwise. So, assuming the law continues as is for the time being, there are a few things older adults need to know.
- One ounce is the limit. The law allows you to “purchase, possess, transport or use up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes.”
- Don’t share. Marijuana is being treated essentially the same as alcohol: something that is fine for adults to enjoy in moderation. It is still illegal for anyone under 21 to use marijuana in any of its forms, and it is still illegal to give it to them.
- No smoking in public. In California, it’s already illegal to smoke cigarettes in many public places, including parks and other outdoor shared spaces. But it is illegal to smoke marijuana in public anywhere, including your car. The fines associated with this range from $100-$250.
- You can grow your own. There are a lot of benefits to gardening for seniors and their caregivers. It creates responsibility, something to nurture, and has been shown to be the single-biggest risk reduction factor for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Luckily, Prop 64 allows people to grow up to six marijuana plants, provided that they are locked up and not visible from a public place (so, not your front yard garden).
- Don’t start a business. Even if you grow your own, it’s illegal to sell it without a license. There are still strict regulations guarding the sale and distribution of marijuana, and you can face six months in jail for selling it illegally.
Laws change. Attitudes change. Today’s older adults are challenging and changing attitudes about aging, every day. The legalization of marijuana can be another step toward altering our perceptions of aging. That’s a choice everyone can make.
Institute on Aging offers a wide range of programs, services, and online resources to help older adults and their caregivers live independently, with dignity and adventure. Get in touch with us today to learn more.