California legalises weed - but Los Angeles’ medical dispensaries have been left dazed and confused

California pot shops ring in 2018, ring up first legal sales

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 3:06am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 9:12pm

After the stroke of midnight January 1, California became the latest US state to legalise recreational marijuana use – but rather than flying high, Los Angeles’ existing medical dispensaries were left dazed and confused about whether they could stay open.

LA officials announced late last month that the city will not begin accepting licence applications until January 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.

However, lawyers advising a group of the city’s dispensaries have concluded that they can continue to legally sell medicinal marijuana as “collectives”, until they obtain the new local and state licences.

Jerred Kiloh of the United Cannabis Business Association said 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 12:01am on Monday.

Outside Los Angeles, however, the mood was more merry.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin was on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony as his city began selling marijuana legally on New Year’s Day.

The mayor was joined by state Senator Nancy Skinner as pot sales began early Monday at Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the nation.

Customers began lining up before dawn to be among the first to purchase legal marijuana in state, with around 100 people lining up in the car park of the Harborside marijuana dispensary in Oakland, California.

The crowd sipped coffee and munched doughnuts, braving overnight temperatures in the mid-40s Fahrenheit (around 6 degrees Celsius).

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The dispensary offered its first customers special gifts. Harborside is one of about 90 California businesses that received state licences to open on New Year’s Day.

Some Californians raised blunts instead of brandy as they ushered in the new year.

Johnny Hernandez, a tattoo artist from Modesto, was celebrating New Year’s Eve by smoking “Happy New Year blunts” with his cousins.

Hernandez, who is a medical marijuana user, said legalising recreational pot is “something we’ve all been waiting for.”

The 29-year-old said he also hoped that the legalisation of recreational, adult-use marijuana will help alleviate a stigma some believe still surrounds marijuana use.

About 90 businesses that received state licences are concentrated in San Diego, Santa Cruz, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Palm Springs area.

So-called recreational pot is now legal for adults 21 and older. Individuals can grow up to six plants and possess as much as an ounce.

Los Angeles and San Francisco are among the many cities where recreational pot will not be available right away. Other places, including Fresno, Bakersfield and Kern County, outlawed recreational marijuana sales.