National News

California Today: Legalization Is Here! Shrug.

Posted January 2, 2018 5:21 p.m. EST

An hour and a half before the Berkeley Patients Group, a marijuana dispensary, opened for business on Monday, two men were waiting in line outside. One came to witness a little slice of history — the day that recreational marijuana went on sale. The other, Anthony Moraga, was a sales representative and driver for a marijuana company.

“I’m so excited,” Moraga said. But he also wondered why more people had not turned out. “People lined up 24 hours for ‘Star Wars,’” he said.

For those who have fought for decades for the legalization of marijuana, Monday was a big deal. There were wet eyes at Harborside, a dispensary in Oakland, when Steve DeAngelo, the executive director, made reference to veterans of the legalization movement who did not live long enough to witness the big day.

But for many other fans of cannabis in California the first day of legalization was something else — a holiday gift that they already had. It has been two decades since California introduced medical marijuana, and about as long since police officers stopped arresting people for possession of small personal stashes.

During the next few weeks, as Los Angeles and San Francisco begin issuing licenses and more dispensaries open, there is likely to be a novelty effect. Many in the marijuana industry are predicting brisk sales.

On Monday, one dispensary in San Diego reported a 40-minute wait for customers. And the line lengthened later in the day at the Berkeley Patients Group, perhaps once people had slept off the effects of the New Year’s reveling. By day’s end, it reported serving 1,500 customers.

Yet for many Californians the novelty of readily accessible marijuana wore off a long time ago. The Sacramento Bee ran a legalization story on Monday with the headline: “Where are all the people?”

A photographer friend in Minnesota emailed me a question when I told him I had spent New Year’s Day reporting on legalized pot: “Now what will the rebellious set do to feel rebellious?”