As we enter the new year, Californians have something else to celebrate in 2018. January 1st marked the start of legal recreational cannabis sales in the Golden State. While doubt persisted for much of the year over whether regulators would meet the deadline to make room for a recreational cannabis industry in the country’s most populous state, at least some areas of the state have started to enjoy legal sales since the first day of the year. With an extensive medical cannabis program in place since 1996, and logistical problems that smaller states like Colorado and Washington didn’t encounter, California has faced an uphill battle to meet the deadline. Yet, by issuing temporary licenses, the state’s cannabis board was ready for sales to begin on January 1st – but only in some locations. Others are expected to follow in the coming days and weeks, with the exception of the many municipalities that may decide – or have already decided - not to allow sales.
Here’s what the roll-out currently looks like, and a quick rundown of what’s happening behind the scenes.
The first licenses were issued a few weeks ago, just 18 days before sales were set to begin on January 1st. Twenty temporary licenses were issued initially, which represents just a tiny fraction of the thousands to be issued in the year ahead. The very first license went to Pure CA, known as Moxie brand products, a respected producer of cannabis extracts. The temporary licenses are valid for 120 days, with a potential for a 90-day extension. They require businesses to prove they are using security guards, that their customers are at least 21 years of age, and that they are at least 600 feet away from schools and child-care facilities.
For Californians looking to purchase recreational cannabis in the new year, some limitations need to be understood. For example, the current recreational retailer options are pretty slim due to the rushed rollout. Depending on your location, you may have to drive for a matter of hours if you are set on purchasing legal cannabis. The online system for businesses to apply for licenses just recently opened in an industry that is expected to become a massive 7 billion-dollar cash cow within in a relatively short time frame.
In the long term, Proposition 64 allows for an array of different legal arrangements in various municipalities. Some cities are set to ban commercial cannabis transactions altogether. As of a few weeks ago, a full 72 percent of California’s municipalities are not allowing adult-use retail, with many simply saying there hasn’t been enough time allotted for proper regulation.
The online cannabis database, Leafly, reports that San Diego, San Jose, and Oakland have had stores open since the first day of the new year, as has Sacramento, according to the city’s cannabis regulator. Los Angeles has allowed retail stores, but they were not licensed in time for January 1st. The same was true of San Francisco, though stores there did begin opening shortly thereafter. Fresno is disallowing retail stores, as is Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, and many other smaller municipalities. Cities such as Stockton and Long Beach are currently in the process of licensing medical dispensaries, with plans for adult-use stores later in the year.
Smaller cities such as Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Eureka, Cathedral City, Mount Shasta, Shasta Lake, and West Hollywood, also have stores open. Leafly is offering regular updates, as the situation is likely to keep shifting. The Cannifornian is also providing a map that will be consistently updated with information on licensed retailers.
Wherever you live, it is only a matter of time before you’re able to purchase legal recreational cannabis in your hometown. January 1st was a hard-won victory in a decades-long battle against prohibition. It may not be the end of the war, but it is surely one of the most significant victories yet.