Do you want to take a walk on the wild side — ignore convention, risk the consequences?
OK, go for it.
But you better be quick, because, after today, stepping into a crosswalk while the signal is counting down won’t count as jaywalking in California.
Just don’t forget to look both ways first.
That isn’t the most consequential state law that goes into effect on New Years’ Day, and it certainly isn’t the new law generating the most — ahem — buzz.
As decreed by California voters, adults will be allowed to buy, sell and cultivate marijuana for recreational use. But this countdown is ending before the state is fully prepared for the green rush that’s sure to follow.
The state is still working out regulatory mechanisms and, as of Thursday, had issued fewer than four dozen retail licenses.
Local permits also are required, and in Sonoma County, only Sebastopol and Cotati have rules in place allowing sales to begin on Jan. 1. So does Ukiah in Mendocino County. It will be late January before sales begin in Santa Rosa, and many cities and counties around the state have yet to take up the issue at all. Still others, including Rohnert Park and all of Marin County, just say no.
We opposed Proposition 64, the recreational use initiative, and remain skeptical of assurances that legalization will produce tax windfalls for public agencies, punch holes in the black market and open minds in Washington, D.C. to easing federal prohibitions on cannabis.
However, by eliminating most of the remaining state restrictions, California is matching its laws with its day-to-day realities. Criminal penalties for personal possession are long gone, replaced by the equivalent of a jaywalking ticket.
And since voter approval of Proposition 215 in 1996, anyone who really wanted to could find a physician who, for $50 or $100, would write a recommendation for medicinal marijuana and a dispensary selling “medicine” with names like “Blue Dream” and “Forbidden Fruit.”
Because cannabis has been so common for so long in California, the transition to recreational sales may be smooth, even with the delays in state and local licensing.
But regular users, and those who may choose to experiment once it is legal, need to be aware of new and remaining legal restrictions. Cannabis cannot be smoked, or ingested, in public, in parks, in any building where tobacco smoking is prohibited or anywhere that tobacco or alcohol are sold. It cannot be used by drivers or passengers in a vehicle, and, as with alcohol, open containers are prohibited. And you must be 21.
Colorado experienced an increase in emergency room visits after legalization there, and fatal car crashes attributed to marijuana have gone up too. California must adopt an enforceable standard for driving under the influence. That should be a top priority for the Legislature in 2018.
Lawmakers also need to find ways to deter robberies and facilitate tax payments from the cash-rich businesses that, like the state, will be stepping into the fast lane on Monday.