The party scene in San Francisco will get a stimulating boost this weekend after the city approved recreational sales of marijuana at seven retail stores, marking the first time city retailers will be able to legally sell the drug to customers without doctors’ notes.
The California Bureau of Cannabis Control issued licenses to four of the medical dispensaries that the San Francisco Department of Public Health gave the go-ahead to Friday, and the others were expecting approvals before the end of the night.
The state licenses, which require local approval, allow retail sales to adults 21 or older to begin in the city Saturday morning.
“I think it’s terrific. I am just thrilled to be a part of this monumental day in San Francisco cannabis history,” said Marty Higgins, owner and chief executive officer at Harvest on Geary, a 2-year-old dispensary at 4811 Geary Blvd. that received its state license Friday afternoon and plans to open at 9 a.m. Saturday. “We’re expecting to be very busy and to have a very large turnout. It’s going to be a festive atmosphere.”
The move will make San Francisco one of the largest major cities in the state to allow residents and tourists to buy and possess dried plants, edibles, drinks, tinctures and salves infused with the aromatic herb.
The other shops that received state permits Friday are the Green Cross, at 4218 Mission St.; Grass Roots, at 1077 Post St.; and MediThrive, at 1933 Mission St. Those receiving local approval but still awaiting their state licenses Friday night are ReLeaf Herbal Cooperative, at 1284 Mission St.; Shambhala, at 2441 Mission St.; and the Apothecarium, at 2029 Market St.
“We’re definitely really excited but also really challenged trying to comply with all the regulations,” said Kevin Reed, founder and president of the Green Cross, which has been selling edible products and smokable bud at its medical shop for 14 years. “We’ve been working diligently for months to prepare for this moment.”
The launch won’t be quite as rollicking as many had hoped, especially after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision Thursday to change Department of Justice policy and override state marijuana laws.
The decision to rescind an Obama administration order instructing prosecutors not to focus on cannabis businesses in states where the drug is legal allows U.S. attorneys to file criminal charges against cannabis peddlers and consumers.
It prompted angry responses from national, state and local officials, but the move by the attorney general isn’t expected to change activities in California, where most experts believe cannabis retail is destined to become a multibillion-dollar market.
“I think that California legalization is the first step toward federal legalization, so that more people can have access to this incredible plant,” Higgins said.
The city licenses weren’t ready in time for the official start of the new marijuana market on New Year’s Day, when shops in Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, San Jose, Sebastopol and Cotati kicked off sales in the Bay Area, a few of them throwing parties featuring food and live music.
Almost 100 storefronts and delivery services have opened for business from San Diego to Eureka. West Hollywood began sales Tuesday, but most of the Los Angeles operators remain sidelined while officials attempt to organize a regulatory system for the market.
In one of his final legislative acts, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed legislation Dec. 6 that created a pathway for adult-use cannabis sales.
The process, under Article 33 of the Health Code, went into effect Friday. It allows temporary sales only after the shop owners have submitted a good neighbor policy and plans for security, and meet a variety of other requirements including proper labeling, childproof containers, safe-lock bags and leaflets warning of health risks.
Each shop must have an alarm and surveillance system and enough security to prevent loitering.
One of the rules Lee enacted requires marijuana businesses with 11 or more employees to show how they will hire people from underprivileged neighborhoods or with criminal records relating to pot sales. Such rules, designed to help those most impacted by the war on drugs, were first implemented in Oakland.
Reed said he had to renotify all neighbors within 300 feet of his shop about his plans to sell recreational marijuana, but he expects all the hassles to be worth it as customers arrive over the next few weeks.
“I anticipate a 30 to 40 percent increase in business, and as much as a 75 percent increase in the first few weeks,” he said. “It is pretty exciting.”