A San Jose collective this week became one of the first in the state to obtain a license to sell recreational pot in 2018. Buddy’s Cannabis plans to open an hour earlier than usual on New Year’s Day to make way for the expected rush of new customers.
“All of a sudden, overnight, we have this whole new market segment that we were never able to tap into,” Buddy’s owner Matt Lucero said. “We’re super excited about it. It’s a dream come true, really.”
Prop. 64 legalized marijuana possession, personal cultivation and use from the day voters approved it in 2016, but it’s been illegal to buy or sell the plant. Come Jan. 1, however, the state will allow tightly regulated businesses like Buddy’s to sell cannabis to anyone 21 years and older.
Buddy’s was one of 20 pot firms granted a license by the California’s fledgling Bureau of Cannabis Control, which oversees retailers, laboratories, distributors and so-called micro-businesses. Lori Ajax, the state’s inaugural marijuana czar, said in a statement that she plans to dole out more licenses on a rolling basis through early 2018.
“I was reading through 800 pages of regulations over Thanksgiving break in anticipation,” said Lucero, who came to the pot sector in 2010 after 18 years as a corporate lawyer.
Lucero said getting the state’s blessing culminates a hard-fought effort to bring the industry from the black market to the mainstream. The early days were rough, he said, because of the uncertain regulatory landscape.
“In that first year, I was kicked out of the city of Mountain View, kicked out of Sunnyvale and wound up in San Jose,” said Lucero, the sole owner of Buddy’s. “We’ve been through a lot to get here.”
It took several years marked by political and legal battles for San Jose to come up with its own rules for the industry, which slashed the number of collectives from about 120 to only 16. Lucero said Buddy’s was not only one of the first to win state approval for recreational sales this week, but the first to obtain its permits from City Hall.
“San Jose did a really great job getting us ready for this,” Lucero said. “The city here has a regulatory framework that’s more stringent than the state’s, so we’re already operating at the highest standard.”
Though California voters legalized weed statewide, local governments can still ban it. Upward of 70 percent of California cities have prohibited recreational pot.
San Jose, however, has been regulating medical cannabis for years, and the city has enforced a marijuana ordinance since 2016 that puts a strict cap on the number of clubs and requires police oversight of each operation.
To gear up for 2018, when the state will finally authorize recreational sales, San Jose revised its pot laws to allow recreational sales at its 16 licensed dispensaries. With its policies long in place, San Jose issued its adult-use licenses expediently, which allowed Buddy’s and other local businesses to get first in line for state permitting.
Selling to customers without a medical card will allow Lucero to open his doors to out-of-state customers, he said, and bring in enough revenue to expand operations to fill up his entire 21,000-square-foot facility on North 10th Street and to create more jobs.
“There’s a lot to look forward to,” Lucero said.