Features & Columns

50 Things You Need to Know about Marijuana in California

Experts sound off on 50 pressing questions regarding
the state of marijuana in California
The state legalized it, and we're still as confused as ever.

Ever since California legalized weed last year, we've smelled something special in the air. People are lighting up anytime, anywhere—at the bus stop and the coffee shop, during late-night shows and early morning walks on the trail. But as marijuana goes mainstream, there are still a number of questions. Like, is it really legal? Turns out that's still a bit of a trick question.

We took it upon ourselves to get the skinny on some of the more complex quandries that recreational marijuana raises. We asked around in an effort to figure out everything from the difference between sativa and indica strains to where and when you can smoke pot legally.

In the process we questioned a cop, the District Attorney's office, the bassist for a local stoner rock band, the county health department, a medical marijuana lobbyist and the manager of a San Jose collective. Together, we hope our cannabis crowdsourcing helps answer any questions that come to mind.

The Brain Trust
Sgt. David Woolsey, San Jose Police Department Division of Medical Marijuana Control
Jeffrey Wilson, bassist for San Jose-based stoner metal outfit Kook
Neil Ruditsky, general manager of Elemental Wellness
Sean Kali-Rai, medical marijuana industry lobbyist
Santa Clara County Public Health Department
Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office

What is proper etiquette for smoking marijuana in public?
Sgt. David Woolsey, San Jose Police Department Division of Medical Marijuana Control Smoking or ingesting cannabis (this includes "vaping," consuming edibles, or any other method of ingestion) in public is prohibited; violations are infractions punishable by up to a $100 fine.
Jeffrey Wilson, bassist for San Jose stoner metal band Kook I generally don't, but at a show it might be more polite to use a vape pen. They don't smell.

Where is it legal to smoke? Where is it illegal?
Sean Kali-Rai, lobbyist It's legal to smoke in your home, it's legal on private property and it's not allowed in public places. Think cigarettes, but with more restrictions—it's like a combination of the rules for alcohol and cigarettes. For public consumption, it's like alcohol. You can't have it in your car, you can't be out in public with it, you can't use it on a plane.

Can my employer fire me for smoking or failing drug test?
Neil Ruditsky, general manager of Elemental Wellness Yes, an employer can. But we believe cannabis is a worthy medicine and important to your overall wellness picture.

What do I realistically have to be doing for the feds to come after me?
Sean Kali-Rai It's pretty straightforward. Selling to underage users, being too close to schools, parks, day care centers and churches, being a public nuisance, selling or being affiliated with gangs or organized crime, diverting drugs outside the state, that kind of thing.
Sgt. David Woolsey Cultivation, possession, transportation, and manufacturing of cannabis and cannabis products are illegal under federal law.

Can I medicate my children?
Sgt. David Woolsey While a complicated and controversial area, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 does not exclude minors—the short answer is yes, if the minor has consent from the parent or guardian and a valid doctor's recommendation for the use of cannabis.

Can I medicate my dog?
Neil Ruditsky Absolutely. In fact, you'll find properties of THCA and CBD which have complete anti-inflammatory properties which benefits canines and pets, just like humans. A lot of our daily wear and tear is joint inflammation.

Should I care about THC?
Sgt. David Woolsey Yes. THC is the psychoactive component in cannabis. Consuming too much THC could lead to unwanted effects, similar to how consuming too much (or more than intended) alcohol could lead to unwanted effects.
Jeffrey Wilson You get more energy with higher THC content... but you also get high.

Should I care about CBD?
Sean Kali-Rai There are many benefits for THC, but I think really that the untapped part of the whole cannabis experiment is the question of what are all the medicinal benefits of CBD.
Jeffrey Wilson CBD's been really interesting. Our drummer was born with a birth defect in his eyes. He's technically legally blind. He's on high CBD treatments and it helps him with his eyes. It's been great for him.

Should I care whether it's tested for pesticides?
Neil Ruditsky Of course. Some people have compromised immune systems so they need to be sure the medicine they're using is free of all contaminants to the best of our knowledge.

Our sources confirm that it is fine to treat your pooch with pot.
Jeffrey Wilson I like to know where it's grown and how it's grown. For the extracts, I like to know how they're extracted and whether they use solvents.

Should I know the difference between indica and sativa?
Neil Ruditsky I find it a basic industry term and feel the better terms to use are terpenoids and cannabinoids.

What is the most economical way to get high?
Neil Ruditsky I guess the value for dollar is usually found in edibles, depending on the milligram versus THC content.
Jeffrey Wilson I've been using the vape pens. I don't know if it ends up being cheaper, but it seems like you use less.

Should I ever smoke out of a gravity bong?
Sean Kali-Rai I don't think we had those in high school. I have no idea.
Jeffrey Wilson I don't. But if you're up for it, go for it.

What's the healthiest way to get high?
Neil Ruditsky Consuming edibles. For seriously ill patients, suppositories. I would say using a full-plant capsule is probably the best.

What's the best way to get high socially?
Neil Ruditsky Pass a joint.
Jeffrey Wilson Who cares? With whatever anybody is sharing.

Is weed worse than alcohol?
Neil Ruditsky No!
Jeffrey Wilson No. Absolutely not. The world would be a lot better place if everyone just smoked instead.

Is weed smoke worse than cigarette smoke?
Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD) According to a number of recent scientific findings, marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke differ in their health effects. We know smoking tobacco can cause significant lung damage, including respiratory symptoms, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, and is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Studies so far have failed to identify an association between cannabis smoke exposure and elevated risks of smoking-related cancers or pulmonary disease. At this time there are not reliable estimates of the effects of very heavy marijuana exposure on the lungs.

Is weed addictive?
Neil Ruditsky No. There are no physical addictive properties in cannabis other than your own mental addiction to it.

How long does it actually stay in a person's system?
Sean Kali-Rai That depends on the size of the person, the metabolism, it depends on how much fat tissue you have, the dosage you've taken, and also if you've vaped or smoked versus taken edibles or administered some other way. The edibles tend to stay in the system a lot longer.
Neil Ruditsky For habitual users, marijuana will stay in your system at least 28 days. For casual users, 24-72 hours.

Does weed make sex better?
Neil Ruditsky Weed makes everything better.

What should I call it? (marijuana, cannabis, weed, pot)
Neil Ruditsky That's a good question. When people are referring to medicinal cannabis and talk about it as pot and weed, I've become offended. However, in a recreational setting, cannabis or marijuana would be appropriate.
Jeffrey Wilson Yes.

Does weed make music better?
Jeffrey Wilson It removes inhibitions. I don't smoke when I play, but when I'm writing—when I want to go through a creative exercise—I like to get high then. It feels like I can just let go and get creative. I think it has had an overall positive effect on music.

It is advisable to let your doctor know your weed regimen, at the very least to avoid potential drug interactions.

Will I get arrested for possessing pot?
Sgt. David Woolsey Maybe. it depends upon the circumstances. Under state law, a person 21 years old or older may possess, transport, or give away (to another person 21 years old or older, with absolutely no money or consideration changing hands, even reimbursement for expenses) up to one ounce of dried cannabis flowers, or up to eight grams of concentrated cannabis, or cultivate up to six plants (per residence, not per person in the residence) and possess the amount of cannabis harvested from those six plants. But remember, there are prohibitions on where you can possess cannabis (for example, on school grounds) and how you possess cannabis (for example, possessing an open container of cannabis while driving, operating, or riding in the passenger seat or compartment of a motor vehicle, boat, vessel, aircraft, or other vehicle used for transportation). There are also local restrictions—for example, in San Jose, cultivating your six plants is prohibited outdoors. So no growing plants on open air balconies, or in backyards.

Should I hide smoking from my employer?
Neil Ruditsky You should be on guard with whatever you share with your employer in the state of California.

Will smoking weed affect my insurance rate?
Sean Kali-Rai Can't answer that authoritatively. But that would be a good thing to look into. I do know that you can't possess a gun if you have a medical marijuana card. Also, there are some restrictions on organ donations. So if you're a medical card holder or use cannabis, you may not be eligible for organ donations.

Should I tell my primary care physician?
Neil Ruditsky Absolutely. Whether they approve or not, they should be aware of what you're putting into your body, and perhaps you have the opportunity to inform Western science.

Any significant drug interactions?
SCCPHD Marijuana interactions with other drugs is a concern. Marijuana may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with certain drugs like aspirin, blood thinners and other drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Marijuana may also affect blood sugar levels. People taking drugs for diabetes should be cautious about using marijuana and make sure they are monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional. Marijuana may also cause low blood pressure and can also increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs, barbiturates, narcotics, some antidepressants and alcohol. People using any medications should check the drug information and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.

Driving under the influence—how do they measure intoxication? What penalties are there?
Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office (DA) By a field sobriety test and an evaluation of someone's inability to operate a motor vehicle safely using the totality of circumstances including: bad driving, an accident, objective symptoms of recent marijuana use, a blood test, amount of THC in one's system. Penalties are the same as DUI.

We hear they are developing a breathalyzer. We've also heard there are specialized positions and training for officers to determine if someone is high. Is that true?
DA Yes.

How do I obtain pot legally?
Neil Ruditsky In Santa Clara County there are only 16 registered places to gain medical cannabis legally—until Jan. 1, 2018, when recreational adult use will be legal. However, most counties and municipalities have bans on the distribution and dispensing of cannabis at this current moment.
Sgt. David Woolsey Currently, recreational (or nonmedical) cannabis sales are prohibited. You can legally obtain cannabis: 1. from a medical cannabis collective, if you have a valid doctor's recommendation for cannabis and become a member of the collective; or 2. from another person, as long as there is no exchange of money or other consideration—they have to give it to you truly and absolutely free. It is expected that in 2018 state licenses will be issued to businesses for non-medical cannabis sales; however, non-medical sales are currently prohibited under San Jose's local ordinance. The City Council would need to change the municipal code to allow for non-medical cannabis sales in 2018. And remember, this only applies to State laws—obtaining, possessing or providing cannabis is still federally illegal.

If I want to start my own pot business, who can I bank with?
Sean Kali-Rai Right now, you can't bank with anyone. Banking is still federally prohibited for the industry.

How much pot am I allowed to grow?
Sgt. David Woolsey An adult 21 years of age or older may cultivate up to six plants per residence, and possess the cannabis harvested from those plants, under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016. Under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, a person with a doctor's recommendation for medical cannabis may cultivate as much as is medically necessary for his or her medical condition. In San Jose, outdoor cultivation is prohibited (no growing plants on your balcony, porch or backyard).

Can I make my own shatter or extract?
Sgt. David Woolsey Chemical extraction of cannabis is illegal, except under very stringent circumstances requiring multiple permits. Non-volatile methods of extraction, for example bubble-hash or rosin press, are acceptable.

Am I eligible for expungement if I have a record for marijuana possession?
Sean Kali-Rai Yes. That happened immediately after Prop. 64. Frankly, I think the social justice component of it really brought more votes in favor of Prop. 64. Everyone got tired of seeing people getting locked up for minor possession and minor violations and sending them to prison.

What do I need to know about using my Health Savings Account for buying weed?

One of the best ways to obtain marijuana legally is simply to grow it at home—assuming you're an adult over 21.
Neil Ruditsky I am aware of people who are doing this. I personally have an HSA; however, I have not chosen to do this.

Can I get high from smoking my hemp bracelet?
Neil Ruditsky No. Hemp is classified differently from cannabis.

Should I have a hemp bracelet?
Neil Ruditsky Sure?

Why is pot illegal in the first place? How did it end up Schedule I?
Sean Kali-Rai Fear. When people fear things, they outlaw them. They did the same thing with alcohol. That's what it always comes down to the public fear and political ambition.

Is pot getting stronger?
Neil Ruditsky Yes. The connoisseur-cultivators have been able to manipulate conditions to give us a better product than what was available in the '70s.
Jeffrey Wilson We're sciencing the shit out of it, which is great. I really like this controlled version of it. You can fine-tune the experience.

Do weed creams really work?
Neil Ruditsky Yes, they most certainly do. Topical creams don't enter into the bloodstream and provide a therapeutic, pain-relieving effect that is better than Bengay.

What about weed oil tinctures?
Sean Kali-Rai That's probably the fastest-growing part of this market. That middle to older age group that's looking for the healthiest way to administer cannabis, they prefer the oils and tinctures because they don't want to smoke anything.

Can I take weed on a plane?
DA No.

Can I drive over state lines with weed?
Sean Kali-Rai If it's for personal consumption and it's a small amount, that's probably fine. But keep in mind that you're getting into a gray area. It depends on where you're going, too. If you take it to a state where it's illegal, you could get prosecuted for trafficking. Every state has its own laws.

Can I get high from just eating weed (not in butter or oil)?
Neil Ruditsky Yes.

Is growing pot bad for the environment? (indoor versus outdoor)
Neil Ruditsky No, I don't believe so. I believe proper cultivators are concerned about the environment, as is every almond or avocado farmer in California.

Is it really as complex as wine?
Neil Ruditsky Absolutely. In fact, I think you'll see that cannabis—what we call vintage—next to the wine industry, individual strains and flowers are just like the individual varietals of grapes.

Should my weed make me paranoid?
Jeffrey Wilson No. You can definitely fine-tune it now. For some people, it may never work. I'm definitely very sensitive to the differences and the different types. A lot of times it's about your environment.

Can I die from too much pot?
Neil Ruditsky Not to my knowledge. I don't believe there has been a recorded death from overdose of cannabis.

Will weed ruin my memory?
Neil Ruditsky I can't remember. ... I'm in my late 40s and I forget things. Is that due to cannabis? I don't know.
Jeffrey Wilson I don't think they have any science to say that it does. SCCPHD A number of studies and scientific evidence has shown that heavy, regular use of marijuana that begins during the pre-teen or teen years may lower a person's IQ.

Is it legal to resell medical marijuana?
Sgt. David Woolsey No.

Is it legal to give away medical marijuana?
Sgt. David Woolsey Persons 21 years of age or older may give away up to 1 ounce of dried cannabis flower or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis to other person(s) 21 years of age or older, as long as no money or other consideration is exchanged.