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New era opens in California with first sales of recreational marijuana
New era opens in California with first sales of recreational marijuana

New era opens in California with first sales of recreational marijuana

San Francisco Gate
January 1, 2018


Before sunrise on New Year's Day, cashiers welcomed the first legal sales of recreational marijuana in California, launching a new industry expected to bring in billions of dollars while accepting new regulations and taxes.

The day has been long anticipated by cannabis advocates who pushed for voters to pass Proposition 64 in November 2016, largely decriminalizing marijuana and allowing – starting Monday – for the commercial sale of products to adults 21 or older.

In Berkeley, Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner joined a couple dozen people outside the Berkeley Patients Group for the first sales.

"I'm stoked about this historic moment not just for Berkeley but for the state of California." Arreguin said. "This is a long time coming."

The first sale happened at 6 a.m. Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, longtime marijuana advocates, bought three joints as the crowd cheered "Happy New Year!"

"We waited a long time for this" Conrad, 64, said.

They spent $45.37 on the three joints, weed named after Jack Herer, their friend and now decreased advocate for legalized marijuana.

Some people stayed up all night to get a spot in line. Others went to bed early to get there before 6 a.m.

Anthony Moraga, 28, drove from Merced on Sunday so he could be in line at 4 a.m. – the first customer in line at Berkeley Patients Group. But he was the second to make a purchase. The store had selected longtime activists Conrad and Norris to be first.

He spent $120 on marijuana flowers or buds, and with a $32 tax added on the total came to $152 dollars.

"It's historic," he said "it's the first time we can come out in the public ... Paying taxes on our legal purchase."

Moraga said he felt like it was a huge weight off his shoulders to be a legal recreational buyer. He said it's time to demonstrate responsible healthy use, "rather than the party crowd we have been demonized as."

The handful of shops making recreational sales on Monday acquired both local and state licenses. They included Harborside, Purple Heart and Blum in Oakland; Berkeley Patients Group and Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley; 7 Stars Holistic Healing Center in Richmond; Mercy Wellness in Cotati; and SPARC and Solful in Sebastopol.

Former federal attorney Henry Wykowski bought one gram of the Neville's Purple strain from Harborside in Oakland for $20.01 after Harborside founder and longtime cannabis activist Stephen DeAngelo proclaimed, "We've been waiting a long time for this."

The dispensary staff cheered as hundreds stood in line outside the club, waiting to shop and celebrate.

Additional locations are expected to offer recreational marijuana in coming days and weeks, including outlets in San Francisco. But many cities are expected to bar the sales altogether.

At some shops, the coming-out party was expected to feature live music, coffee and doughnuts, prizes for those first in line and speeches from supportive local politicians – a far cry from the days when the cannabis trade operated in the shadows.

Marijuana remains illegal by federal standards. But several states, including Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, and now California, have legalized both medicinal and recreational use.

As of November 2016, California law allows adults 21 or older to possess and transport up to one ounce of cannabis flower, as well as up to eight grams of extract or infused foods. Smoking in public is still prohibited.

Medical marijuana will continue to be available through existing dispensaries to those with a valid I.D. and a doctor's recommendation.

But as of Monday morning, all customers buying cannabis products will pay a 15 percent state excise tax, which is expected to eventually bring in $1 billion or more a year for marijuana research, addiction prevention and boosted law enforcement, among other things.

Recreational customers must pay sales tax as well, unlike those with a state-authorized medical identification card. In addition, cities can choose to impose local cannabis taxes.

In Oakland, taxes for most customers will increase from 14.25 percent to 34.25 percent, according to Harborside officials.

Bulk buys are not allowed, with state law limiting daily purchases to one ounce of cannabis flower, eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and six immature plants per customer.


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