Roberto Latuya said the last time he smoked marijuana might have been in 1969.
“It’s why I’m here now — I’m ecstatic about it,” said the 69-year-old rock guitarist from East Los Angeles, who spent Tuesday morning waiting in line to get inside one of the few shops in the county that is permitted to sell pot legally to adults.
Latuya said marijuana gives him a boost artistically.
“It helps with my perception of things, especially music,” he explained.
“Plus, I have bunions,” he added, laughing.
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Latuya was among dozens of people from around the Los Angeles area, and some from out of state and the country, who lined up Tuesday outside MedMen, one of at least two shops in the Los Angeles area that are among the first to take advantage of the state’s legalization of marijuana sales to adults, which went into effect Jan. 1.
Having sold medical marijuana to patients for years, the sleekly decorated shop in West Hollywood seemed ready to cater to a consumer crowd with its tasteful, wood-paneled walls and wide tables outfitted with iPads displaying the store’s inventory of cannabis products.
The spacious set-up of the shop, wide windows and high-tech gadgets, reminded 27-year-old East Hollywood resident Thomas Taraszewski, 27, of an Apple store.
He also marveled at the wide selection of products.
“I’m used to these pre-rolled things and now you have all these options,” he said.
Taraszewski said he began using cannabis with friends out of curiosity when he was 18, and did the “stereotypical thing” in college of indulging in pot, which he preferred to alcohol.
As he got older, he “stepped away from it because it’s really tough when you’re trying to start a career,” he said. “But now that everything is more relaxed on that … no one is going to be super judge-y because you use.”
After talking to one of the several red-shirted MedMen employees stationed around the store, Taraszewski picked out a cannabis oil vaporizer for himself and a bag of low-dosage cookies for his wife. He said he uses cannabis to relieve stress, similar to how others drink a beer or a glass of red wine to wind down after work.
“It’s just something I find fun and relaxing,” he said. “There’s nothing more to it than that.”
While West Hollywood is the only city in the greater Los Angeles area to have permitted marijuana shops so far, the lines were relatively manageable, stretching to about 50 people as of Tuesday morning, with the waits lasting up to an hour.
Some were more accepting than others of the slower pace of other cities like Los Angeles, which will likely not see its first recreational pot shop open until the end of the month.
“I’d rather it be a slow rollout and have regulations and protocols in place, than to have some kerfuffle happen and ruin it,” said Erik R., 33, of Culver City, who declined to give his full name.
“Good things come to those who wait,” he said. “Everybody is not going to die if they don’t smoke pot right away.”
Others were a bit more impatient. Chris C., a 41-year-old resident of Culver City who also declined to provide his full name, said he has been “waiting to do this for decades — that is to say, buy something I know isn’t bad for me.”
So now he is waiting in the hour-long line even though, “I absolutely hate lines,” he said.
“Usually I call a guy,” he said. “And I have a feeling most people in that line do the same thing.”
But he said he would “much prefer to be able to walk into a store do everything legally, shop around and not be nervous.”
He blamed the wait Tuesday on other cities not getting it together sooner.
“The fact that there’s only one or two permitted places in greater Los Angeles right now means it’s still incredibly difficult to buy weed,” he said.
About five blocks down, another cannabis shop, Alternative Herbal Health Solutions, entertained a slightly shorter line, while also doing similarly brisk business.
The quicker wait suited Lisa Hardcastle, 36, who was visiting from Seattle, where pot sales have already been legalized.
Not only is she here to enjoy the weather, she “wanted to help celebrate recreational (marijuana) and see what kind of weed Calfiornia’s got.”
The advent of pot sales has gone smoothly in Washington, according to Hardcastle.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “Nothing has changed. Society has not changed.”
Giving off more of an independent coffee shop vibe, Alternative Herbal Health Solution features barista-like clerks who explain the characteristics and effects of various marijuana strains to curious and first time customers, and offered recommendations to those picking out marijuana edibles, such as $30 packets of gum and $20 bars of dark chocolate, from a glass counter.
Amid the curious were those who were there to pick-up medical marijuana orders. Carson-resident Anthony Bryant, 65, who underwent back surgery about six months ago, said his doctor wanted to try cannabis as an alternative to opiate painkillers.
Bryant, who has also used cannabis recreationally in the past, pointed to the irony behind the changing law enforcement landscape around marijuana, and counted himself lucky for never having been caught in possession of it by the authorities.
“It’s kind of odd because, you’ve got a lot of people locked up in the penitentiary for the same thing (possessing pot),” he said. “It should have been legalized a long time ago, instead of putting these guys away, ruining their life for pot.”
“And now it’s legal,” he said.
Meanwhile, that was all the reason needed to draw out discriminating customers like Koreatown resident Andrew Picou, 28, who came out to try what Alternative Herbal Health Solutions had to offer.
“Weed is legal,” he said. “Why not? … If the weed is good, I’ll come back.”