At the start of this year, recreational marijuana became legal in the state of California. Having been the first of all 50 states to legalize the substance for medical use back in 1996, hopes were high that expanding the availability of the plant would please the people and help the state’s economy flourish.

However, the government immediately placed high taxes on excising and cultivating the plant, leading some to believe that the black market would thrive over the legal one.

The impact of high taxes on the black market

California currently has an excise tax of 15% and a cultivation tax that is either $9.25 per ounce of cannabis flowers or $2.75 per ounce of marijuana leaves. Taxing legal marijuana businesses at high rates means that the price of the drug must be raised to make a profit.

With tax rates high and marijuana more accessible than ever, the already-established black markets may thrive more off of these taxes than the state, when buyers turn toward it to buy their “legal” pot at a discounted price.

Buying and growing marijuana

Because of the recreational status of marijuana, the drug is much easier to buy, plant and grow. Those who are 21 years or older can purchase up to one ounce of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated marijuana legally. Possessing more than this amount, can result in misdemeanor charges, punishable by 6 months of jail time and/or a fine up to $500.

However, you can grow up to six plants within a 10×10 space if it is enclosed and secure and you have either a medical marijuana prescription or a grower’s license.

Selling marijuana illegally

If you’re not a licensed caregiver and you sell marijuana on the black market, you can face misdemeanor charges, punishable by 6 months of jail time and/or a fine up to $500.

Other marijuana penalties

Selling marijuana illegally is not the only penalties a person can face despite the plant’s legal status. A few other restrictions include:

  • Smoking marijuana in public ($100 fine)
  • Storing marijuana in a container with a broken seal in your vehicle
  • Smoking marijuana in your vehicle
  • Using marijuana near schools or daycare centers
  • Possessing marijuana while under the age of 21 without a medical marijuana prescription

If you have further questions on the legality of marijuana use or are facing cannabis-related charges, contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. Although medical marijuana has been legal in California for over twenty years, the state is still navigating how to handle the recreational status of the plant.