The state that is the worlds sixth biggest economy will legalise cannabis on New Years Day and expects a boom time for jobs and investment
While Arctic conditions gripped Americas north-east, balmy sunshine bathed Los Angeles last week but that was not the only reason denizens of the Venice boardwalk were feeling mellow. An astringent, earthy aroma infused the Pacific zephyrs wafting through the buskers, joggers, skateboarders, tourists and panhandlers.
Weed is part of the culture here, said Oni Farley, 30, perched on a sandy mound, watching life go by. Its part of the LA/California scene, the laid-back vibe. He ignored a police patrol car that inched through the throng. Ive blazed in front of cops and they dont say anything. To be honest, most of the time Im so high I dont notice them.
Pot wasnt hiding. In multiple different ways it was on display.
Addicted to weed, anything green helps, said a scrawled sign tilted against the backpack of Alexander Harth, 36, a dusty member of the boardwalks homeless population.
On the pavement, Marc Patsiner hawked wooden ornaments etched with Californian symbols: sunglasses, palm trees and marijuana leaves. Its pretty bohemian out here. People associate us with the leaf.
A vape shop offered glass pipes and other pot paraphernalia. T-shirt stores peddled images of Barack Obama smoking a joint alongside other herb-themed garments saying best buds and just hit it.
On Monday, California, the USs most populous state, and the worlds sixth biggest economy, will officially hit it by legalising cannabis.
Think Amsterdam, but sunnier and vaster a watershed event for the legalisation movement. Overnight a shadow industry worth billions of dollars annually will emerge into the light, taking its place alongside agriculture, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and other sectors that are regulated and taxed.
It will answer to the newly created Bureau of Cannabis Control bureaucratic confirmation that a day many activists did not dare dream of has indeed come to pass.
A product pilloried in the 1936 film Reefer Madness will become culturally normalised and economically integrated, said Philip Wolf, an entrepreneur who runs a cannabis wedding company and a firm that pairs pot with gourmet food. Its going to help destigmatise the plant. Theres going to be a lot of people making money and people will want to tax those dollars. This is going to spread. California is a trend-setting state.
California legalised pot for medicinal purposes in 1996, ushering in a web of dispensaries, spin-off businesses and creeping mainstream acceptance. That culminated in voters last year approving proposition 64, a ballot initiative which legalised pot sales for recreation. History will mark the date it came into effect: 1 January 2018.
It is expected to unleash profound changes across the state. The Salinas Valley, an agricultural zone south of San Francisco nicknamed Americas salad bowl, has already earned a new moniker: Americas cannabis bucket. Silicon Valley investors and other moneyed folk are hoping to mint fortunes by developing technology to cultivate, transport, store and sell weed. Entrepreneurs are devising pot-related products and services. Financiers are exploring ways to fold the revenue estimated at $7bn per annum by 2020 into corporate banking.