World's largest marijuana economy about to kick off

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When the world’s largest pot economy kicks off in less than a month, people over the age of 21 will be able to grow six marijuana plants at home and legally possess up to an ounce of weed.

If you are of legal drinking age, you can also go to a licensed dispensary and buy pot or edibles without a medical cannabis card. But finding one might be tricky, depending on where you live.  

“If you're a medical card holder, going out for a celebratory joint on New Year’s Day will be doable, but for non-medical consumers, that will only be feasible in a few jurisdictions,’’ said Alison Malsbury, a cannabis-specialized attorney monitoring implementation at the firm Harris Bricken.

More than a year after more than half of voters approved Prop. 64, which legalized the sale of recreational pot, many California cities are not ready to apply to the state for temporary business permit, which will be available in a few weeks, said a spokesperson from the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

To get a state license, a business must first have approval from their local city government, and scores of cities and counties are scrambling to finalize their own licensing regulations. That’s because the state only recently released their rules a few weeks ago. The rules (nearly 300 pages) will govern every aspect of the new pot economy – from growing and processing to distribution and sales.

And while experts agree that the new state regulations will most definitely transform the previously unregulated multi-billion-dollar cannabis economy, questions remain.  

“How is the state going to insure that the products that will be sold will be tested, regulated, taxed and legal?” said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, a marijuana industry group. “It unclear when things will start to change.”

Malsbury said the state has been doing a good job of spreading information to potential license applicants.

“But I also think there will be some hiccups, and there are certainly a few points we're still unclear on. I imagine it will take a couple of years before the system is running smoothly,’’ she said.

But even without that fine tuning there are places that will be ready to sell you pot on Jan. 1

Santa Cruz will allow all 12 of its medical marijuana dispensaries to begin selling adult-use recreational marijuana on Jan. 1.  

In San Jose, city leaders approved an ordinance grandfathering in its 16 medical marijuana dispensaries to begin selling recreational marijuana after the new year.

In Berkeley, the City Council passed its city codes regulating adult-use sales and permitting medical cannabis dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana in early January. And just this week, San Francisco city leaders passes an ordinance that will allow the city’s medical cannabis dispensaries to start selling recreational cannabis on Jan. 5.

In Emeryville, city leaders have selected two operators, who can now apply for a use permit and an operator’s permit so they can open their doors and sell pot. But city officials say that will not happen by Jan. 1. 

Of course, there are now those new state rules that dispensaries must follow.

Cannabis businesses must close by 10 p.m., and they need 24-hour video surveillance. Pot can’t be sold at strip clubs or within 600 feet of schools.

Cannabis labels can't be decorated with marketing that appeals to children and manufacturers can't use the term "candy" when branding.

Mixing cannabis with alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or seafood is banned.

But what about the price of pot?

Some industry experts say an eighth of an ounce of good quality marijuana that now sells for $35 in dispensaries could cost $50 to $60 after Jan. 1. Others predict increases could be even steeper, up to 25 percent.

“I think the wholesale price is definitely going to increase,” said Allen from the California Growers Association. “(A price increase) will depend on whether or not retailers continue to mark-up products by 100 percent. We even hear of some retailers taking more than 100 percent.”

Here's a look at where 10 Bay Area cities stand:

Berkeley

There are medical dispensaries open in your town.

You can start a recreational pot garden outdoors.

You will not have recreational stores to go to come Jan. 1, 2018.

Richmond

There are medical dispensaries open in your town.

You can start a recreational pot garden outdoors.

You will not have recreational stores to go to come Jan. 1, 2018.

Oakland

There are medical dispensaries open in your town.

You can start a recreational pot garden outdoors.

You will not have recreational stores to go to come Jan. 1 2018.

Fremont

There are no medical dispensaries open in your town.

You can not start a recreational pot garden outdoors.

You will not have recreational stores to go to come Jan. 1, 2018.

El Cerrito

There are no medical dispensaries open in your town.

You can start a recreational pot garden outdoors.

You will not have recreational stores to go to come Jan. 1, 2018.

San Ramon

There are no medical dispensaries open in your town.

You can start a recreational pot garden outdoors.

You will not have recreational stores to go to come Jan. 1, 2018.

Dublin

There are no medical dispensaries open in your town.

You can start a recreational pot garden outdoors.

You will not have recreational stores to go to come Jan. 1, 2018.

San Mateo

There are no medical dispensaries open in your town.

You can not start a recreational pot garden outdoors.

You will not have recreational stores to go to come Jan. 1, 2018.

Pacifica

There are medical dispensaries open in your town.

You can start a recreational pot garden outdoors.

You will not have recreational stores to go to come Jan. 1, 2018

San Rafael

There are no medical dispensaries open in your town.

You can start a recreational pot garden outdoors.

You will not have recreational stores to go to come Jan. 1, 2018.

 

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