Berkeley Will Be the First City in the Bay Area to Sell Recreational Marijuana

This Tuesday Berkeley city council members voted to allow permitted dispensaries to participate in “Adult Use” sales of recreational marijuana January 1st after the city provides specific regulations and a licensing process for dispensaries.

This move makes Berkeley the first city in the Bay Area, and one of the few in California, to develop zoning regulations, a licensing process and standards for recreational cannabis.

Comparatively, many cannabis regulators and city officials are saying they won’t be ready in time to issue permits, and it could be six to 18 months before recreational weed is available for purchase in the state of California.

This is mainly due to the need for state officials to draft comprehensive laws that provide clarity to all aspects of the Adult use of Marijuana Act. However, neither the state of California nor cities and counties have finished writing their regulations for permits.

Additionally, big cities like San Francisco and Oakland have their own sets of complex medical marijuana laws that were never fully completed. City officials will essentially need to draft or build upon existing medical marijuana laws while also creating measures for recreational cannabis, a daunting feat at best.

Another barrier for dispensaries wishing to dispense legal weed by the new year is that online applications for state licenses won’t be issued until mid-December, but businesses will first need local licenses approved by the state, which could take more than a year to write and properly vet, depending on the city.

This has led more pot-friendly cities such as Oakland and Berkeley to propose issuing  “temporary” city approvals, which is what allowed Berkeley to move forward with its own set measures that will give dispensaries who successfully petitioned for a state license temporary permits to dispense recreational marijuana.

“Although Oakland is in the process of issuing licenses, it is planning to issue temporary approvals to applicants waiting for licenses so that people can apply for state licenses as soon as they are available,” according to cannabis attorney Robert A. Raich.

Something that will surely resonate with tourists and residents of California alike is the proposal that some cities with smaller medical cannabis programs will consider “temporary licenses” for their existing medical dispensaries to sell adult-use cannabis. These cities, like Sacramento, could become “hot spots” for recreational cannabis sales this winter.

“We are proposing to the City Council that our 30 existing dispensaries be given the option to sell adult use through a temporary permit. The item is going before [the] Council on November 21, and if it is approved, we might just be able to issue the temporary permits before the end of the year in time for January 1, 2018,” said Zarah Cruz, spokesperson for the City of Sacramento’s Office of Cannabis.

Many council members are optimistic that dispensaries will begin to dispense recreational cannabis as early as next year.

“Where’s my crystal ball? I’d say by the end of next year they’ll have recreational marijuana stores in Berkeley,” said Medical Cannabis Commission chair Charles Pappas. “It depends on who’s mayor — that can make a difference. (Mayoral candidate Laurie) Capitelli might not move as fast.”

KushCA will keep you posted as more developments unfold.