Cannabis is deeply ingrained in California culture.

Its history in the Golden State spans more than 200 years — from industrial cultivation of hemp and criminalization of cannabis to the Summer of Love and subsequent establishment of a first-in-the-nation medicinal cannabis program.

Over time the plant, which first appeared in San Jose, has been met with differing attitudes, laws and regulations.

Now the state is preparing to usher in a new cannabis milestone: recreational sale. Proposition 64, which was passed by voters in November 2016, legalized the recreational sale and consumption of cannabis for those 21 and older.

Beginning Jan. 1, cannabis will be for sale from state-licensed businesses, bucking federal law and two centuries of limited access.

Some are predicting a green rush.

Others wonder whether supply will exceed demand and regulations will curb cash flow.  

To sell marijuana, retailers have to receive a license from the state, but also gain permission from a city or county to sell their product. Most cities and counties across the state have voted to ban cannabis sales as they wait to see how the new system plays out. 

Advocates are hopeful smaller cities and counties will be more open to the business of cannabis when they see bigger cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose cash in on cannabis in the form of tax revenue and replacement of black market sales with regulated commerce. 

On the Central Coast, Santa Barbara and Grover Beach are the only municipalities so far that will allow the sale of cannabis. Other municipalities, and Santa Barbara County, continue to debate the merits of allowing cannabis within their borders. 

Regardless, the sale of recreational marijuana will become legal Jan. 1, setting the stage for new growth, products, revenue and taxes, as well as legal complications, enforcement issues and educational challenges. 

For the next five days, we will dive into cannabis on the Central Coast, exploring five areas that will affect and be affected by the drug: land use, money, science, law enforcement and education.

Our aim is to equip readers with the knowledge needed to contextualize decisions made by governing bodies, and grasp the challenges that will be faced by growers, law enforcement officials and schools.


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