- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 23, 2017

Recreational marijuana sales become legal in California starting January 1, albeit not in Los Angeles, the state’s most populous city, L.A.’s local weed regulator said Friday.

Los Angeles won’t start accepting applications from local marijuana businesses until Jan. 3, the head of the city’s Department of Cannabis Regulation told reporters, meaning L.A. dispensaries won’t be opening their doors as expected when state rules regulating weed sales take effect two days earlier.

“Come Jan. 1 in the city of Los Angeles, there are no legal, adult-use sales,” said, Cat Packer, the department’s director.

More than a year after Californians voted to legalize recreational, or “adult-use,” marijuana, the announcement means Angelinos wishing to legally buy weed in accordance with the results of the election will have to wait a few weeks longer before they can purchase pot within city limits, delaying the start of likely the world’s largest commercial cannabis industry once its ultimately up and running.

Californians voted in Nov. 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana and establish a system for regulating, selling and taxing the plant. That vote created a state cannabis board tasked with putting together rules for selling retail weed, and that group began issuing licenses earlier this month for marijuana businesses to begin operating once the regulations take effect Jan. 1.

Cannabis businesses require city licenses as well, however, and retailer seeking permission to sell recreational marijuana within L.A. won’t receive those licenses until likely three weeks after Ms. Packer’s office begins accepting them Jan. 3.

“We are starting a process. This is something that is not going to happen overnight,” said Ms. Packer.

California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, paving the way for an addition 28 to since follow suit. L.A. currently has about 130 or so dispensaries licensed to sell pot to certain patients, and those existing shops are expected to be the first recipients of recreational licenses once the city starts issuing them next month, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Eight states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, but only five currently have laws in place letting adults legally purchase the plant: Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state. Both California and Massachusetts are slated to join that list in 2018.

California stands to collect up to $1 billion off cannabis-related taxes within the first year of legalization, according to previous estimates. Los Angeles, meanwhile, is poised to pull in more than $50 million in annual revenue off local taxes alone, The Times reported.

Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 substance under federal law, putting it in the same category as LSD and heroin. The Obama administration refrained from interfering in states that legalized marijuana, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month that the Trump administration is weighing whether to continue its predecessor’s policies.

“It’s my view that the use of marijuana is detrimental and we should not give encouragement in any way to it,” said Mr. Sessions. “And it represents a federal violation which is in the law and is subject to being enforced, and our priorities will have to be focused on all the things and challenges that we face.”

About two-third of Americans support legalizing marijuana, according to a recent Gallup poll.

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