California Rolls Out Legal Pot, Expectations Are High As Customers Line Up For Retail Marijuana

Recreational marijuana becomes legal in California today, joining other states that have legalized cannabis.

California is rolling out legal marijuana
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Recreational marijuana becomes legal in California today, joining other states that have legalized cannabis.

California began allowing legal, recreational marijuana sales today, joining the ever-growing list of states where adults can legally buy pot, USA Today is reporting.

Cannabis (the scientific name for marijuana) has been one of California’s biggest “cash crops,” so to speak, for decades — legal or not. By most estimates, the illegal pot market alone in California is worth in the neighborhood of $13.5 billion — and that’s in a state where just about anybody can get a recommendation (a “card,” in popular slang) to purchase medical pot. Financial analysis firm GreenWave Advisors expects California’s legal recreational pot trade to be worth something approaching $5.1 billion in its first year alone.

In fact, investors both inside and outside of California are already bringing in tons of another green product – money – in order to cash in on California’s newest industry.

B.J. Carretta, chief marketing officer for L.A.-based dispensary Med Men, says that California’s pot laws require all product to be sold pre-packaged. That means retailers are racing to develop brand-specific packaging, and that’s going to cost money. Much of that money is coming in from out of state.

Fully one-third of the population of the U.S. now has access to legal pot without the need for a medical recommendation, thanks to California’s population of nearly 40 million now being added to that total. The Golden State joins Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Alaska where adults over 21 can walk into a pot shop and walk out with Sweet Skunk or Purple Kush, no questions asked. Meanwhile, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and Maine have all decriminalized possession of small amounts, and retail sales are expected to begin in the two New England states by the end of the year.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, however, and all of those “legal” dispensaries, both medical and recreational, are operating outside of the law. One phone call from president Donald Trump or Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) could theoretically shut down every last dispensary in the country.

How likely that is to happen, however, remains to be seen. Sessions is no friend of legal marijuana, to put it mildly, according to a March Newsweek report.

“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana—so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”

However, as of this writing, the Trump administration has made no major moves to put an end to legal pot sales.

Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), tells MSN that dire predictions about rampant drug addiction and similar problems have failed to pan out in states that have legalized pot.

“The heavens didn’t fall. We didn’t see increased youth drug abuse or increased accidents or crazy things happening as our opponents predicted.”