January 1st, 2018 ushered in California’s adult use marijuana marketplace – with huge lines and festive atmospheres reported across the state in 2018’s earliest hours and extending further into the New Year than many expected.
While the day marked a celebratory milestone in California’s cannabis sector evolution, not all of the state took part on day one. In fact, licensing issues halted dispensaries across California from Los Angeles to smaller market destinations.
In Los Angeles, city officials announced in late December that it would begin accepting license applications on January 3, which could result in a weeks-long delay in properly authorizing businesses in the City of Angels.
Head of L.A.’s Department of Cannabis Regulation, Cat Packer, told reporters in December that “We are starting a process. This is something that is not going to happen overnight.”
However, a small number of West Hollywood locations had obtained their license prior to legalization. Meanwhile, cities including Oakland, Sacramento and San Jose opened their doors on January 1st with a larger scale of offerings. The same occurred in smaller cities as well.
Day One Surpasses 4/20
Across California, dispensaries saw their business expectations vastly exceeded on legalization day.
Expecting numbers on par with 4/20, many dispensaries soon realized that their estimations fell on the modest side.
For San Jose-based Caliva, it opened at 9am to lines down its industrial, suburban street, past expectations and its massive sunset wall painting that warmly welcomes customers (below). The crowd uncertainty Caliva experienced factored into the day’s planning, which included food truck favorites, a DJ, raffles, free merch and even acupuncture on opening day.
“We could have done more [for the day],” Caliva’s marketing lead Brandi Moody told PotGuide. “But it was difficult to project exactly how many people would show up with it being New Year’s Day and other factors.” By 3pm Pacific time, the dispensary still had a line of roughly 5-20 people at any time – exceeding expectations once again.
While the total number of customers proved difficult to forecast, supply expectation was much clearer. Moody and Caliva’s Purchasing Specialist Omar Ortiz helped bring together a product line that includes Caliva-branded products and flower, which included stocking up on expected hot items in 2018 like microdosing methods.
So, What’s It Like Inside a California Dispensary?
Your experience is sure to vary depending where you visit in California – which is another reason you need to shop around different dispensaries for the best in the market.
At Caliva, consumers remarked at the welcoming waiting room, sales floor, decor and product offerings.
More so, the staff were top-notch, friendly professionals, from security to budtender to managers to you name it – another significant component you need to factor into your buying experience.
Inside, merchandise from dab rigs to t-shirts adorned two short rows leading to a somewhat horseshoe sales counter that accommodated at least ten customers at a time. Budtenders were informative, took the time to answer questions and, in the case of one under-prepared PotGuide writer, even patiently waited as they got more money out of the ATM to purchase a morning through night vaporizer set (below).
While you won’t get acupuncture or delicious food truck offerings every day at California locations, be on the lookout for more dispensaries across the states in the days ahead to have exciting opening day deals and specials.
The Short- and Long-Term Future of California Adult Use
The backlog of license applications highlights some of the negatives California dispensaries and customers face in early 2018. As most states faced in the early days of their rollouts, cannabis regulation can be fluid and hampered by government processes and practices.
Caliva President Dennis O’Malley summarized the early-stage struggle to PotGuide. With numbers lacking ideal saturation for major California markets, he explained that, “[California] underestimated the amount of licenses they could approve by New Years. [On December 31, 2017], there were 7,000 dispensaries that were not illegal in California. Today, there’s less than 200 that are legal.”
The state should hurdle this issue in the coming days and months.
However, dispensaries face further hurdles ranging from new packaging and product phrasing that could change from month to month.
At least in San Jose, dispensaries noted a previously established positive relationship with local and state officials.
In the meantime, customers should expect temporary price increases that are of the dispensaries’ hands. With changes to packaging and a 15% excise tax on purchased cannabis products, prices should go up for a brief period of time. Prices should ultimately decrease as the market stabilizes, though no timeline is in place.
Overall, adult use legalization in the state stands to benefit Californians like it has in states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and beyond. Once the state smoothes out its regulations, it stands to earn up to $1 billion in tax revenue each year – giving much needed green to all involved going forward. One thing is for sure, we are excited to watch as California’s adult use cannabis market grows and develops in the future.
What are your thoughts on California’s new legal cannabis market? Comment below!
Photo Credit: Caliva