New Year’s Day marked the beginning of adult-use cannabis sales in California, a milestone that ushered in a new era of regulated legalization in America’s most populous state. Leafly reporters fanned out across the state to cover the festivities, and editors will be updating this page throughout the launch of legal sales.
Friday, Jan. 12
Los Angeles Grants Local Approval to License Applicants
Los Angeles has begun granting local approval to applicants for commercial cannabis licenses, city officials said Friday, meaning legal sales in LA could be just days away.
#marijuana UPDATE FROM LA CITY OFFICIALS: As of this morning, 13 Prop D dispensaries had received temp. approval for a variety of #cannabis licenses. Now, its —> L.A. Office of Finance & then —> @BCCinfo_dca for CA’s stamp of approval
— Hayley Fox (@EPfox) January 12, 2018
As Leafly contributor Hayley Fox noted on Twitter, applicants must now be processed through the Los Angeles Office of Finance before heading to the state Bureau of Cannabis Control or other state licensing agency, depending on the type of business. Once the applicants receive temporary state licenses, they’ll be able to open for business. City officials say that’s likely to happen in the next several days.
Tuesday, Jan. 2
LA Could See Adult-Use by Monday, Official Says
Cat Packer, executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, announced Tuesday that the agency would begin accepting applications for commercial cannabis licenses on Wednesday. The first legal sale of adult-use cannabis in the city could happen as soon as the following Monday, Packer said.
In the interim, the LAPD doesn’t intend to raid responsible medical operators, said Chief Michel Moore. Some industry lawyers have said medical dispensaries may continue to operate legally as nonprofit collectives.
Moore also encouraged LA residents to contact 311 or their local police division to address any concerns, complaints, or nuisances associated with local cannabis businesses. —Hayley Fox
West Hollywood Retail Stores Go Live
WEST HOLLYWOOD — Starting as early as 6 o’clock Tuesday morning, cannabis retailers in West Hollywood opened their doors for the city’s first day of legal adult-use sales. A total of four shops, all located within a roughly two-mile section of Santa Monica Boulevard, planned to be open throughout the day on Jan. 2.
Surrounded entirely by the city of Los Angeles, West Hollywood is expected to be a hotspot among Los Angeles residents, who may have to wait weeks until licensed adult-use stores open in LA proper.
Shortly after 9 a.m., Alternative Herbal Health Services was busy but not overwhelmed. Security guard Andy Bird, who greeted a steady stream of customers, said that when he arrived at 5:15 a.m., a line had gathered outside. Those waiting were allowed inside the check-in area to wait, he said, but were not permitted to make any purchases until after 6 a.m. due to state limits on operating hours.
A few blocks west, a line began to form outside the upscale cannabis chain MedMen beginning around 8:30 a.m., according to the store’s staff. In addition to multiple local news trucks parked outside the store (and a food truck selling bagels), the line outside the dispensary continued to grow in anticipation of its 10 a.m. opening.
Bill Araiza, in town from Dallas, Texas for the Christmas holiday, described himself as a “cannabis enthusiast” and said he had also been in Denver in 2014, when Colorado became the first US state to begin legal adult-use sales.
“In Denver it was more of a sensation,” he said, suggesting that because medical marijuana has been legal in California for so long, there’s “not quite as much excitement” around adult use.
But for visitors like Jeremy Parks, who was visiting Los Angeles from Oklahoma for the Rose Bowl game on Monday, legal cannabis is still a novelty. Oklahoma still criminalizes even medical cannabis use. Parks said his reason for coming to MedMen today was simple: “To get some marijuana!”
At Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group (LAPCG), which opened at 11 a.m., the line remained steady throug the morning and early afternoon. Lindsey Reese, a budtender working the front desk, said that most of the morning’s customers had been first-timers and adult-use consumers. Only about 15%, she estimated, are returning medical patients.
She stopped to answer the phone. “LAPCG, this is Lindsey speaking,” she said. “We’re recreational today!” —Hayley Fox
Monday, Jan. 1
7:25 p.m. — Amid Scant Guidance, Some in LA Tiptoe Forward With Medical Sales
LOS ANGELES — While much of California is aflutter with legal adult-use cannabis today, businesses in the city of Los Angeles are once again holding their collective breath. Although the city released final commercial cannabis regulations in December, businesses won’t be able to apply for licenses until Wednesday. And it’s possible the permits won’t be issued for weeks.
“Right now there’s a risk in every move we make.”
While state and local officials have indicated that prosecuting medical shops that have otherwise operated in accordance with state law will not be a priority during the interim period, Jerred Kiloh, president of the UCBA Trade Association, which represents about 70 LA medical dispensaries, said there’s been no definitive statement on the matter and an overall lack of intelligibility.
“Tell us what we’re supposed to do and we’ll do it,” Kiloh said. “They have made this so complicated that no one knows the answer.”
There’s also the added wildcard of the Los Angeles Police Department, which has been known for sporadic crackdowns and raids on local medical marijuana dispensaries. It is unclear how they will handle this legal limbo period.
So close to legalization, existing medical dispensaries that want to participate in the state-regulated market are desperately seeking direction in order to avoid jeopardizing their long-awaited shot at licenses. “Right now there’s a risk in every move we make,” said Kiloh. “We’re in a Catch-22 and no one’s giving us clarity.”
Attorneys and industry experts say a Health and Safety Code statute gives some medical shops a “little bit of cover.”
Dispensaries may press ahead anyway. Kiloh and other attorneys and industry experts say that a Health and Safety Code statute within a governor’s trailer bill gives some medical shops a “little bit of cover” to continue to operate until they secure the necessary permits. The clause, he said, essentially allows dispensaries to remain open until December 2018 under the nonprofit collective model made legal by California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996.
“Of course, no one on Jan. 1 can sell adult-use marijuana unless and until they have a local permit in hand and a state license,” said Clark Neubert attorney Ariel Clark, who’s also chair of the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, a local industry group. —Hayley Fox
5:57 p.m. — San Diego Could See Shortages, Operators Say
SAN DIEGO — I’m bouncing along in a 40-foot party bus headed for a shop in Bay Park, a neighborhood adjacent to San Diego’s scenic Mission Bay. The bus has the leatherette seating, disco lights, sound system, and dance pole familiar to the guests of well-lubricated bachelor and bachelorette parties that often take place on them. There’s not a drop of booze here, though. Only carte blanche to consume as much cannabis in whatever form you please.
Every hour on the hour for most of Monday, the bus is running a loop between Urbn Leaf dispensary and Tap Room gastropub in nearby Pacific Beach. The buses are a marketing partnership between the dispensary, the restaurant and Cannabus, a party bus company whose expansion into canna-tourism and parties begins now.
The ride is free, and passengers get to skip to the front of the line at Urbn Leaf, a perk that may save as much as a couple of hours, given that the line held steady at about 100 patrons for hours.
On this particular tour, there’s only one passenger besides me and the owner of the bus company. Perhaps that’s because customers were lined up outside Urbn Leaf starting at 4:45 a.m. Many of them have already had their first taste of legal pot.
Paul Nixon, the passenger, who lives in La Jolla, was elated to get his weekly two grams of extract without a medical card. “The medical thing was just a total hassle,” he says. And disingenuous. “Nobody seemed to give a rip.”
Outside Urbn Leaf, a food vendor hands out free grub. A company that offers massages with cannabis-infused oils gave its services for free, though without any of the THC or CBD, as giving out free samples is verboten under the state’s adult-use rules. And a photo booth was available for anyone desiring a few snaps in which a red-eyed effect may be present for non-flash-related reasons.
“It’s tough to project the demand we’re going to see.”
“This is insane. It’s so crazy,” says owner Will Senn. By midday, the dispensary had seen as many customers as it would expect to in a full day under medical usage, more than 200.
“It’s kind of nice not to feel like a criminal anymore,” says Amanda Perez, a shopper standing in line with a friend who was clad in a cannabis leaf-patterned mini-dress. What was she there to buy? “Everything.”
Leading up to Monday, dispensary employees were prepackaging flower around the clock because new restrictions require all products to be sealed before point-of-sale. In the last days of 2016, the shop drastically reduced its prices on edibles that became non-compliant on New Years Day. Likewise, Senn increased orders of compliant edibles, he says.
Some brands that have been familiar to consumers, Senn says, such as products made by Ripe Edibles and Flavrx, will not be on the shelf at the start of the adult use market because they did not have compliant products ready for sale.
Though San Diego has its share of adult use-licensed shops, the county is not home to any licensed distributor, requiring shipments from far-flung parts of the state. If demand is as high as expected in the first months of the year, dispensary owners aren’t sure they’ll be able to meet it, with waiting periods of up to a month on orders. State-licensed retailers can only work with other licensed businesses.
“That’s the million-dollar question for everyone on the retail side,” Senn tells me.
Already, Urbn Leaf has hit roadblocks to stockpiling inventory as distributors have sold out. “I can see that becoming a major issue in the next couple of weeks,” Senn says. “It might not be an issue in the first week. It’s tough to project the demand we’re going to see.” —Chase Scheinbaum
5:18 p.m. — Regulators Work Through Weekend, to Retailers’ Delight
SACRAMENTO — Three days ago, Kimberly Cargile, operator of A Therapeutic Alternative in Sacramento, was in a panic.
She had submitted her California paperwork for a retail business license to sell cannabis for adult use a week earlier. At 10 a.m. Friday, she got her permit from the city—but the hours stretched into night with no word from the state.
Cargile took to Facebook registering her sentiments as “annoyed”—and more.
“I was thinking we wouldn’t get our license and we would have to close down.”
“Please help!” she pleaded to followers. “Does anyone know the phone number to the Bureau of Cannabis Control. The number on the website is not correct…The clock is ticking…”
“Oh my god, it was horrible,” she reflected Monday. “I was thinking we wouldn’t get our license and we would have to close down.”
She eventually got through after a friend gave her an inside number at the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs, where a contact directed her to a working number for the Bureau of Cannabis Control.
She belatedly found out her state license was certified at 7 p.m. Friday. “I didn’t know they were working through the weekend,” she said.
By New Year’s Day, her worries were replaced by upbeat adrenaline. In the first four hours, starting at 9 a.m., 122 people had streamed into A Therapeutic Alternative, a cavernous converted residential house on H Street in Sacramento’s midtown district. That was more than four times the normal hourly volume for the dispensary under previous medical-only sales.
Cargile, radio in hand while directing customers and her sales staff, wasn’t fretting any longer. It was still eight hours until closing time, but she figured she could float along quite nicely until then. —Peter Hecht
4:45 p.m. — Angelenos, First-Time Buyers Arrive in Desert Cities
DESERT HOT SPRINGS — Nicole Salisbury, co-owner of Green Pearl Organics in Desert Hot Springs, estimates that her first day of adult-use sales is already on track to beat 4/20. At 6:30 a.m., when she arrived at work, there were already two customers waiting in their cars outside (the store opened at 8 o’clock) and, since then, “it’s been like this all day.”
“I’ve had quite a few people out from LA.”
Shortly after noon, the store was mostly full of—a mix of locals and journalists. Salisbury said her sales surge had definitely been driven by Angelenos looking for legal retailers. The city of Los Angeles missed the state’s Jan. 1 sales launch after taking time to adopt local regulations.
The cities of Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, and Cathedral City all automatically converted their existing medical cannabis licensees to adult-use ones, meaning those licensees were all eligible for the temporary state licenses they needed to open on New Year’s Day. The list of stores open on Jan. 1 had been circulated widely, and she suspects that being on the list was responsible for quite a bit of her sales bump.
“Yeah, I’ve had quite a few people out from LA,” she said, adding that some other shops in town aren’t legal because they don’t yet have their state licenses.
For the most part, Salisbury said, she was seeing new faces. She estimated 80% of her customers so far had been adult-use consumers rather than existing medical patients.
Despite the massive influx, she didn’t foresee any inventory shortages. While her edibles were running a bit low, which she attributed to suppliers scrambling to catch up with the state’s latest packaging requirements, she said she was well stocked on everything else. Knowing it’d be a busy day, she’d ordered ahead, and also has a grow facility attached to the dispensary, which they plan to keep under the state’s new microbusiness license.
Prices also hadn’t been affected by the switch, she said, other than the addition of the state’s 15% cannabis tax. She still sells $5 grams and has ten different strains available at that price point. Desert Hot Springs does charge a local cannabis tax, but it mandates that businesses not pass that along to consumers. Medical patients with a valid doctor’s recommendation are also exempt from local sales tax.
Tax wasn’t an issue for Leo, a customer from Joshua Tree who gave only his first name. Not really a regular consumer, he said, he was there for the novelty of it, and was happy to chip in the extra 15%.
“I feel like it’s good for California,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to affect me, because I don’t see myself doing this a lot. I’m just kind of doing it because I can.”
He added, “It’s been illegal my whole life, and now apparently I can just walk in here and [buy it]. … I’ve never done that.” —Tobias Coughlin-Bogue
4:30 p.m. — 40-Minute Wait for Newly Legal Cannabis in San Diego
SAN DIEGO — The wait to buy newly legal cannabis has stretched to 40 minutes at the Mankind Cooperative cannabis retailer in San Diego.
“We’re insane down here. And it’s still going on, girlfriend,” marketing retailer Cathy Bliss said Monday.
A few customers were grumbling about the long wait.
Store workers were handing out commemorative T-shirts showing astronauts on the moon and the phrase “A giant leap for mankind.”
California’s new marijuana law allows sales to people from out of state.
Bliss welcomed buyers from Iowa, Kansas and Canada among her initial customers.
Overall, she was thrilled.
“This is so cool,” she said. —Associated Press
3:27 p.m. — Historic, but ‘Just a Normal Monday’ in Sacramento
The staff at River City Phoenix had seen far busier days than the dawn of California’s legal use era. Sure, the place was bustling, with a packed lobby and waiting room. But it was nothing like the turnout on April 20, when lines would wrap around the establishment as medical-only consumers looked to fill their orders on the high holy day for cannabis.
“It’s a pretty momentous day historically,” said budtender Jack Powell. “But this is just normal Monday for us.”
“I decided I would start off the year by going to a place like this and not to a person.”
The measured turnout seemed to be a testament of how mature the California market already was. Old friends came out for the historical day, another reunion adding warmth to the holiday season. And quite a few people who streamed in were patients overdue for a visit to the doctor or pharmacy.
In fact, the first customer served on the dawn of adult use was a medical patient whose doctor’s recommendation had expired.
Another customer, Steven Burks, 41, a cook at fashionable eateries, used to have a doctor’s recommendation, but it expired when he went to work in Texas for three years. Even after moving back to California, he made his cannabis purchases from local dealers, not permitted dispensaries.
“On the first day of the New Year, I decided I would start off the year by going to a place like this and not to a person,” he said while browsing the offerings at River City Phoenix.
He came in looking for something, a heavy indica, to help deal with his back pain and stomach issues. Then again, on this first day of adult use, he said he would also look for a heady sativa, perhaps, that might pair well with designer pizza or Beef Romanoff. —Peter Hecht
2:37 p.m. — Scenes in Santa Cruz
KindPeoples, which was among the first retailers to be granted a state license, is reporting long lines and hundreds of customers visiting both its Dubois and Soquel locations.
2:25 p.m. — CNN Correspondent Avoids the Contact High
Congrats to CNN National Correspondent Miguel Marquez, who reported live from Buddy’s Cannabis in San Jose, and avoided a contact high.
We offer those congratulations because we remember all too well the report that CNN’s Randi Kaye filed back on Colorado Day One in 2014. Which, truthfully, was one of the most endearingly honest and human moments in cannabis journalism, ever.
Not sure why Kaye wasn’t there to file the report, but…hang on…breaking news from Ad Week:
2:05 p.m. — Sacramento Couple Revisits Cannabis After Decades
SACRAMENTO — The last time Sacramento resident Robert Burgdorf, 72, tried cannabis was in the parking lot of a bridge tournament he played at in 1978 or ’79. He doesn’t remember for sure. He just knows “we were a lot younger then.”
His wife, Andrea Burgdoft, 69, figures her last experience was in 1975—when she took a hit on a joint in a friend’s car. More than four decades later, she was curious what all this fuss over cannabis was about.
“You don’t necessarily need to be crazy cerebrally high to get some back relief.”
On New Years Day, they showed up at River City Phoenix, in Sacramento, emerging like characters out of an old Bob Dylan song, My Back Pages, seeking reawakening (and maybe a celebration of youth):
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now
The retirees, Robert a former schoolteacher and Andrea a former printing industry broker, were out early on California’s first day of legal adult use. Robert was feeling nostalgic, even though he was hardly there for a recreational high.
Robert’s back seized up in pain several weeks ago, and he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. He has trouble standing for long periods. Andrea says they just figured they would wait for Jan. 1 rather than going through the hassle of getting a medical cannabis recommendation, which Robert’s primary care doctor didn’t do.
They went into the dispensary and gazed at the products with fascination and a decided measure of confusion.
“You don’t necessarily need to be crazy cerebrally high to get some back relief,” budtender Jack Powell, 26, told older couple in a calm voice, sounding like a guiding parent.
He led them through low-intensity product offerings and they settled on one some 2 mg Cali Dreamer lozenges, some 5 mg Kiva chocolate blueberries – which Powell suggested they start with by cutting in half – and a tincture dropper from Carters Aromatherapy Designs. They paid $107 in total, the first cannabis purchase of their lives.
“I had just read about this and heard about this,” Andrea said. “I thought it could help.”
“It’s terrific,” Robert said. —Peter Hecht
1:45 p.m. — Time to Set the Cannabis-Incarcerated Free
One of the emerging themes on Twitter today: It’s all well and good to celebrate California’s Legal Day One, but let’s not forget the work to be done. Namely, freeing the people still sitting in prison for growing, selling, and consuming that which is now legal. Just a few samples:
While California celebrates the sanity that is legalized marijuana, 587,000 people in the US were arrested for just possessing marijuana in 2016. That’s more than the number of people arrested for aggravated assault. Or rape. Or murder. Combined. Expunge those records!!
— Francis Maxwell (@francismmaxwell) January 1, 2018
1:34 p.m. — In Sleepy Otay Mesa, It’s ‘Mind-Boggling’
SAN DIEGO — Phones at A Green Alternative, in Otay Mesa, a stone’s throw from California’s border with Mexico, started ringing off the hook days ago. Callers wanted to know: Are you really going to be selling legal cannabis? Are you going to be open on the 1st?
Yes and yes—and today customers streamed into the licensed retailer. Sergio Gonzalez, who splits his time between Mexico and California, was one who arrived at mid-morning. “It’s like Christmas,” he said. Today’s visit was his first time inside of a legal cannabis store of any kind. He was so enthusiastic to show up, he said, he skipped any New Year’s Eve festivities and got an early night’s sleep. “I went to bed at at 11.”
“There’s not a lot of paranoia around it now.”
By the time he’d cycled through the store and made his purchase, he had an exit bag stuffed with two vape cartridges, one container of wax, another of moon rocks, chocolates, two eighths of different strains, and one pre-rolled joint. He thinks the cache will last him a couple of months, even sharing with friends as he intends to do, beginning today. “Little by little,” he said, “I’m going to try everything.”
Eddie Slater drove down from El Cajon, a city northeast of downtown San Diego. “It’s mind boggling. I never thought this day would come, so I wanted to get a taste of legal weed,” he said. “There’s not a lot of paranoia around it now.”
Slater wasn’t put off by prices that are higher than they were before the new law—and the taxes that come with it. “That’s just the government for you.”
Another customer, who asked not to be named, remarked that he showed up to buy CBD oil, but he felt the prices were too high and left without purchasing anything.
In anticipation of adult use, the dispensary bought over 100 pounds of flower, and it double- and triple-stocked its normal supply of edibles and concentrates, said co-founder and CEO Zachary Lazarus. “We’ve always been a sleepy dispensary,” he said, though expects that will change.
In the earliest hours of the newly regulated program, Lazarus says some customers were making larger purchases than usual. Many others were clearly inexperienced with cannabis and learning basics. “They want to know what’s a vape pen, they haven’t seen chocolates,” he said. “It’s a new frontier for them.” —Chase Scheinbaum
12:48 p.m. — A Trip to California Cannabis Country
SEBASTOPOL — The distinction of first legal adult-use marijuana buyer in Sonoma County is one held in tandem by Barry Wood and Mitcho Thompson, two of the founders of this SPARC dispensary, which was called Peace in Medicine when it was created in 2006.
More than a decade ago, “we had four customers on our first day” of medical sales, Wood said, after buying an eighth of Dutch Treat (sticker price at the time: $65 plus sales tax). “When we heard the door open, we’d jump up.”
Today things were decidedly busier.
About the only hiccup a few minutes before noon at SPARC: a shortage of coins.
SPARC opened its doors at 10:30 a.m. to a line of 25 people, many of them seniors and women. Within minutes, the dispensary’s small sales floor—on the first floor of an office building that looks more like an upscale barn—was overwhelmed with customers, as even more waited outside. Every purchase was slipped into an opaque plastic, ziplock-style bags with a “childproof” seal, as required by state law.
Not every city moved quickly enough to pass local regulations in time to see sales begin on Jan. 1, but Sebastopol, with its progressive politics—the town’s former mayor, Robert Jacob, was a Peace in Medicine founder and briefly served as SPARC’s executive director—was one of the few to be ready.
SPARC founder and CEO Erich Pearson also operates dispensaries in Santa Rosa and in San Francisco, where adult use sales will begin Jan. 6, a month after city lawmakers finally passed local regulations for commercial cannabis sales.
“It’s all still surreal,” said Pearson. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, and the work isn’t done by any means.
“In most of the rest of the country there still isn’t medical marijuana,” he said. “There’s still tax reform needed with 280E, there’s still banking. There’s a lot of work left to do, but the priority now is to do it right and show it can be done responsibly.”
The shop estimates it had seen around 150 customers by noon, almost entirely adult-use.
About the only hiccup a few minutes before noon at SPARC: a shortage of coins. This is a problem at cash-only businesses where taxes are due to the decimal point.
12:17 p.m. — Parachuting in to Airfield Supply Co.
At Airfield Supply Co. in San Jose, the first customer lined up at 6:30 a.m. for the store’s 9 a.m. opening. “About 95% of the people we saw this morning were non-patients,” Airfield General Manager Pat Sullivan told me. It’s been fun, he said, overhearing new customers asking about all the products. “There are a lot of smiles, some people are nervous or have the jitters. They’re just trying to figure out what it is they want to buy.”
The past two weeks have been especially busy, with Airfield’s medical patients stocking up before the new state taxes take effect and some traditional high-potency edibles begin to be phased out of the market. “It’s been incredible, how busy we’ve been these past two weeks,” Sullivan said.
As the rush of medical patients ended on Sunday night, they were replaced by a whole new crew of adult-use purchasers, many of whom were stepping into a dispensary for the very first time. Late this morning, customers expressed amazement at the bright, upscale décor and the store’s picture window displaying a working grow room. “The grow window definitely gives those new customers a certain wow factor,” said Sullivan.
And they weren’t shy about sharing their enthusiasm. “One guy came through yelling ‘Wooooo-hooo!!’ a couple hours ago,” said Airfield’s Brie Matulich. “We could hear it all the way in our back offices.” —Bruce Barcott
11:37 a.m. — Scenes From Caliva in San Jose
Photographer James Tensuan was at cannabis retailer Caliva in San Jose, which is one of only a handful of large cities to launch legal adult-use sales on New Year’s Day, and brought back this series of images from this morning’s opening:
10:52 a.m. — A Leafly Editor Makes His First California Cannabis Purchase
At San Jose’s Airfield Supply Co., which is offering customers free t-shirts, wristbands, and other goodies, Leafly deputy editor Bruce Barcott picked up a SensiChew edible (100 mg, $12) and a half-gram White Widow pre-roll ($7). (He would have bought more, he said, but he’s flying out of state this evening.) Edible prices appear are “notably lower” than in Washington state, he reports.
Here’s a closer look at that receipt:
White Widow pre-roll: $7
SensiChew edible: $12
Childproof bag (required on all purchases): $0.75
MBT (San Jose Marijuana Business Tax): $4.75
10:09 a.m. — More Than 400 Licensed Businesses Now Operating, State Says
Several dozen retailers are among the more than 400 state-licensed cannabis businesses licensed to operate on New Year’s Day, according to state regulators. The holiday marks the first day of legal adult-use sales after voters passed Proposition 64 in November 2016.
“This is an historic day for the state of California,” Bureau of Cannabis Control Chief Lori Ajax said in a statement. “It marks the beginning of a legal cannabis marketplace that will be well regulated in order to protect consumers and maintain a level playing field for cannabis-related businesses. We are hopeful that we have put forth a model that other states will look to as an example when they head down the path to legalization.”
More than 1,800 applications for various types of businesses—from testing labs to event organizers—have been received, the bureau said in a press release. That doesn’t count state licenses for cannabis manufacturers and cultivators, which are overseen by the state Department of Public Health and Department of Food and Agriculture, respectively. —Ben Adlin
9:47 a.m. — San Jose’s First Sale: Transdermal Patches
SAN JOSE — After an all-night wait, Miguel Vargas made the first purchase in San Jose this morning. Vargas arrived at 7 o’clock last night and braved chilly temperatures to cut the ribbon at Caliva at 9 a.m. on New Year’s Day. Store manager Erika Heniker waved him in. “Come on up, we have Sarah here to help you!” Budtender Sarah Kaiser took time to find Vargas the products he needed, which were transdermal patches.
“I’ve got surgery soon, to help severe arthritis in both my knees,” Vargas said. Caliva continued to move customers through the line, with seven budtenders serving customers through the morning, and dozens waiting outside for their chance to make history. —Bruce Barcott
Miguel Vargas, 1st in line at #Caliva in SJ, cuts the ribbon after waiting overnight in his car to buy #cannabis edibles for medical reasons. #greenstatepic.twitter.com/Ie0BfQSdz1
— Carolyne Zinko (@CarolyneZinko) January 1, 2018
9:24 a.m. — With Food and Song, Stores Open in San Diego
SAN DIEGO — In the Sorrento Valley neighborhood, Torrey Holistics opened its doors at 7 a.m. to a line that already stretched around two sides of the building. A food truck was on hand to keep customers fed, and the shop’s owners planned to provide a photo booth and play music throughout the day.
“For me, this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
Among the first through the door was Jordan Lynn, who is from Georgia and moved to California just a year ago. The sampler pack of pre-rolled joints that he bought just after 7 a.m. was his first legal cannabis purchase ever.
“For me this is a science experiment, and I’m going to have a great time finding out what I like,” he said.
Before embarking on a career in video-game design, Lynn was headed for law enforcement, he said, so had steered clear of cannabis because of drug testing.
“I’m going to dial in what I like,” he told reporters near the store’s register. “For me, this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
Lynn received a text from a friend on New Year’s Eve asking if he’d like to be at Torrey Holistics in the morning.
“I had no idea what it was. I was like, ‘Is that a chiropractor?’” he said, adding that he hadn’t even been aware of the impending launch of California’s adult-use market. He drove to San Diego from Poway, about 30 minutes east. “This is going to get me straight a lot faster than a chiropractor,” he quipped.
A budtender walked Lynn through the basics of indicas, sativas, and hybrids, a process Lynn said he found straightforward and helpful.
Melissa Margera, a nanny from Philadelphia, was also among the first inside Torrey Holistics. Margera was in California to housesit, not as a cannabis tourist. The visit was a happy accident. “It was just good timing,” she said, explaining that she did some research on which retail stories were licensed and drove in from Encinitas to buy an eighth of organic Superglue and another gram of something new to try.
To meet demand, Torrey stockpiled inventory “well into the 6-digits, value-wise,” leading up to the New Year’s Day launch, said Ruthie Edelson, the shop’s marketing director.
“Flower is still what a majority of patients and adult-use customers are looking for, so we’ll always carry a great variety of premium flower and a combination of edibles, topicals, and drinks,” she said.
Edelson said she expects a rush of new clientele following adult use. “I think we’re going to have a middle-aged to older crowd who’s interested in seeing what a dispensary looks like. There are a lot of teachers and government workers who want to come here.” —Chase Scheinbaum
8:56 a.m. — Crowds Gather for San Jose Sales to Begin
SAN JOSE — The line outside Caliva began forming in the early morning darkness as customers waited to make the city’s first adult-use purchases. City regulations don’t allow cannabis stores to open before 9 a.m., so locals got to sleep in a little later and still catch the excitement.
“I can’t believe today is here!” said CEO Larry Thacker.
Yesterday afternoon, store manager Erika Henika reported that sales were a little more brisk than usual, with medical patients stocking up before the lines formed and the state’s new tax rates kicked in. —Bruce Barcott
8 a.m. — Confusion in LA Amid Launch of Legal Sales
LOS ANGELES — Attorneys advising a group of Los Angeles dispensaries have concluded that those businesses can continue to legally sell medicinal marijuana as “collectives” until they obtain local and state licenses under California’s new system of legal cannabis.
Los Angeles officials announced late last month that the city will not begin accepting license applications until Jan. 3 — and it might take weeks before any are issued. That led to widespread concern that long-established businesses would have to shut down during the interim.
Jerred Kiloh of the United Cannabis Business Association says his group hopes to continue to provide patient access to medicinal marijuana.
The status of the Los Angeles shops highlights broad confusion over the new state law, which went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday. —Associated Press
[Editor’s note: Leafly will have a full story on this issue later today. UPDATE: It’s available here.]
7:55 a.m. — Sales Steady in Berkeley
BERKELEY — By 7:30 this morning, about 50 people had strolled through Berkeley Patients Group. Aside from the festive atmosphere, early opening, and the new childproof plastic bags now required by law, business looked much like it did when the shop handled only medical sales.
“Where are we going to smoke these joints?”
“There’s so much cannabis in California already,” said Sean Luse, BPG’s chief operating officer. “It’s been de-facto legal for so long.”
“We think there’s a lot of room for expansion,” he added, “as long as the taxes don’t scare everyone away.” Customers in Berkeley pay a 26.75% tax on cannabis—a combination of state and local taxes.
BPG saw another first on Monday: its first cannabis vending machine, made by a company called Grasshopper. An employee loaded the machine, carefully placing edibles in childproof plastic bags.
Meanwhile, two BPG employees stood and fiddled with the new bags’ locking mechanism, debating the finer points of prying it open. “These bags, they’re adultproof!” said one.
After cannabis activists Mikki Norris and Chris Conrad recorded the first legal buy at the shop, shortly after 7 a.m., there was a dose of anticlimax.
“Where are we going to smoke these joints?” Conrad asked. “That’s the problem,”
“That’s the next step: on-site consumption,” Norris replied.
One notable absence on Monday morning: the smell of burning cannabis. BPG does not permit on-site consumption, and smoking marijuana in public is illegal in California. Patrons appeared to be abiding by those rules Monday morning, taking their leave in order to celebrate the moment elsewhere. —Chris Roberts
7:09 a.m. — Berkeley Patients Group Starts Up with Prerolls & Edible
BERKELEY — It’s a moonlit morning at Berkeley Patients Group, where Mikki Norris and Chris Conrad, writers and activists who were staunch supporters of Prop. 64, became the first adult-use customers at California’s oldest continuously operating dispensary.
The pair bought three prerolls of Jack Herer shortly after the stroke of 6 o’clock. Sean Luse, BPG’s chief operating officer, wanted activists to be the first in line, and the activists wanted to honor Herer, the legalization activist and late author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes.
Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, longtime cannabis activists and writers, make the first purchase of legal recreational marijuana at Berkeley Patients Group: 3 prerolls and an edible pic.twitter.com/LI5gCB3Z1h
— Chris Roberts (@cbloggy) January 1, 2018
The line formed here at 4 a.m. The first to arrive were a couple from Merced, Anthony Moraga and Aimee Tatum. They bought two eighths of White OG.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin was present for the ribbon cutting, deploying many pot puns in the predawn cold while joined by state Sen. Nancy Skinner.
BPG survived a shutdown attempt from Obama’s Justice Department, when the local US attorney, who lived in Berkeley, filed a civil asset forfeiture proceeding against the dispensary’s landlord. —Chris Roberts
6 a.m. — Harborside in Oakland Records State’s First Legal Sale
OAKLAND — Adult-use cannabis sales kicked off in Oakland as soon as the law allowed on New Year’s Day, with doors opening at 6 a.m. at the iconic Harborside dispensary. Co-founders Steve DeAngelo and brother Andrew DeAngelo completed the first legal sale—a gram of cannabis—to Henry G. Wykowski, a cannabis attorney who helped the company fight off yearslong enforcement actions by federal officials.
The cost for California’s first gram? $20.10. The strain? Neville Purple.
First to the register among non-ceremonial customers were Jeff and Mary Deakin, a married couple in their 60s who’ve been medical marijuana patients at Harborside for 12 years, they said. They were joined by their dog, Rosie, and left the shop with an eighth of an ounce of Durban Sherbet, $56. —Bruce Barcott
12:01 a.m. — New Year Marks New Era for Golden State
Just after midnight, some Californians were raising blunts instead of champagne glasses.
Johnny Hernandez, a tattoo artist from Modesto, celebrated New Year’s Eve by smoking “Happy New Year blunts” with his cousins.
“This is something we’ve all been waiting for,” he said. “It is something that can help so many people and there’s no reason why we should not be sharing that.”
“People might actually realize weed isn't bad. It helps a lot of people.”
Hernandez said he hoped the legalization of recreational marijuana would help alleviate the remaining stigma some still believe surrounds marijuana use.
“People might actually realize weed isn’t bad. It helps a lot of people,” he said.
For those who worked for this day, the shift also offered joyful relief.
“We’re thrilled,” said Khalil Moutawakkil, founder of KindPeoples, which grows and sells weed in Santa Cruz. “We can talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of the specific regulations, but at the end of the day it’s a giant step forward, and we’ll have to work out the kinks as we go.” —Associated Press