Since the first of the year, cannabis-loving Californians have been able to go to one of the state’s 134 registered and approved dispensaries to get their hands on their favorite psychoactive plant. The beginning of 2018 is also the beginning of a new era, one wherein those who wish to indulge do not need a listed medical condition to do so. Recreational cannabis has been tremendously popular in the few weeks since the legal market for it went live, but not every California city has been able or willing to host their own cannabis dispensaries.
Some California counties have forbidden the sale of legal cannabis altogether, at a time where numerous cities are struggling to get in on the market while it is still new. Los Angeles has been slow to grant permission to its first cannabis establishment, weeks after legalization.
Cities must pen their own guidelines as to how legal cannabis will be handled in their particular jurisdiction. Some have prohibited cannabis sales entirely, while others have very liberal laws regarding its sale. Los Angeles stands to be the biggest market in the state for legal cannabis sales, but these guidelines have not been drawn up. The intentions behind this lag are good: Los Angeles wants to make sure that they get the rules written correctly rather than rush to join neighboring cities in establishing a legal market.
This has dispensary owners stressed, however, as they see their potential clientele driving toward area cities to buy their recreational cannabis. As it is with any new market, getting in on the ground floor is essential. The first opened dispensaries not only set the tone for further establishments that may pick up real estate in California but also are bound to gain the greatest following as the longest-established dispensaries. Because dispensary owners cannot set up shop within the borders of Los Angeles, they are in a disadvantaged position to gain the loyalty of clients that will eventually impact their bottom line.
In November of 2016, the subject of recreational cannabis legalization was put to a vote by Californians. While other cities jumped at the need to create ground rules and guidelines for legalization, Los Angeles did not submit its own list of rules until December 6th. On January 3rd, the city began accepting applications for dispensaries-but only to those dispensaries that already existed to furnish the needs of medical cannabis patients.
When permit applications were being accepted, dispensary owners found themselves navigating through an ineffective form rather than the form that they actually needed to submit their application. Although this was a brief and quickly-solved problem posed by a faulty hyperlink, many dispensary owners found themselves lagging behind in the application process as a result.
Cat Packer, a former lawyer and first executive of The Cannabis Department, says that LA is not in competition to get their recreational cannabis market off the ground. The city’s intention is to take things slowly so that they can draft up the best possible rules and guidelines for Los Angeles.
Receiving approval for the city is not a dispensary’s final step in getting their shop open. After receiving approval from Los Angeles, dispensary owners must receive final approval from The California Bureau of Cannabis Control.