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Not With A Bang, But A Whimper: California Legalizes Cannabis

Auld Lang Syne rings in a new era for cannabis enthusiasts and investors alike come Monday, as California prepares to open the largest recreational-use market in the country on January 1. Enthusiasm is dampened, however, as the Associated Press reports that only 42 retail licenses have been issued as of Thursday afternoon. San Diego, the Palm Springs area, and Santa Cruz are ready for the new year celebration, while larger cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco were a step behind in approving regulations. For those cities, the wait for legalized cannabis continues.

Further complicating the new year celebration are worries over supply, as dispensaries are still unsure about what demand will be like on day one. According to the Associated Press, state officials are working overtime to issue retail licenses to meet consumer demand. Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, told the Associated Press that California would “issue as many licenses as we can.”

“On January 1, people are going to want to go out and buy cannabis,” Traverso told The Washington Post. “They’re going to have to be patient in that not every place will be up and running.”

California Legalizes Cannabis
Laurie Avocado [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)] Wikimedia Commons

In fact, The Washington Post paints a scene of chaos and confusion in California, with different counties and municipalities with varying levels of preparedness for prohibition’s repeal. Some critics accuse politicians of purposely holding up the process, making it difficult for businesses to grasp the rules of the new landscape.

“At the moment you have counties that have either outright banned, you have counties that have no clue, you have counties that have a clue,” David Hua, founder and CEO of Meadow, a medical marijuana delivery service told The Washington Post. “I feel like I’ve just gotten a major in political science and all this other stuff that I had no intention of doing, but it’s necessary.”

Of concern to smaller businesses is that the new regulations are far too friendly to larger corporations, leaving traditional mom-and-pop operations to fend for themselves. “California’s traditional cannabis industry has been thrown under the bus, and California is about to roll out the red carpet for large corporations,” one state Senator told The Washington Post.

Still, come Monday morning there will be plenty of celebrating. According to the Associated Press live music and t-shirt giveaways are just a small part of what one local outlet is calling the “Fweedom” festival. The mayor of Berkley will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6:00 AM, a county supervisor will do the same in San Jose an hour later.

“You’ll see the people who have been consumers for decades and they were for legalization back in the ’60s,” one dispensary told the Associated Press. “But you’re also going to see a more mainstream group of people who were waiting for the green light.”

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