PORTLAND, Ore. -- Starting Jan. 1, it will be legal to buy and sell recreational marijuana in California.
At La Cannaisseur in Northwest Portland, the dispensary celebrated the change.
“It takes away from the criminal aspect and element,” said owner Aleeya Kim.
Experts predict the Golden State will amass $10 billion in legal sales its first year. Kim hoped that will underline a lingering problem of black markets on the green coast.
“If everyone can get control of the black market, I would say the legal revenue brought forth and the sales and tax dollars it brought would spin everybody's mind,” said Kim.
In California, around 30 percent of recreational sales were expected to go straight to the government, which was holding fast to several marijuana regulations. For example, it's illegal to cross state lines with marijuana, even into other states where it's legal, including California. Still, many business owners were finding positives.
“It's huge news for us and the industry in general,” said Todd Foster, partner at U.S. Cannabis Insurance in Portland, which provides coverage to dispensaries in the Northwest and beyond.
Foster expects the California market will grow his business by 400 accounts in 2018 and hoped growth like that would encourage the government to relax regulations.
“Banking has been one of the biggest things,” said Foster. “Even us, as an ancillary business, we've had our bank account shut down because of what we do, because we handle money from clients that are in the [marijuana] industry.”
Oregon was on track to do $450 million in legal marijuana sales in 2017. Some of it will have passed through La Cannaisseur's cash register, but for Aleeya Kim, decriminalization felt more valuable than all of it.
“The more time goes on, the more people will become consumers, because they're not afraid of it anymore,” said Kim.
California brought the number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana to eight, plus the District of Columbia.