On Jan. 1, 2018 Prop. 64 went into effect in California, legalizing marijuana for those 21 years of age and older. San Luis Obispo was in support of this proposition, according to Mayor Heidi Harmon: approximately 67 percent of voting citizens in the city voted in favor, which is higher than the state average.
“The citizens in the community of San Luis Obispo had a high willingness and desire to see marijuana legalized … I think as elected officials, it’s incumbent upon us to facilitate the will of the voters, which is to have a policy to honor the fact that they want to see it legal,” Harmon said.
Harmon emphasized how crucial it will be to enforce this new policy and members of the city have already begun learning how other states have dealt with the legalization.
“We’re taking this incredibly seriously. The police department, fire department, the city attorney and all the department heads are engaging in the conversation and doing tons of research with other communities, such as Colorado, to learn from their mistakes and the positive things that have happened there,” Harmon said.
For local San Luis Obispo cannabis grower and computer science senior Nico Pitchon, who owns and operates a cannabis cultivation and delivery service for medicinal purposes, Slo Dro Co, this policy change will not directly affect his business.
“I was one of the lucky 141 cultivators that pre-registered their collective back in November of 2016, which allows me to now apply for a local and state license. Everyone else in the county won’t be able to apply until they add more permits, which may or may not happen in 2019,” Pitchon said.
Despite the changes that occurred at the start of the year, Pitchon said he is optimistic for his cannabis business.
“I feel that all the changes are going to be for the better. I feel that it being more official standardized business is going to allow me to hire better employees … a lot of things that I was not really able to do in an official manner in the past,” Pitchon said.
Pitchon said that competition in the cannabis delivery business is definitely one of the biggest challenges he faces, so he must constantly update the menu and prices to stay competitive in the county.
However, starting this year, the amount of competition his business faces may start to decrease.
“I foresee a lot of people not being able to keep their business because of the way that the laws are changing, so competition will go down,” Pitchon said.
Slo Dro Co operates throughout all of San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara Counties.
Pitchon said San Luis Obispo County has banned any dispensaries. However, individual cities within the county are able to vote on their own marijuana regulations. The City of Grover Beach, for example, voted to allow two storefront medicinal dispensaries. The city of San Luis Obispo also has a ban on cannabis delivery, where there is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Pitchon must operate under.
While these rules will hopefully change with the new law in place, there will be no changes to cannabis use at Cal Poly.
“Unfortunately, Cal Poly is regulated more from the federal government … the hard part about that is that Cal Poly can’t really chime in on their hopes and concerns around this issue; they’re not really able to speak on that, so we have to do the best we can for the students without getting that guidance from Cal Poly,” Harmon said.
Since the school follows federal law, oncampus drug policies have not changed.
“The institution has to maintain a drug-free environment … marijuana still is an illegal, schedule one drug in the eyes of the federal government. All the [California State University] campuses are going to strictly prohibit marijuana use on campus regardless of what state law says,” University Police Department Chief George Hughes said.
While marijuana is still not legal on campus, the Cal Poly faction of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, provides a community for students interested in the marijuana industry.
Pitchon is the industry advisor for the club. He said they started as a networking opportunity for students who want to get into the cannabis industry and their focus is on education about consumption and legality of marijuana.
“I really do think education is key when informing students about the benefits and the adverse effects that you may not want. It’s really easy to over-consume edibles and have a really bad experience based on that,” Pitchon said.
Harmon said she had concerns about edibles and the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that people are consuming. THC is the chemical compound found in cannabis that creates the euphoric high.
“We do have an extra responsibility being a university community to ensure the health and safety of everyone here, including the students … there needs to be a lot of education about that just so people can understand a little bit more about how those work. There can be a lag time between injecting and impact,” Harmon said.
Despite this concern, she explained that alcohol-related issues are of highers concern than those related to marijuana.
“What my understanding is is that it’s actually significantly less problematic than alcohol in terms of the impacts and driving under the influence,” Harmon said.
However, Hughes said there may be an increase of drivers under the influence of marijuana, which is still illegal”
“I think more people will be partaking in marijuana … so more people may be under the influence of marijuana which it really doesn’t matter, a DUI is under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Hughes said.