Recreational Pot Sales Begin in California

As of January 1st, Adults 21 and older can legally buy marijuana for personal use and grow up to six plants. The minimum age for medical marijuana use remains 18. Photo credit: Growweedeasy/Morguefile

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Starting this week, Californians ages 21 and older may legally buy marijuana for recreational purposes – no medical marijuana card required.

The state will begin licensing the producers, distributors and storefronts. But there won’t be a “pot shop” on every block, because cities and counties will have their own sets of rules. So, it could take months for many shops to be up and running.

Dale Gieringer, director of Cal NORML, says this is a whole new era of personal freedom in the Golden State.

“It’s huge for California,” he says. “This is the real end of Prohibition, in the sense that we’re going to actually have stores where marijuana is treated more or less like alcohol.”

Cannabis was first banned in California in 1913. Voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996. With the passage of Prop 64 last year, possession of recreational marijuana became legal – and now, consumers will be able to stroll into a store and buy it.

Gieringer says the prices will be high at first, because recreational marijuana is much more highly regulated compared with medical pot.

“So now, we’re going to have very tight regulations over every phase of the market from seed to sale,” he explains. “Every gram is going to be traced, taxed, tested, and this is going to impose a lot of costs on the market.”

That’s one reason he expects the black market to continue to flourish, by some estimates accounting for more than 30 percent of sales, as long as legal marijuana costs significantly more than street value.

The University of California Agricultural Issues Center estimates the legal marijuana market will be worth $5 billion.