San Francisco Goes Legal: Live Updates

Editor’s Note: San Francisco’s adult-use era opened today, with a handful of stores licensed and operating across the city. Leafly’s Chris Roberts will update the scene throughout the morning.

10:41 a.m. — “A Real Shift in History” at Medithrive

Survivors, now thriving: Misha Breyberg, left, and fellow co-founder Sasha Protitsa greeted their first adult-use customers at Medithrive this morning. (Chris Roberts for Leafly) 

Misha Breyberg greeted his first adult-use customers at Medithrive this morning with an ear-to-ear grin. “Everyone is walking in with a big smile on their face,” said Breyburg, the store’s co-founder. “It feels like a real shift in history. Today is an historic moment.”

Medithrive, which shut down during the 2011-era raids, then re-opened in 2014, enjoyed another kind of 're-opening' this morning.

Medithrive was one of six San Francisco dispensaries licensed to start selling recreational cannabis on Saturday. It was an especially proud moment for Breyburg and his co-founder Sasha Protitsa. Their dispensary closed during the Obama Justice Department crackdown in 2011. They reopened after Congress passed the 2014 Rohrabacher-Farr budget rider, which prevented the DOJ from spending any money to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana operations.  

And so. After today’s historic opening and celebration comes business as usual… and all the headaches that haven’t gone away: taxation, banking, finding a clean supply chain, and those meddlesome feds. We’ll be back with more news as it happens. Until then: #legalized it. Enjoy yourself, San Francisco. 

9:21 a.m. — In the Castro, Honoring the Pioneers

The Apothecarium, in the Castro: State Sen. Scott Wiener (at mic), company CEO Ryan Hudson (middle), and San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy gather to open the store and honor Milk, Peron, and others who paved the way. (Photo: Chris Roberts for Leafly)

At 8:30 a.m. there were two people in line at the Apothecarium in the Castro district, not far from where Dennis Peron first sold medical marijuana out of a series of storefronts starting in the 1970s.

'This is the neighborhood where it all started.'
Ryan Hudson, CEO, The Apothecarium

For a while, there were more media and politicos than marijuana customers. State Sen. Scott Wiener, Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, and others were on hand for the opening.

“This is the neighborhood where it all started,” founder and CEO Ryan Hudson says. “None of this would have happened” without the patients who received healing from cannabis during the AIDS crisis.

Dominic Rea, first in line (in sunglasses).

At 9:00 a.m., the first adult-use customers came through the door. Frank Sinatra crooned over the dispensary’s PA as buyers perused offerings under the store’s classy chandelier. 

The first buyer, Dominic Rea, was in line when I got here at 8:30. He was one of two. “I’m not here for myself. I have my marijuana. I’m here for everyone who came before me–the legalization activists who aren’t here today,” he told me. 

Inside, dignitaries all gave thanks and praise to the giants on whose shoulders they stood. Founder and owner Ryan Hudson noted his location — the Castro, the neighborhood that gave us Harvey Milk, one of America’s first openly gay elected officials. The Castro was also an epicenter for the suffering and death of the AIDS crisis, which originally gave rise to the use of cannabis as a healing medicine for those suffering from the nausea and wasting caused by the virus. 

There were strong words aimed at “crazy” Attorney general Jeff Sessions, “who wants to take us back to the 1950s,” Sen. Scott Wiener said. There was also talk of immediate political fallout, including new momentum for a bill from State Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer that would declare California a cannabis “sanctuary state,” and prohibit local law enforcement from participating in any federal crackdown.

Even Gov Jerry Brown, no huge friend of cannabis but a vocal critic of the Trump regime, might be on board this year, Wiener said.

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8:01 a.m. — A Brief Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Green Cross

“Good morning everybody. We’re open,” besuited Kevin Reed said as he cut a red ribbon across the door of his storefront. And with that, the marijuana legalization era in San Francisco began. 

Five customers were in line. First purchase honor went to Jesse Stout, one of Green Cross’s company lawyers.

Jesse Stout makes the first adult-use purchase at Green Cross in San Francisco this morning.(Chris Roberts for Leafly)

Update, 7:22am PST–“Okay, one [customer] just arrived,” Reed texts.

Update, 7:20am PST, Jan 6Maybe all this last minute permitting is bad for business, or maybe cannabis consumers have legalization fatigue: 40 minutes before the first sale of legal cannabis in san Francisco, “not one single person” outside the Green Cross dispensary, founder and CEO Kevin Reed tells me.

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California Goes Legal: Updated List of Open Adult-Use Stores

7:00pm PST, Jan 5–Today’s a big day in marijuana history: The first day of legal sales to all adults 21 and over in San Francisco, the medical cannabis movement’s cradle.

Beginning at 8 a.m. today, six of the city’s roughly three dozen storefront marijuana dispensaries began taking customers without requiring medical-marijuana paperwork.

They are: The Apothecarium, Grassroots, The Green Cross, Harvest on Geary, Medithrive, and ReLeaf Herbal Cooperative.

Green Cross and Grassroots both opened at 8 a.m., with Apothecarium and Medithrive opening after 9 a.m.

Thirty-one of the city’s 46 existing medical marijuana storefronts and delivery services sought licenses from the state to start sales today.

After reviewing security plans, good neighbor policies, and proposals to employ locals and people of color, the city’s Office of Cannabis recommended seven dispensaries to receive approval, and the vital state license, from the California Bureau of Cannabis Control.

And just as it did last weekend, the BCC issued licenses well into the evening on Friday, in some cases giving business owners a scant 12 to 14 hours’ notice that their customer base was about to expand exponentially.

The seventh dispensary, Shambhala Healing Center, apparently needed more paperwork from its landlord—who was away on vacation and couldn’t be reached, a disappointed owner Al Shawa told me.

For the lucky six, the emails from the BCC set off a furious scramble to open early, arrange staffing and invite a few politicians to a hastily-planned ceremony—and then make history.

Marijuana has been sold openly in this city since at least the 1970s, when Dennis Peron ran a major weed-dealing operation out of a Castro District restaurant. The first medical marijuana dispensaries in America were here, and now, five days after commercial sales began across the bay in Berkeley and Oakland (where lawmakers were just quicker to the punch), the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry has arrived.

“I would compare it to when the city tries to get the Olympics come in,” said Misha Breyburg, Medithrive’s founder. “It’s one of those moments where you feel like laughing and crying at the same time.”

Medithrive has had a tougher road than most: It was one of the dispensaries to shut down during an Obama-era crackdown in 2011-2012. One-third of San Francisco’s legal pot clubs went away. Medithrive went delivery-only, and reopened only after Congress removed funding from the Justice Department to go after medical marijuana. (Shambhala, too, survived the crackdown, and was one of the few dispensaries to challenge the local U.S. attorney in court.)

We’ll be bouncing all around the city today to see who’s heard the good news and turned out bright and early. Check back for updates.