Customers lined up early to purchase recreational marijuana legally for the first time in California.
New Year’s Day brought broad legalisation some two decades after the state was the first to allow pot for medical use.
America’s most populous state joins a growing list of other states, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.
Jeff Deakin, 66, his wife Mary waited all night and were first in a line of 100 people when Harbourside dispensary, a longtime medical pot shop in Oakland, opened at 6am and offered early customers joints for a penny and free T-shirts that read “Flower to the People -Cannabis for All.”
“It’s been so long since others and myself could walk into a place where you could feel safe and secure and be able to get something that was good without having to go to the back alley,” Deakin said.
California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn’t legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.
Adults can also grow up to six marijuana plants per household “out of public view.”
Only about 90 businesses received state licenses to open on New Year’s Day, concentrated in San Diego, Santa Cruz, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Palm Springs area.
Los Angeles and San Francisco are among the State’s many cities where recreational pot will not be available right away because local regulations were not approved in time to start issuing city licenses needed to get state permits.
Meanwhile, Fresno, Bakersfield and Riverside are among the communities that have adopted laws forbidding recreational marijuana sales.
Late last week, California had issued only 42 retail licenses. Another 150 applications were pending and regulators planned to work a second straight weekend to review them.
Los Angeles and San Francisco were late to approve local regulations, meaning no recreational pot shops opened their doors on Monday.
The lucky few outlets with licenses – mainly in San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, Palm Springs area and Santa Cruz – think they have an edge being first out of the gate.
Excitement about California joining the growing list of states and Washington DC, with legal recreational weed is tempered with the stresses of ensuring shelves are stocked in the face of uncertain demand.
The state issued its first 20 retail licenses two weeks ago and an additional 22 trickled out since, some for already established medical marijuana businesses that have thrived in California for two decades and will continue.
Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, said a dozen employees were vetting applications to “issue as many licenses as we can” in the coming days.
The temporary permits represent a sliver of the thousands of licenses expected to eventually be issued for retail recreational sales. Local permits are a prerequisite for the state licenses, and many cities – including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Long Beach – have yet to issue any local rules, putting huge swaths of the state on the sidelines for opening day.