The New Year always comes with new laws and regulations, and 2018 is no different.

One the biggest changes, certainly in terms of lifestyle, will be implementing Pro-position 64, the 2016 voter-approved measure that makes recreational marijuana use legal in California starting on Jan. 1, even though it is still considered an illegal drug by the federal government.

The state law allows anyone 21 or older to buy recreational marijuana, grow up to six plants for personal use, and possess 28.5 grams with a low potency or 8 grams of high potency.

A few caveats: you can smoke in your home or backyard, but if you rent and your lease prohibits smoking, you’re out of luck. You can’t smoke in public, a restaurant or a bar. And it’s still illegal to drive “high” — more on that later.

Jan. 1 marks the day the state begins to hand out operating licenses to shops that have gotten approval from their local city governments prior to opening. Not all cities in California allow pot businesses. If there are no shops in your town, you can go to another to buy it.

San Fernando Officials Seek Public Input

The San Fernando City Council, at its Sept. 18 meeting, voted to ban marijuana businesses within the city limits, a move that City Attorney Richard Padilla described then as a “stop-gap measure” so that shops could not open without any regulations in place.

However, in an interview with the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, Mayor Sylvia Ballin said that the vote in September gave the city some breathing room, and now her priority is to get more feedback on the issue from the community.

“I want to hear from the community first,” Ballin said. “This is a big issue…it was a big challenge to even put on the agenda. I don’t have a position on it yet; I just don’t.”

She said she has heard from veterans who do want a medical marijuana dispensary available for treatment “because they do not want to become addicted to opioids. But I’m in the middle here. I could go either way.”

Ballin said there will be four workshops — two in January and two in February — for more community reaction and input. “I plan to attend all four meetings.”

The Los Angeles City Council has approved marijuana regulations that are consistent with many others in the state.

For one, retail marijuana shops would be allowed only in specifically zoned commercial and industrial areas in the city and would not be permitted within 750 feet of sites like schools, public parks and libraries. 

 Growers and manufacturers of cannabis products are also limited to specific industrial zones and required to locate at least 600 feet away from schools and similarly designated sites. They can only be open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and can only sell limited amounts to customers. When sold, the product must be placed in opaque packages.

 The rules cap the number of shops, growers and manufacturers that can be licensed across Los Angeles. Stores have to establish strict security measures, including video surveillance and electronic verification that customers are 21 or older.

“As lawmakers we have a responsibility to reasonably regulate this industry in a manner that is safe, inclusive, and practical,” said Los Angeles City Council President Herb J. Wesson, Jr., who’s led the charge on this topic.

On a blog on The Cannifornian, a website that specializes in everything related to cannabis, Los Angeles Councilmember Bob Blumenfield noted that “Los Angeles must clearly define who is licensed for what. If regulators provide a pathway for businesses currently working in the shadows to play by the rules, legal shops will be incentivized to help identify and discourage illegal competitors. Consumers will be able to choose legal shops with beneficial consumer, health and safety protections. Illegal shops will be marginalized, easier to spot and eliminate.”

The application process for retail establishments includes a mandatory public hearing for community members and public notification to local stakeholders.

Authorities Getting Ready

With recreational mari-juana now being legal comes the worry that many users will get behind the wheel high and the consequences this may bring.

Anticipating this, the Los Angeles county District Attorney’s Office announced recently that several hundred law enforcement personnel, including police officers and deputy district attorneys, have been trained to investigate and prosecute driving under the influence cases involving marijuana and other drugs.

They literally expect “a wave” of driving under the influence of drug cases.

As a result, the DUI Training and Prosecution Section (DTAPS) has been tasked with reviewing, and in some instances, prosecuting DUI-drug cases that result in a homicide. In addition, they are assisting law enforcement personnel and prosecutors in determining whether drugs played a role in serious or fatal traffic collisions and the type and quantity of evidence needed to support a successful prosecution. 

The state projects it would collect $1 billion in new taxes from pot sales and other activity within several years.

California is among 29 states where pot is legal, either for medical or recreational use.