Somewhere in Santa Ana, nestled between quiencenera shops and expensive cafes, lies a nondescript door. Behind it is one of Orange County’s many illegal dispensaries, operating daily without permits, lab-tested products or the proper taxes applied to the final cost. The Santa Ana Planning Commission, which aims to empower local businesses while promoting safety and education through community programs, is aware of the problems caused by the cannabis black market, though attempts at shutting them down has been likened to plugging a dam with your finger and hoping for the best.
In Sacramento, state lawmakers rolled out a new legislative measure intended to confront the bigger issue that fuels the illegal cannabis market: cities that refuse to allow legal sales despite overwhelming voter approval. Assembly Bill 1356 would add an additional 2,200 cannabis storefronts to the current 631 legal dispensaries located throughout the state. The bill would require each city to add a storefront for every 10,000 residents, or one cannabis retailer for every four liquor stores, whichever is fewer.
However, some cities already oppose the measure, citing the need to amend specific sections of the law that would require municipalities that already have permitted cannabis sales to vote again.
Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the author of AB 1356, feels that this conversation is long overdue. “It’s unfortunate that the cities and the counties really haven’t fulfilled the will of the voters to provide legal access under Proposition 64,” he said.
It’s hard to blame dispensaries that operate illegally when you look at the number of people who voted in favor of legal cannabis versus the cities that actually make it available. Aliso Viejo, where 58 percent of the community voted yes on Proposition 64, only allows private, indoor growing and that’s only if you apply for a permit. Costa Mesa, Irvine and Anaheim, where voters also embraced the idea of cannabis retailers, have yet to allow brick and mortar shops to open.
So until we see an amended version of AB 1356, or cities at least welcome the idea of home delivery as a viable option, it appears the black market will continue to thrive. We will continue to report on this issue as it develops.