This November saw a major shift in marijuana law across the country, not the least of which is the passing of Proposition 64 which has legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California as well as similar measures that made recreational marijuana legal for adults over the age of 21 in Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1996 and California has had a booming medical marijuana industry for the last 20 years. This abundance has spread to marijuana doctors who now face a change in the industry, although this may be delayed for the time being.
Why Californians Are Turning to Marijuana Doctors After Legalization
Even though recreational marijuana was made legal immediately in California, there are still no legal ways to purchase it from a store. Government and city officials are expected to set up regulations for retail licenses and it seems they may not be available until mid-2017 at the earliest and anytime up to January 1, 2018 at the latest. This means that despite the fact that adults can now legally possess and transport up to an ounce of marijuana, the only way to legally do so would be to have it gifted or to grow it. In the meantime, with changing attitudes and the acceptability of the plant, many have decided to get medical marijuana cards and get started on enjoying the benefits of the plant right away.
According to various medical practices, new patients have been coming in droves. 420 Med Evaluations have doctors who have been serving patients and handing out medical marijuana recommendations for the last 8 years. Jill Beaver, their office manager, said, “It’s been a crazy spike. Normally, this is the slow season for us. But we’re averaging 50 to 60 patients a week.”
“A Renaissance; A Whole New Demographic”
Ultimately, business is expected to decline for marijuana doctors but it’s still unclear what this will really look like. Colorado’s marijuana doctors faced a similar situation when the plant was legalized for recreational use. Robert Cohen, who runs Cohen Medical Center in Denver said, “When recreational (marijuana) hit, we couldn’t have been any busier. We had a renaissance, a whole new demographic opening up. They came in because they had no idea how to use it.”
How Medical Marijuana Survived in Colorado
Colorado’s medical marijuana industry only dropped off slightly with the advent of recreational marijuana. Before recreational marijuana, there were over 128,000 medical marijuana card holders. That number has only dropped down a small amount, to 102,000. The industry has managed to survive due to a price drop for medical marijuana while recreational marijuana has a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent cannabis retail tax along with the regular state and local taxes. Medical marijuana card holders only pay the sales tax and therefore save a lot by keeping their doctor’s recommendations. Of course, the doctors also serve patients under 21 with debilitating disorders.
In California, all marijuana users, both medical and recreational, will have to pay a 15 percent excise tax on retail sales. However, if medical users get their marijuana ID cards through county offices, they won’t have to pay the state and local taxes, so this could entice medical users to stick with the program. The implementation of the new law is likely to take some time to hit its stride but officials seem to be doing their best to make it a smooth transition.