How to Tell if Your California Pot Dispensary is Legal or Not

For 22 years, medical marijuana was the only kind of legal cannabis sold in California, until the state went on to legalize recreational cannabis in 2018. Within the months immediately following that addition, a number of medical marijuana dispensaries shifted away from leaving pot out on counters for customers to view and smell, to exclusively stocking pre-packed cannabis in already sealed bags. Prices went through the roof, welcome deals for new customers dried up, and hiked taxes raised product prices even more.

Marijuana dispensaries

While other dispensaries carried on with business as they always had done. They kept buds out and available for close-up inspection before being weighed, and a complimentary joint was often handed out to welcome first time purchasers. But if you shop at a dispensary of this kind today, chances are it’s an unregulated, illegal shop.

How Did it Come to This?
Thanks to a host of bureaucratic challenges — including sky high permit application costs, stringent licensing requirements, limited product availability, and a host of other hurdles — moving a once legal medical marijuana dispensary into the legal realm of today’s marijuana marketplace, is neither cheap nor easy. As our Los Angeles cannabis attorneys can tell you, California is littered with marijuana businesses that were once legal for medicinal customers, but now are not.

Plenty of law abiding companies risked all they owned to secure and maintain state licenses and permits required to keep their businesses legal. Only to find their operations quickly losing market share to their much cheaper, and unlicensed, competitors.

A New Tool to Help Bolster Legal Businesses
While the majority of California’s legal marijuana stores became compliant in the current era by updating their old stores and systems, there were also many who did not. So with both legal and illegal outfits looking much the same, it has been very difficult for customers to know the difference.

To help shoppers make the distinction quickly, the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) has created a emblem to display in all legal marijuana businesses. Each one possesses a unique QR code, which quickly links customers to vital licensing information for that particular business. The QR code emblems are already being rolled out across the state, and will be complete in the coming months.

How Does the QR Code Work?
To access information about a marijuana business, simply point a SmartPhone at a unique QR code, which generates a notification on your screen. Click that notification and you will see whether or not the store is licensed to conduct a cannabis business in the state of California. If not, it is an illegal store.

How Else Can You Tell if Your Store is Legal?
Can’t find a QR Code in your store? You can also check, which lists all legal marijuana businesses across California, and is searchable by business name, license type or location. When in store, customers can also learn quite quickly whether a store is licensed or not by asking questions of owners about product testing and taxes.

Alex Traverso, Assistant Chief of Communications at the BCC shared, “If you go into a shop and still see big bags and jars of cannabis on the shelves instead of individually packaged stuff, there’s a good change that it’s not a legal shop.”

Launching the new QR program is proving a great way to help consumers determine quickly and easily whether they are shopping from a licensed store or not. From a product security standpoint, the unique code function of the QR code mechanism also serves as a tall hurdle for illegal businesses to replicate.

Business owners holding state permits are very much in favor of the new emblem. They want customers to know they are running a completely lawful business and that their products are safe, because to hold a state license, they can only sell highly regulated products. The QR codes and emblems themselves also serve as an accolade business owners can display, to tout all the hard yards they have committed to California’s legal cannabis industry.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.

Additional Resources:
Bureau for Cannabis Control – Search Form

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