Your Guide to California’s New Recreational Marijuana Rules

Los Angeles Magazine


Welcome to the brave new world of weed

In California, New Year’s Day 2018 will ring in more than just a hangover and a handful of half-baked resolutions. It will bring sweeping change as the state’s much-anticipated Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act fully comes into effect. Passed by voters in November 2016, Proposition 64 legalized recreational cannabis for people 21 and older. The initiative allowed for possessing, transporting, and sharing up to an ounce of cannabis and eight grams of cannabis concentrate, as well as growing as many as six plants at home.

But unlike other states that have legalized weed, California has more than 20 years of experience dealing with legalized medical marijuana, which has actually complicated the process of nailing down some of the specifics regarding recreational use. So the state gave itself until the start of 2018 to sort things out. The City of L.A. and L.A. County have been scrambling along with legislators to establish regulations for businesses that cultivate, manufacture, distribute, and sell weed and related products.

Some rules that go into effect on January 1 are likely to change, but for now, here’s what you need to know.

Seller’s Market

While you’ve able to light up legally since November 2016 (not just anywhere, though; for more on that, keep reading), you haven’t been able to saunter into a shop and buy the stuff over the counter for expressly recreational (officially called “adult-use”) purposes. To sell pot and its products legally, retailers need to have a license issued by the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (formerly known as the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation) as well as permission from local authorities to operate. Alex Traverso, the bureau’s chief of communications, says his department “won’t know until the time comes” how many applicants there’ll be by New Year’s Day (although a 2016 California Department of Food and Agriculture survey found 2,718 companies interested in seeking licenses in L.A. County). The state is also prepping temporary licenses, good for four months, to go to existing dispensaries that can prove they’re in compliance with local regulations. In the city of Los Angeles, applications from existing medical marijuana dispensaries will get priority, provided they’re submitted within 60 days of when licenses become available (the city hasn’t yet determined when it will start issuing them). And, under proposed guidelines released in September, cannabis delivery will be available.

Corner Shop

As for what types of stores you can expect to see, Josh Drayton, the communications and outreach director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, says to think more boutique and less neon-and-bong head shop. “The consumer has changed,” he notes, “and modern brick-and-mortar dispensaries are turning into well-organized showrooms and lounges. My marker has always been, ‘Would I bring my mother into this space?’ ”

The WeHo branch of the medical marijuana dispensary MedMen, which expects to sell recreational weed as well.