For Those in California ‘Pot Deserts,’ Legal Weed is Just a Mirage

Both medical and recreational marijuana are now legal in California. And yet for about 40 percent of the state, itrecreational marijuana would be difficult to tell. Thanks to some data analysis compiled by The Sacramento Bee, we can clearly see how local regulations have shaped the pot landscape in the state as a whole and how it is affecting people who live in more remote areas of California.

The report defined some regions of California as being “pot deserts” – areas where residents have to travel 60 miles or more to access legal marijuana at a licensed dispensary. An additional 29 percent have to drive 30 to 60 miles to the closest location. This disparity in cannabis access stems from the clause in Proposition 64 that allows local governments to establish their own set of recreational marijuana regulations or to ban sales altogether. While a majority of residents in the state clearly favor adult-use marijuana based on the 2016 vote, there is seemingly a desire among many districts to leave the actual growing, producing, and selling of the drug to other cities … cities far away from their own.From our years of experience, our Riverside recreational marijuana attorneys can say with certainty that much of this sentiment is rooted in outdated, outmoded, propaganda-riddled perspectives on marijuana. There’s a paranoia that expanding marijuana legalization in their towns will invite sketchy characters and create a seedy underbelly in their idyllic neighborhoods. Alas, by pumping the brakes on progress, they could be inviting the very thing they were afraid of right into their hometowns. Demand for marijuana, both medical and commercial, is increasing statewide as people learn more about it. By not providing a legal, regulated outlet for these people to access, local governments are making their communities vulnerable to black market sellers who very much still have a foothold in the state. The big cities are filling up with plenty of legal options for consumers to choose from, which could drive black market sellers to take advantage of these under-served pot deserts.

State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) recently introduced bill SB 1302 to try to allow delivery services to bring cannabis to these areas, giving a more practical option for patients who depend on medical marijuana as well as adult recreational users. The bill if passed into law would “prohibit a local jurisdiction from preventing delivery of cannabis or cannabis products on public roads, or to an address that is located within the jurisdictional boundaries of that local jurisdiction” so long as those involved in the delivery were in compliance with the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. Push-back from local governments is imminent, as well as overcoming the challenge of an extreme shortage of state-licensed delivery operations.

Our lawyers know the keystone to marijuana legalization is safe, affordable, and easy access to regulated cannabis. Any roadblocks give black market sellers room to grow, making it more difficult for licensed businesses to stay competitive. We hope state and local officials can quickly come to a compromise that allows cities to retain control, but also connects all of the voters of California with the marijuana they helped legalize. Perhaps in the process, those who are still in the dark about the benefits of marijuana will learn it’s not so bad after all.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients, defendants, workers and those facing criminal marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.

Additional Resources:

How Local Control is Creating Access Deserts in California, April 7, 2018, By Greg Zeman, Cannabis Now

More Blog Entries:

City-Level Marijuana Laws: Making Us Safer or Blocking Access?, March 13, 2017, Cannabis Law Group

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