Business & Economy

88 California shops have licenses to sell retail marijuana

Grower Adrian Shareve, who has accepted payment in the form of pork and other barter items, inspects a marijuana nug provided by grower Justin Calvino, in Mendocino County, California on April 19, 2017.
Grower Adrian Shareve, who has accepted payment in the form of pork and other barter items, inspects a marijuana nug provided by grower Justin Calvino, in Mendocino County, California on April 19, 2017.
JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

Anticipation is high — if Southern Californians can find a place to buy pot when it becomes legal for recreational use on January 1. 

As of the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 31, officials had issued 88 licenses statewide for adult use marijuana retailers, according to Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the state's Bureau of Cannabis Control. Only a handful of those were issued to shops in Southern California.

A budtender displays cannabis at the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, California, December 27, 2017.
A budtender displays cannabis at the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, California, December 27, 2017.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

420 Central in Santa Ana is one of them. Managing partner Jeff Holcombe says his team has spent months preparing for this day.

"We've added five terminals into our show room, our purchase room. We've added six people to our staff. We're expecting to double our sales, opening up to the adult-use market. We've had to learn a bunch about the taxes," Holcombe told KPCC.

A worker tends to cannabis plants growing at the Perennial Holistic Wellness Center, a marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, California, on March 24, 2017.
A worker tends to cannabis plants growing at the Perennial Holistic Wellness Center, a marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, California, on March 24, 2017.
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Consumers can expect to pay a 15 percent state tax on their items. You'll need to bring a government issued picture ID and be at least 21 years old.

Those rules may only be temporary. That's because the state ran out of time to take comments from the public after voters approved the legalization of recreational weed.

Brett Hartmann gives his dog, Cayley, a six-year-old-Labrador Retriever, drops of a cannabis-based medicinal tincture to treat hip pain and anxiety on June 8, 2017 at his home in Los Angeles, California.
Brett Hartmann gives his dog, Cayley, a six-year-old-Labrador Retriever, drops of a cannabis-based medicinal tincture to treat hip pain and anxiety on June 8, 2017 at his home in Los Angeles, California.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Traverso expects several comment hearings to be scheduled across the state starting in mid- to late-February.

"So they can say, 'Hey this doesn't work. Your hours of operation are too restrictive for retail.' Things like that. And then we have to respond to those comments in writing," he told KPCC.

The state is aiming to have updated regulations in place by May 1.

Traverso says the Bureau of Cannabis Control will continue working through the weekend to process as many licenses as possible and will even issue licenses on New Year's Day.

A marijuana plant is seen in a greenhouse in Mendocino County, California on April 19, 2017.
A marijuana plant is seen in a greenhouse in Mendocino County, California on April 19, 2017.
JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

In the meantime, Holcombe has some advice for first-time recreational users: Start slow.

"We always encourage our customers to delve lightly into products of marijuana because they are extra strong these days," Holcombe said. "And we tell them to start off with little bits and feel their way though, especially if they're a novice at THC."

Percilla and Chris, who are part of a live/work exchange program, carry marijuana plants into a greenhouse in Mendocino County, California on April 19, 2017.
Percilla and Chris, who are part of a live/work exchange program, carry marijuana plants into a greenhouse in Mendocino County, California on April 19, 2017.
JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images