Just over one dozen dispensaries across the Bay Area on Monday rang in the new year by opening early to finalize some of the first recreational marijuana sales following the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016.
Some dispensaries in Berkeley and Oakland opened as early as 6 a.m. after being licensed by California and their respective cities for recreational sales.
Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, who have both spent the past 29 years fighting for marijuana legalization, were all smiles at 6 a.m. sharp as they made the first purchase at Berkeley Patients Group.
"It's so great to be here," Conrad said. "What a moment for California. One small joint for us, a giant leap for California."
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin was in attendance for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Berkeley dispensary located at 2366 San Pablo Ave. Anthony Moraga was also up before the sun in Berkeley to celebrate the momentous occasion.
"To me, it's just an exciting time in California's history," Moraga said. "We've been living in the shadows, in the black market and now we can be proud to be a part of a regular industry."
Harborside's location at 1840 Embarcadero in Oakland also opened at 6 a.m., while its San Jose location at 1365 N. 10th St. will open at 9 a.m.
Another Oakland dispensary, Purple Heart Patient Center at 415 Fourth St., opened at 6 a.m. and said it was offering free tacos for early-rising customers.
While Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, San Jose, Sebastopol and Santa Cruz signed off on various dispensaries to begin recreational sales starting Monday, other cities including San Francisco did not approve legislation for it in time for the start of the new year.
For a dispensary to legally open up shop, it must receive approval from the city it calls home and also receive a retail license from the state.
"Part of the reason there's so few permits is just with the difficulty of staying within the regulations," Alfred Oleson from Berkeley Patients Group said. "They wanted to make sure the people who were getting into it would set a positive example and be a good example to follow going forward."
In San Francisco's case, legislation was not signed until early December following lengthy debates over regulatory issues for the dispensaries.
Ultimately, the board opted for a 600-foot buffer zone around city schools and did not institute bans or caps for the number of dispensaries in each supervisorial district.
The city's existing 45 medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services will be able to begin recreational sales as early as Saturday.
In order to legally purchase recreational marijuana, buyers must be at least 21 years old. Law enforcement officials are also reminding folks that they cannot smoke weed in public and that driving high will result in driving under the influence punishments.