Brass Bands Usher in Legal Cannabis in California

Marijuana legalization arrives Monday in California, and some dispensaries are going all out to celebrate and attract customers.

Berkeley Patients Group, which opened as a medical marijuana dispensary in 1999 and has received a permit for recreational sales, expects lines around the block to mark opening day. The mayor of the city that includes the University of California, Berkeley campus is expected at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6 a.m.

The dispensary also is showing off a new automated, self-service dispensing system from Grasshopper Kiosks, which will be used to help improve transaction times and let customers that know what they want, get in and out in a hurry.

Harborside, one of the nation's oldest and most famous dispensaries, is planning brass bands at its locations in Oakland and San Jose, with flags and T-shirts for the first 100 people in line.

Golden State Greens, with a modest storefront amid car repair shops and budget hotels in San Diego, houses a bustling business that has sold marijuana for medical purposes since 2015. It will open its doors at 7 a.m. Monday, like it does every other day of the year.

From the small town of Shasta Lake just south of Oregon to San Diego on the Mexican border, the first of about six dozen shops licensed by the state will open Monday to customers who previously needed a medical reason or a black market dealer to score some weed.

“We’re thrilled,” said Khalil Moutawakkil, founder of KindPeoples, which grows, manufactures and sells weed in Santa Cruz. “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, and we’ll have to work out the kinks as we go.”

For consumers, the most surprising revelation may be the dearth of places to get ganja. In theory, buying a joint, loose weed or a hash brownie should be as easy as finding a craft beer, but options are few as some cities have rejected retail sales and others have taken a more mellow approach toward licensing operations.

Pot-friendly San Francisco, a counter-culture hub where marijuana smoke has been a fixture for half a century, was late to establish local regulations and won’t have any retail outlets open for business until later in the week. It’s a similar situation in Los Angeles.

Meantime, Fresno, Riverside, Anaheim, Bakersfield and all of surrounding Kern County have prohibited pot shops, and Long Beach has a temporary ban.

For shop owners lucky enough to receive temporary licenses from the state and clear local red tape, anticipation is high.