California's New Recreational Marijuana Market

Now legal as of Jan 1, 2018, new recreational packaging regs include changes to pre-packaged formats for retailers and new rules for edible serving and package sizes.

Customers at 420 Central, a marijuana dispensary in Santa Ana, on New Year's Eve. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Customers at 420 Central, a marijuana dispensary in Santa Ana, on New Year's Eve. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Today marks the first day of legal recreational cannabis sales in California to those 21 years of age or over. The market, which Marijuana Business Dailyestimates could generate $4 billion in annual retail sales in several years, is still experiencing growing pains as existing dispensaries evolve to meet new regulations.

According to state regulations, “Prior to delivery or sale at a retailer, cannabis and cannabis products shall be labeled and placed in a resealable, tamper-evident, child-resistant package and shall include a unique identifier for the purposes of identifying and tracking cannabis and cannabis products.” This means retailers can no longer purchase bulk, “deli-style” products, as items must be pre-packaged. Purchases must be in child-resistant exit bags when they leave a store.

Dispensaries and producers have a six-month grace period to sell products in their inventory that haven’t been tested (with a label indicating that they are untested).

Another major packaging change is that edible products must be produced in serving sizes of 10 milligrams of THC or less, and no more than 100 milligrams of THC for the total package.

Lines haves been reported as over 100 feet long at a Berkeley shop, according to Marijuana Business Daily. Though recreational sales are now legal, not all dispensaries are open and selling on the first of the year: USA Today reports that approximately 90 shops statewide are licensed to open on Jan 1.

Some customers have balked that the laws will drive prices up through higher taxes. In Los Angeles County, those who enroll in the medical marijuana program will be exempted from paying sales tax, though patients will still see a price increase.

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