The doctor who issued my California medical marijuana card over the phone said this might happen. “San Francisco dispensaries are way more liberal about letting cardholders without California IDs inside than LA dispensaries, but you can use delivery services there.”
Way less liberal was a great way to describe the security guard who checked IDs at the door of the first Los Angeles dispensary I visited.
“THIS ISN’T GOING TO CUT IT, SIR!” he shouted through the bulletproof window. “YOU NEED A CALIFORNIA ID, OKAY? I CAN’T LET YOU IN WITHOUT THAT, OKAY?”
“Okay!” I hollered back, collecting my ID and walking to the next Weed Maps-recommended dispensary to see if it would welcome my pale Oregon self.
Despite what the opening line of “Midnight Train to Georgia” might suggest, LA did not prove too much for this man—but it provided markedly different vibes and cannabis offerings than San Francisco had given me the earlier that week. All told, I was rejected by 17 dispensaries and accepted by three. The signs that said “Now Prop 64 friendly!” were seemingly code for “Fuck it, just come on in and buy some weed.”
Those that did welcome me ran the gamut. One had a $20-per-gram veganic strain that had won multiple High Times cups, and they offered me a small bag of 50-milligram THC-infused salt-and-pepper potato chips as a first-time customer gift. It was very LA, down to the valet outside the dispensary.
But the beauty of Los Angeles includes the city’s wide range of diversity, both racial and socioeconomic, which is why my favorite dispensary was the Happy Cat Collective. It wasn’t fancy, and the shelves were stocked with a focus on quality over quantity. The budtender himself had tried everything he suggested and, as a fellow writer, he had some outstanding suggestions for what I was looking for. The owner came out and chatted with me for a bit, and I bought a mere $10-per-gram, well-cured organic flower. The lack of pretentiousness and authentically friendly vibe was a welcome change from some of the self-satisfied pomposity I had encountered at another LA dispensary earlier that day.
I didn’t find any dispensaries that had on-site vape lounges as I had in San Francisco, and despite my numerous email requests for a “cannabis speakeasy,” no one got back to me. (Fine, showbiz kids, I’ll get high by myself.)
Being a stranger in a strange land, I reached out to Nathan Mal, operations manager for the California Weed Blog, a resource I often access to keep up on California canna news. He’s based in LA, and I asked about what he believes is coming for cannabis in the Golden State.
“It’s a crap shoot here right now,” he said. “Many growers—and others—are upset, confused, or simply don’t care about entering the recreational marketplace on January 1, none of which is good. They’re burnt out on trying to maneuver through the regulatory process, and are opting to maintain their status quo by simply not getting a license.”
He added that until it’s made legal on a national level, California faces the same issues as Oregon regarding supply, demand, and profits. “There is more money to be made exporting the cannabis outside the state.”
Mal also talked about how California may push for pesticide testing rules that surpass Oregon’s, how certain counties have made it absurdly difficult for home growers (e.g., the six plants must be grown indoors, expensive security systems must be put in place, the grow must be approved by the fire marshall, and on and on), and how the state’s widespread, near-daily consumption events may be sharply curtailed once adult-use kicks in next year.
I asked Mal what he would most like California canna people to know.
“To combat the huge concern that anyone who does NOT have a cannabis business license come January 1 will be shut down. That’s simply not the case. They should wait in line and apply, because the state is far more concerned over 'bad actors’ than people legitimately trying to transition into the new marketplace. They will take action on growers illegally clearing land, diverting water, and spilling pesticides before they will shut down someone making an effort to be a compliant licensee.”