LOS ANGELES – Specialized shops in California, the most populous state in the United States, started selling recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, with projections pointing to a turnover of at least $7 billion a year.
With the largest economy of all states in the US, California joined other US territories where the consumption and trade of marijuana is already legal, although under strict regulations, with some 60 businesses currently holding operating licenses.
Elizabeth Ashford, communications director for the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force (LACTF), told EFE that the Treasurer’s Office estimates that in 2020 legal marijuana sales in California will reach $7.2 billion and will generate some $1 billion in taxes.
For Ashford, those figures are conservative. However, given the high expectations of buyers, California should soon surpass other states where cannabis is also legal, such as Nevada, which managed to generate more than $19 million in taxes in the first four months.
Legal sales of marijuana in the US and Canada exceeded $11.7 billion in 2016 and are expected to hit $23 billion within the next five years, according to the Arcview consultancy, which points out the potential benefits in the labor market.
John Downs, director of ArcView, points out that the marijuana industry creates jobs and reduces unemployment, saying that Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legalized since 2014, experienced a drop in unemployment rates since legalization and now has the country’s lowest.
The dispensaries that have already received the green light to operate from Jan. 1 are located mainly in northern California, many in the San Francisco Bay area, as well as in the southern counties of Riverside and San Diego.
In the so-called Golden State, where marijuana was already legal for medicinal purposes since 1996, the state sales tax is 15 percent, to which local municipalities can add their own.
In the US, in addition to California, the sale of marijuana for recreational use is legal in the states of Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. It is also legal in Maine to have a personal use amount, although retailing has not yet been authorized, but is expected to begin in mid-2018, while in Massachusetts it will be legal as of July of this year.
Dispensaries may not operate within 200 meters (600 feet) of a school, and in some jurisdictions it is prohibited to sell marijuana within 300 meters (1,000 feet) of public parks, daycare centers, and other designated sensitive areas.
Household crops are not restricted by distance from schools or parks, but are limited to six plants, and sales will be made only to people over 21 years of age and only up to one ounce (28.3 grams) for each purchase.