California legalizes cannabis for recreational use
The arrival of the new year in California brought with it broad legalization of marijuana, a much-anticipated change that comes two decades after the state was the first to allow pot for medical use.
The most populous state in the US joins a growing list of other states, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.
Pot is now legal in California for adults 21 and older, and individuals can grow up to six plants and possess as much as an ounce (28.35 grams) of the drug.
But finding a retail outlet to buy non-medical pot in California won’t be easy, at least initially. Only about 90 businesses received state licenses to open on New Year’s Day.
They are concentrated in San Diego, Santa Cruz, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Palm Springs area.
Los Angeles and San Francisco are among the many cities where recreational pot will not be available right away because local regulations were not approved in time to start issuing city licenses needed to get state permits. Meanwhile, Fresno, Bakersfield and Riverside are among the communities that have adopted laws forbidding recreational marijuana sales.
Just after midnight, some Californians were raising blunts instead of champagne glasses.
Johnny Hernandez, a tattoo artist from Modesto, celebrated New Year’s Eve by smoking “Happy New Year blunts” with his cousins.
“This is something we’ve all been waiting for,” he said. “It is something that can help so many people and there’s no reason why we should not be sharing that.”
Hernandez said he hoped the legalization of recreational marijuana would help alleviate the remaining stigma some still believe surrounds marijuana use.
For those who worked for this day, the shift also offered joyful relief.
“We can talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of the specific regulations, but at the end of the day it’s a giant step forward,” said Khalil Moutawakkil, founder of KindPeoples, which grows and sells weed in Santa Cruz.