If you’re just beginning to explore cannabis in California, or if you’re coming through the area for any significant amount of time, there’s a bit of information that you might want going into your local dispensary to keep your shopping experience easy, quick, and seamless. What’s the best topical product for inflammation? What’s the best Melrose dispensary ? What the hell is a pre-roll, and how many do I need?

While these are all questions that friendly and well-informed budtenders can help someone with, not everybody always feels comfortable putting themselves in a position to ask, and often people are just trying to get in and out as quickly as possible. If you’re on your way home from a long day at work, you might not exactly want a 10 minute lecture on which terpenes are most relaxing, or which cannabinoids affect which neuroreceptors. In this article, we’ll provide a crash course of information that you might find useful when visiting your local cannabis boutique – not only quick answers to common questions, but also a look at the specific nuances of California’s recreational dispensary scene that even seasoned consumers might not be aware of.

California Dispensary History

Recreational dispensaries started opening in California in 2018 when licenses from the state Bureau of Marijuana Control were first issued, although recreational usage was first allowed in 2016 with the passage of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, also known as Proposition 64. Proposition 64 created 19 new license categories for recreational cannabis businesses, ranging from indoor small scale cultivation, to cannabis product manufacture, to testing and retailer licenses. The Type 10 license is what allows your favorite local dispensaries to operate.

Proposition 64, unlike the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act which legalized medical cannabis in California, also allows for vertical integration, meaning the same people who hold licenses for retail could also hold licenses for manufacture, distribution, cultivation, and testing and control their own supply line. This distinguishes Californian dispensaries from their peers in Washington (where vertical integration is prohibited) and New Mexico (where it’s required).

Quick California Dispensary FAQ

So what are the nitty gritty details that affect everyday consumers? Here’s a quick summary of California’s Proposition 64 and how it might change what you purchase.

First of all, AUMA makes it legal under both state and local law for adults age 21 or over to possess, process, transport, obtain, or give away to other adults up to one ounce of cannabis. That’s just over 28 grams, which many dispensaries will round to in order to avoid compliance violations. Similar to Colorado’s cannabis legislature, this limit is different for different products – for example, one gram of concentrate (such as hash oil, hash, rosin, or other products) is considered the same as an eighth of an ounce of flower, meaning you can only purchase up to 8 grams at a time rather than a full ounce.

Do: Buy 4 grams of hash oil and a half ounce of flower.

Don’t: Buy 8 grams of hash oil and 20 grams of flower. Simply being under an ounce total is not compliant.

You can’t drive while smoking, you can’t smoke while driving, you can’t have open containers, and you can’t transport any more than you can buy at a dispensary. California law doesn’t allow for the same loopholes as Colorado or Washington which only regulate volume at the point of sale rather than possession – in those states, you can walk in and out of dispensaries and end up purchasing much more than the compliant amount. Not so in California. Think of it like alcohol when it comes to driving: you can’t be impaired, your buddy can’t crack open a can while you’re driving, and you can’t drive with an open bottle even if you’re not drinking from it. There’s one cool exception to this: “consumption in the passenger compartment of vehicles specially licensed for on-site consumption” (11362.3(a) 4,7-8) – that is, weed/party buses.

Do: Go to a party bus.
Don’t: Visit 4 dispensaries in a row, thinking you can get 4 times the compliant amount.

Further, you’re not allowed to smoke in national parks, nor are you allowed to take cannabis across state lines. We know, we know – a lot of California’s neighbor states have also legalized cannabis. They’ve even done it in a lot of the same ways: Oregon similarly requires testing cannabis products for residual pesticides or microbial content. It doesn’t make sense, and many cannabis advocacy groups suggest interstate transport is the next frontier of cannabis legislation. To back that up, Oregon’s legislature recently passed a measure which would permit the governor to enter into agreements with other states in order to engage in interstate cannabis transport. That would still require the federal government to reform their existing policies on the transportation of controlled substances, or the federal classification of cannabis as a controlled substance, but it still stands as a shot heard ‘round the country.

Do: Visit Alcatraz Island, and visit Mesa Verde.
Don’t: Smoke on Alcatraz Island, and bring your California weed to Mesa Verde.

So What Makes California dispensaries Different?

Cannabis has existed in the increasingly-bright gray zone between legality and illegality in California longer than anywhere else in the country. Although somewhat later to the game than other states when it came to full recreational legalization, much of that experience has still translated through to the recreational industry – many of the same growers from decades past became licensed when recreational legalization passed, and many of the budtenders, managers, or dispensary owners you’ll meet in today’s recreational industry came from medical roots. In areas like Studio City, Melrose, and across Los Angeles County, as well as the famous Emerald Triangle of Northern California, there’s a degree of history, knowledge, and passion that has simply had longer to “cure” (to put it into cannabis terms).

With the exception of only the most cutting-edge cannabis vaporizers, most products you’ll find in recreational dispensaries today are following in the footsteps of giants. Even before recreational spots were popping up all across Studio City and Arts District DTLA, California had a rich cottage industry exploring cannabis topicals, potent edibles, off-label anxiety relief, and more. This leads to California recreational dispensaries presenting their products in a professional, artistic, well-developed way. There’s a sense of depth and nuance to the packaging, display, and cleanliness that many dispensaries in California are uniquely capable of demonstrating.

This rich cannabis culture hasn’t just made California recreational and medical dispensaries more fancy, or more experienced. It – along with a convenient location along the Southern U.S. border – has also granted California’s cultivars and retailers unique access to the traditional cultivation of Central and South American landraces. Many of the developments in the creation of new, legendary strains has hinged on California’s easy access to strains like Acapulco and Colombian Gold. This has given growers in the region the best tools when it comes to which genetics to cultivate, it’s given retailers the best product to provide to their customers, and it’s given consumers the best product to use.

California was racked by the Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018, and almost half of California’s growers were directly impacted by the fires. As experts now discuss a coming “fire age”, dispensaries in California are uniquely impacted by factors related to climate change and have a unique incentive to participate in driving solutions to these factors. As one of the primary stakeholders in what appears to be a rise in the intensity and frequency of climate change related disasters in the United States, Californian dispensaries in the coming years might be able to lead the coming struggle for sustainability – the excise tax attached to cannabis sales generated over 60 million dollars in revenue as of May 15, 2019, with over $116 million for 1st quarter returns including other taxes such as cultivation taxes.

There’s a lot to understand about California dispensaries, and there’s even more that distinguishes them from other dispensaries across the country. We’ve only done a rough pass of those differences in this article, so stop by a medical or recreational LA dispensary and check them out for yourself! Check out our new Arts District DTLA dispensary today or order cannabis delivery online from our Melrose or Studio City locations.

Understanding California's Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries
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Understanding California's Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries
Learn more about Californias recreational cannabis dispensaries. Read up on medical and recreational dispensaries in LA and throughout the state.