CA marijuana rules mark step toward 2018 legalization

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LOS ANGELES — The largest legal marijuana marketplace in the U.S. is taking shape — at least on paper.

California regulators released long-awaited rules Thursday that will govern the state’s emerging pot economy, from fields to sales.

Voters last year legalized the recreational use of marijuana beginning Jan. 1, opening the way for a legal market that has been valued at $7 billion and within several years could bring the state $1 billion in new taxes.

The emergency rules will allow the state to begin issuing temporary licenses for growers, distributors and sellers next year. But they come just 45 days before legal sales can kick off, and many problems remain. Some predict high taxes will drive consumers to the black market.

Most banks won’t do business with cannabis companies, and Los Angeles and San Francisco are among many cities without local rules in place.

 Meanwhile, big gaps loom in the system intended to move cannabis from the field to distribution centers, then to testing labs and eventually retail shops. In general, California will treat cannabis like alcohol, allowing people 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce and grow six marijuana plants at home. Come January, the newly legalized recreational sales will be merged with the state’s two-decade-old medical marijuana market, which is also coming under much stronger regulation.