There’s less than 90 days until California’s January 1, 2018 deadline to make adult-use cannabis sales legal, but don’t expect long lines and green fireworks like we saw in Nevada on July 1, 2017. Many cannabis regulators and city officials are saying they won’t be ready in time, and it could be six to 18 months before recreational weed is available for purchase.
Neither San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles nor San Diego predict their cities will be ready on New Year’s Day.
“Cities and counties all seem to be in various states of readiness,” saidAlex Traverso, the spokesperson for the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC).
Dispensaries, or any stores, can’t sell adult use cannabis without permits from both the state and their local city or county. And neither the state of California nor cities and counties have finished writing their regulations for permits.
“Emergency” state regulations are expected from the BCC by mid-November, and many cities are waiting for these before drafting their local regulations.
“California is such a big state that we [BCC] feel it’s more important to make sure we get things right instead of rushing to get things done,” said Traverso.
On top of that, California never finished writing state regulations for its medical cannabis program that was passed back in 1996. That means regulators have twice as much work to do.
“To produce a whole body of regulations for an entirely new legal industry in slightly more than a year is quite fast. The process is slightly delayed because of the recent SB 94 which combined and somewhat simplified the two different regulatory systems for the medical and recreational markets,” said cannabis attorney Robert A. Raich.
In June, California Governor Brown passed SB 94 which combined the state’s medical and recreational cannabis programs into one regulatory system with the Medical and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA).
“So since that time, we’ve been working on these regulations and hope to have them finished by mid-November,” said Traverso.
Plus, because big cities like San Francisco already have extensive medical marijuana programs with hundreds of unregulated medical cannabusinesses; they will take longer to regulate than cities with relatively small medical pot markets.
Unlike Nevada, which had some of the strictest medicinal pot regulations in the country prior to introducing adult-use sales, California has to essentially start from scratch.
Online applications for state licenses should be available by mid-December, but cannabusinesses will first need local licenses to be approved by the state, which could take more than a year to write, depending on the city.
Issuing temporary city approvals is also an option to speed this process along, as proposed in the city of Oakland.
“Although Oakland is in the process of issuing licenses, it is planning to issue temporary approvals to applicants waiting for licenses so that people can apply for state licenses as soon as they are available,” said Raich.
Beyond temporary “approvals,” some cities with smaller medical cannabis programs are considering temporary licenses for their existing medical dispensaries to sell adult-use cannabis. These cities, like Sacramento, could become “hot spots” for recreational cannabis sales this winter
“We are proposing to the City Council that our 30 existing dispensaries be given the option to sell adult use through a temporary permit. The item is going before [the] Council on November 21, and if it is approved, we might just be able to issue the temporary permits before the end of the year in time for January 1, 2018,” said Zarah Cruz, spokesperson for the City of Sacramento’s Office of Cannabis.
In addition to Sacramento, Santa Cruz County is also trying to make recreational cannabis available at their existing 12 medical dispensaries in time for the deadline.
“We are planning to amend our existing dispensary licensing ordinance to allow for sales of both medical and adult-use cannabis. The Board of Supervisors must approve the revised ordinance, but we expect to have something before the Board as soon as possible, so that we are ready come January 1,” said Robin Bolster-Grant, cannabis licensing manager for Santa Cruz County.
For now, it is legal for adults 21 and older to possess, transport and gift up to one ounce of cannabis flower and seven grams of extract. Plus, of-age California residents can also grow up to six “personal use” cannabis plants indoors.
But as for purchasing cannabis in big cities, it’s definitely advisable to renew your medical card if it’s set to expire soon. And out-of-towners should hold off on booking plane tickets to California in early 2018 for a legal ganga getaway. High Times will keep you posted as this situation develops.