A billboard advertising marijuana in advance of the upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana in San Francisco, California, U.S. December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Christie
|Marijuana plants for sale are displayed at the California Heritage Market in Los Angeles, California July 11, 2014. REUTERS/David McNew|
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California adults not content to ring in the New Year with the traditional fizz of champagne can look forward to celebrating with the buzz of marijuana, purchased for the first time from state-licensed retailers of recreational pot.
Dozens of newly authorized marijuana stores are due to open for business across California on Jan. 1, launching yet another chapter in America's drug culture and the largest regulated commercial market for cannabis in the United States - one valued at several billion dollars.
The rollout is expected to be gradual and bumpy. The state only began handing out licenses in mid-December, issued on a temporary basis because implementing regulations were still under review.
Newly permitted retailers will rely on a hodge-podge of marijuana producers in the state's illicit "gray market" to stock their shelves for the next six months, until state-licensed growers can harvest their first crops.
And many jurisdictions, notably Los Angeles and San Francisco, will be closed to business in the recreational pot sector for days or weeks because of additional local approvals applicants must win.
Shops in San Diego, San Jose, the Bay area-towns of Berkeley and Oakland, and Eureka - the heart of Northern California's cannabis country - are among those ready to go on Day One, said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the state Cannabis Control Board.
"The market is going to be kind of rough getting started," said Jordan Lams, chief executive of Moxie, a company based in the Los Angeles suburb of Lynwood that specializes in making cannabis extracts, including oils used in electronic vaporization, or "vape," devices.
He predicted supply shortages early on.
California led the way in legalizing marijuana for medical purposes in 1996, and more than 30 states have followed suit since then, though cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under U.S. law.
On Monday, California will become the sixth U.S. state, and by far the most populous, to legalize, regulate and tax sales of recreational marijuana - a market catering to consumers wishing to buy the drug for its mind- and mood-altering properties.