First Major California City To Welcome Recreational Weed

Photo By Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post

San Diego just lost a pro football team to Los Angeles, but take heart, jilted NFL fans: You just gained legal recreational marijuana. And the way things stand now, if L.A. wants any weed, it will have to come to you.

As The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting, the Southern California city became the first major urban area in the state to prepare for the recreational cannabis sales allowed under Prop. 64, the marijuana legalization ballot measure overwhelmingly approved by voters in November.

It’s legal for all adults 21 and over in California to consume, possess and cultivate marijuana, but the only places where cannabis can be legally purchased are existing medical marijuana dispensaries. Retail marijuana stores may open as early as Jan. 1, 2018—a deadline dependent on state and local lawmakers getting work done. Cities and counties need to explicitly allow dispensaries, and state lawmakers need to craft statewide rules for recreational marijuana cultivation, testing and sales.

January 1 as the first day of sales is now looking questionable, as some state lawmakers have called for a delay in order to have more time to craft rules. But as San Diego’s City Council demonstrated, less than two months is plenty of time to get it done—provided you’re serious and don’t listen to nonsense.

All 15 of San Diego’s current licensed medical marijuana dispensaries—the city is allowing 15, though only eight have opened—will be able to sell recreational cannabis as well, once the state rules come through, the newspaper reported. Any future dispensaries will also be able to serve any and all customers 21 and over.

San Diego lawmakers also have the distinction of ignoring a pot-hating recommendation police. Later this year, the council will discuss legalizing commercial marijuana cultivation, lab testing and distribution. Cops had recommended that all of the above be banned “based on concerns about crime and other potential problems.”

The basis for those concerns—claims about exploding hash labs and cartels using recreational marijuana farms in Colorado to funnel marijuana out of state—was judged and deemed weak. Particularly weak, considering 62 percent of San Diego voters approved Prop. 64, and the city could rake in as much as $30 million per year in tax revenue.

Legal weed won’t be cheap: San Diego also passed a five percent local tax on cannabis sales, on top of a 15 percent state excise tax and state sales taxes. Still, expensive weed is better than no weed at all, which is what other major cities in California will have to offer if things stand as they are now.

San Diego is the first major city in California to prepare for sales of recreational cannabis, which means the somewhat-conservative oceanfront city—known as much for a sizable military presence than any beach vibes—is ahead of San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Jose in getting ready for the legal future.

All those cities, remember, have active medical marijuana dispensaries. In some cases, these cities’ dispensaries serve medical cannabis patients throughout an entire region—and with outright bans of commercial cannabis activity proving popular in smaller cities and towns, the fleshpots of the cities are likely to continue to serve as regional magnets for legal marijuana sales. Whenever those cities decide to put in the work.

San Diego the city also went in a reverse direction from San Diego the county. The county’s Board of Supervisors recently voted to ban marijuana cultivation and sales in unincorporated areas of the county, a move that will force some current cannabis operations to shut down or go rogue. Apparently the board has never heard of the black market—which, starting next year or whenever the first sale occurs, will have a harder time competing in San Diego.

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