Harborside in Oakland aims to be first to sell recreational marijuana legally

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Traditionally, the first baby born after the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1 is the big news story of the day on New Year’s.

But in California, and in Oakland, specifically, the first ounce of recreational marijuana sold legally is the story that is sure to grab the biggest headlines.

And that ounce – and many, many more – is expected to be sold at Harborside, founded in 2006 and is now the largest nonprofit collective dispensary on the West Coast. Doors open at 6 a.m. on Monday.

Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo said the moment is historic: Legalizing marijuana ends 100 years of "propaganda and Prohibition."

"The full legalization of cannabis in the world's sixth largest economy is a huge milestone in my life's work of bringing cannabis out of the shadows and into the light," he said in an email. "More importantly, it makes an amazingly beneficial wellness product available to tens of millions of people and sends a beacon of hope to hundreds of millions more living in states and countries still suffering under Prohibition." 

DeAngeleo wanted to be first because as a marijuana activist for 45 years, he has pioneered many "firsts." Harborside was the first in the national to offer lab-tested, CBD-rich medicine, the first in the country to support marijuana education for seniors, veterans and families with severely ill children, and the first to treat children with Dravet syndrome. He also co-founded the nation's first cannabis-testing facility, Steep Hill Labs, and the country's first cannabis investment and research firm, the ArcView Group.

DeAngelo was able to obtain waivers that allowed him to bypass laws stating that cannabis sales can only occur between 9 a.m and 10 p.m. just for the day. Harborside has another location in San Jose, where doors will open at 9 a.m.

The rollout at the 1940 Embarcadero boutique – which some liken to “Apple-store-meets-trendy-coffee-shop”  –  will be far from mundane, organizers promise. Customers are expected to line up, camp out and inevitably party even before the clock strikes 12. All sorts of freebie schwag (no, but the good kind) will be handed out. The first 100 people in line will get Harborside flags and T-shirts. A live brass band will play in the background.

And dignitaries including former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf have been invited. Brown has been a legal and political consultant for Harborside and is now on the board of directors.

Harborside is now overseen by FLRish Retail Management and Security Services LLC.

Other dispensaries plan to follow suit as well and give Harborside a run for its money.  GreenState reports that Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin will perform a ribbon-cutting at Berkeley Patients Group in Berkeley, where employees also plan to open shop at 6 a.m. Phytologie in Oakland also plans to open at 6 a.m.