Cannabis 101: Here's what you need to know about recreational marijuana

Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.
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Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.
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Here’s the lowdown on recreational marijuana starting New Year’s Day in Sacramento

By Brad Branan And Molly Sullivan

bbranan@sacbee.com

December 31, 2017 11:40 AM

Maybe you want to participate in the historical moment, the day when the nation’s largest producer of cannabis becomes the country’s largest legal marijuana market.

Or maybe you just want to nurse a hangover from New Year’s Eve with a few tokes.

Whatever your reason, if you’re 21 or older, you can legally buy marijuana in Sacramento and other places in California starting Monday. As of Sunday afternoon, seven dispensaries received permits to sell recreational weed in Sacramento, and their owners raced to prepare for the new landscape.

“Are we ready for what’s going to happen? We’re not sure,” said Phillip Blurton, who owns All About Wellness in midtown Sacramento, which received state approval Saturday. “We don’t know if it’s going to be a rush of people. We really don’t know what to expect. We are fully staffed (Monday), it’s all hands on deck.”

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While California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, four states and Washington, D.C. preceded it as the first places to allow recreational weed for sale. The change means adult Californians no longer need a doctor’s recommendation to buy marijuana legally.

“This process has not been easy for anyone. Not for the state, the city, the industry or the medical patients,” said Kimberly Cargile, owner of A Therapeutic Alternative in East Sacramento. “But we are getting there and Proposition 64 is now in full effect.”

A Therapeutic Alternative became the first dispensary in the city Friday to receive needed state and local permits to sell recreational cannabis. The dispensary will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony 9 a.m. Monday.

All About Wellness was jammed with customers Sunday as medical users tried to get their last purchases before new taxes kick in Monday. There was a line of about 10 people at the counter inside and a steady stream of people coming in and out the front door. Blurton said he’s planning to have two lines on Monday: one for patients, the other for recreational buyers.

“It’s nice to be one of the first dispensaries in California to have a medical and an adult use recreational license,” Blurton said. “Now we just have to be prepared.”

California’s 2016 legalization vote gave local governments the power to ban sales, making local politics the deciding factor in where retail weed is available. So far, most of the approved retail marijuana shops are in coastal communities and in the Southern California desert.

Before the state released an updated list of approved retail outlets late Friday, there was only one approved retail store in the Central Valley – an area as long geographically as Florida.

Now, there are seven dispensaries in Sacramento with state and local permits. They include: A Therapeutic Alternative, All About Wellness, Northstar Holistic Collective, Abatin Wellness Center, Alpine Alternative, RCP Sacramento and Connected Cannabis.

State and city regulators worked through the weekend to get permits approved by New Year’s Day, as required under Proposition 64.

Sacramento pot czar Joe Devlin has approved 10 dispensaries for retail sales – leaving three that had yet to receive state approval as of Sunday afternoon.

Devlin had nothing but praise for the state Bureau of Cannabis Control, which is responsible for the state’s retail marijuana licensing.

“The state has been a great partner. We have worked closely together to make a complicated process as smooth as possible,” Devlin said, adding that he has been working directly with bureau chief Lori Ajax to “make sure the right people are getting permits.”

The approval process in Sacramento and many other places was compressed into one month. That’s because the state and the city of Sacramento did not approve regulations for retail sales until late November. The state regulations govern everything about how marijuana can be grown, shipped and manufactured into various products. Many acknowledge that it could take a year or longer for the system to work smoothly.

California has issued more than 300 licenses across the state, according to Alex Traverso, spokesman for the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

“There’s a lot more to do, but it’s been a really good start,” Traverso said.

If you plan to buy recreational weed Monday, here are some things to know:

▪ You need a valid ID or driver’s license from any state to purchase cannabis from a dispensary. You also need cash as dispensaries generally don’t accept credit or debit cards.

▪ You cannot consume marijuana at a dispensary or at any other public location. You can imbibe at home, assuming you own it or have your landlord’s permission.

▪ It is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis. While there is quite a bit of dispute about what constitutes impairment under the influence of weed, best to play it safe, especially on New Year’s Day when law enforcement steps up traffic patrols.

▪ If you’re a newbie, take the time to talk to dispensary staff about your experience and what kind of high you want. Their experience working with medical marijuana patients has given them knowledge about the different effects of cannabis.

▪ Start slow – today’s weed is much stronger than it was in the past. If you want to smoke it, you can buy anything from a gram to an ounce of buds or you can buy joints (called “pre-rolls” these days.) Take a toke or two and see how you feel before continuing. With edible marijuana products, only eat as much as recommended by a dispensary. It can take a while for edibles to kick in.

Sacramento recreational dispensaries

As of Sunday afternoon, these dispensaries in Sacramento were approved by state and city regulators to sell recreational marijuana starting New Year’s Day.

▪ Abatin Wellness Center, 2100 29th St., Sacramento, 916-822-5699

▪ All About Wellness, 1900 19th St., Sacramento, 916-454-4327

▪ Alpine Alternative, 8112 Alpine Ave., Sacramento, 916-739-6337

▪ A Therapeutic Alternative, 3015 H St., Sacramento, 916-822-4717

▪ Connected Cannabis, 2381 Fruitridge Rd., Sacramento, 916-475-1857

▪ Northstar Holistic Collective, 1236 C St., Sacramento, 916-476-4344

▪ RCP Sacramento, 1508 El Camino Ave., Sacramento, 916-925-5696

Sources: California Bureau of Cannabis Control, City of Sacramento