Vaping Under 21 May Soon Be Illegal ... but Teens Can Still Legally Buy Pot

If California gets a national reputation as being a little bit kooky, sometimes we have only ourselves to blame.

The California Senate today voted to raise the tobacco smoking age from 18 to 21. The "legal age to purchase or possess tobacco products" is now 21, according to the language of the bill. But, strangely perhaps, teens can still legally buy weed all day long.

"Medicinal marijuana requires a prescription from a licensed health care provider," Sen. Ed Hernandez, author of the smoking-age bill, said in a statement to us this afternoon.

And we all know how hard it is to get a doctor's recommendation.

The Senate's approval of the 21-and-older proposal effectively sends the bill to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who will have the opportunity to sign it into law or veto it. Also heading to his desk is legislation that would bring e-cigarette rules in line with sales and smoking limits on tobacco products.

In other words, if Brown approves the 21-and-older bill, and if he approves the e-cigarette legislation, you will have to be at least 21 to vape.

But not, perhaps, if you're vaping marijuana, including concentrated pot products like hash oil, wax, dabs and shatter.

The language of the vaping bill says, "This act does not affect any laws or regulations regarding medical cannabis."

"There's no age on marijuana for med use," says Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML. "If you have a doctor's recommendation, you can be 12."

However, he says the California law known as SB 420, which put forth guidelines for dispensaries, says you can't smoke weed anywhere you can't smoke tobacco products under state rules. That legislation pretty much predated modern vaping and the e-cigarette revolution.

Medical marijuana law "does not authorize medical marijuana smoking in no-smoking zones," NORML says in a fact sheet.

Gieringer says most dispensaries welcome customers who are 18 or older. Some have established an age limit of 21.

The 21-and-older tobacco and vaping bills put the onus of abiding by the law on the sellers of these products — basically the same deal as California's previous 18-and-older rules.

Sen. Mark Leno called the Legislature's passing of his e-cigarette bill "a huge victory for public health and the well-being of all Californians."

"The e-cigarette is nothing more than a new delivery system for toxic and addictive nicotine," he said. "We should all be alarmed that these devices are surging in popularity among adolescents who have never smoked before."

Hernandez said previously that his 21-and-older smoking bill will save lives.

"We are no longer going to sit on the sidelines while Big Tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them," he said.

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