Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1. Paul Kitagaki Jr. Brad Branan
Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1. Paul Kitagaki Jr. Brad Branan

California Weed

It’s still unclear if recreational marijuana will be sold in Sacramento on Jan. 1

By Brad Branan

bbranan@sacbee.com

December 28, 2017 04:55 PM

Four days before marijuana becomes legal to sell for recreational use in California, it remains an open question whether consumers will be able to buy it in Sacramento on Jan. 1.

Most of the city’s 30 medical marijuana dispensaries have expressed interest in retail sales and some of them have applied for permits from the state and city. Both state and city permits are needed to sell marijuana.

But none of them had been permitted by the city or state as of Thursday afternoon.

Joe Devlin, the city’s pot czar, said he still expects three dispensaries to receive city permits before Monday. Those dispensaries are A Therapeutic Alternative on H Street, Abatin Wellness Center on 29th Street and Valley Health Options on Auburn Boulevard.

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Alex Traverso, spokesman for the state Bureau of Cannabis Control, said regulators were busy processing applications and he could not provide information on the status of those from Sacramento. He said bureau employees will work through the weekend to grant permits and some could come through then. Thirteen dispensaries from Sacramento have applied for retail licenses.

Kimberly Cargile, owner of A Therapeutic Alternative, said she is getting impatient.

“Hopefully the state will get its act together because we need a license,” she said. “It’s very stressful for me and my staff to not know what’s going on.”

So far, the state has approved recreational sales at 42 stores. Most of the stores are located in the Bay Area or in Southern California.

The bureau also has the responsibility of granting the state’s first medical marijuana retail permits. Dispensaries have been regulated by local jurisdictions in the past.

Cargile still hasn’t received one of those new state medical permits, either, raising the possibility that she will have to close her doors Monday despite operating since 2009.

As of Thursday afternoon, the bureau had granted temporary medicinal licenses to six Sacramento dispensaries.

Voters approved retail sales of cannabis to adults 21 and over in November 2016, and the resulting law set Jan. 1, 2018, as the start for retail sales. However, a number of factors have slowed implementation. For state regulators, the biggest challenge came when a state law forced them to join long-overdue medical marijuana regulations into a combined system with recreational weed.

The state’s legalization vote also gave local governments the authority to ban or regulate marijuana sales. Some cities and counties wanted to wait for state regulations before making their own.