Business & Economy

Don't expect to celebrate New Year's Day with legal pot in LA

File: A salesman prepares an order of marijuana products at the Perennial Holistic Wellness Center, which is a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, California on March 24, 2017.
File: A salesman prepares an order of marijuana products at the Perennial Holistic Wellness Center, which is a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, California on March 24, 2017.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

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Starting Jan. 1, it will be legal to buy recreational marijuana throughout the state of California. But Angelenos hoping to ring in the new year with some legally purchased weed will have to leave the city to find a shop ready for sales.

Cat Packer, the executive director for Los Angeles's Department of Cannabis Regulation, said Friday that the city won't have any pot stores licensed to sell cannabis for adult recreational use on New Year's Day.

"It won't be January 1st," Packer confirmed. 

Medical patients in L.A. will still be able to buy marijuana, but dispensaries seeking a license to sell pot to non-medical customers over the age of 21 will have to wait until Jan. 3 to submit their applications.

Packer said it could take the city a number of weeks to process those applications and start handing out temporary licenses, at which point the businesses will still need to seek approval from the state. 

"Adult use sales probably won't start in the city of Los Angeles until late January or early February," Packer said. 

A number of other California cities — including San Diego, San Jose and Santa Cruz — will have shops fully licensed to sell recreational marijuana on the first morning of 2018.

Packer said L.A. will focus its first wave of licensing on established dispensaries that have been compliant with the city's existing medical marijuana rules, a group that will include around 200 shops.

Then, it will start licensing growers, manufacturers and other non-retail businesses in an attempt to bring the city's illegal marijuana industry "out of the shadows." The city plans to ban business owners from the industry for five years if they are caught operating without a license after April 1.