California Opens for Recreational Cannabis

Friday, January 05, 2018

If you somehow missed the news over the holiday season, recreational marijuana sales in California officially began January 1. The most populous state in the nation, California is home to nearly 40 million people–and expectations are high that the state’s marijuana market will earn billions of dollars.

On a national scale, the end of marijuana prohibition in California is a watershed moment, reflecting changing attitudes and acceptance of cannabis around the country. The number of states legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana keeps growing. As tax revenue from pot sales fill the coffers of state and local governments (California expects $1 billion annually in taxes), it seems increasingly unlikely that federal authorities will crack down on the industry.

However, the launch wasn’t without hiccups: the computer system designed to track marijuana and prevent it from entering the black market wasn’t online, so dispensaries have been forced to keep track of transfers and sales of marijuana manually.

On top of that, California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, charged with issuing temporary licenses to retailers and distributors, issued businesses licenses to eighty-eight stores–leading to long lines and supply issues at dispensaries.

Temporary adult-use retail licenses have currently been granted in 34 cities, representing 12% of California’s total population. The licenses are only good for 120 days, so businesses will need to reapply for a permanent license. There are currently 1,400 pending license applications for retail sales, distribution, and testing facilities.

Charles Boldwyn, chief compliance officer of ShowGrow in Santa Ana, said that the delay in finalizing rules and issuing business licenses could lead to a shortage of cannabis products.

“We’re looking at … hundreds of licensed cultivators and manufacturers coming out of an environment where we literally had thousands of people who were cultivating and manufacturing,” Boldwyn said in an interview with the Associated Press. “So the red tape is a bit of a bottleneck in the supply chain.”

San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento are the largest cities in California where recreational shops have opened their doors. Los Angeles and San Francisco are expected to begin recreational sales sometime early this month.