Although few assumed the transition to legalized and recreational marijuana in California would be easy, it’s coming as somewhat of a shock to myself and others in the industry how unprepared we truly are. For this editorial, I’m going to speak on my experiences working at a medical cannabis dispensary since January 1st and the changes we’ve had to endure to give you a better picture of how this transition is affecting those of us on the front lines.
The first of the month brought some immense changes that we did not adequately prepare for. Although the legislation was clear to enforcing pre-packaged cannabis sales, many were unsure if there would be a grace period of compliance. This did not end up being the case at our shop as we scrambled to convert our inventory to the proper packaging. This brought many issues including:
- Who and where this product could legally be packaged, and
- How we would adjust our sales flow for our customer and patient experience.
Further compounding the issue is the permit situation currently plaguing Los Angeles. We have submitted our documentation to be a legal and licensed medicinal and recreational dispensary, but the county is dragging it’s feet when it comes to issuing said licenses.
We are currently operating under our original license as a medical dispensary, but if we were to run into a situation where our inventory were to be depleted before receiving said documentation, we would be barred from obtaining more stock. This is due to new regulations stating that all sales and distribution must be handled by state and county licensed operators. Since these licenses are still unavailable, we cannot see any vendors as these laws also affect the medicinal process. This may create a situation for our patients and ourselves, since we would have to close temporarily for being out-of-stock. The edibles made last year, for example, are currently flying off the shelves, now that products over 100mg cannot legally be produced now, even for medicinal patients. Although these products can legally be sold until July, once patients discover that they will be prohibited they will immediately buy them by the dozen in an effort to stock up.
Other headaches of the new laws include the banning of the sale of tobacco products. In our case this included any glass or paper accessories, both of which were extremely popular on our shelves and with our patients. This means our patients have to make an additional stop in their day just to pay for a pack of raw tips or papers, and our shelves look even emptier as we had to remove all products from sight. Another huge difference on our shelves pertains to our ability to display cannabis. New regulations state that any cannabis on display must be destroyed after depletion of stock, and no it doesn’t mean we get to take it out back and smoke it. The samples must be mailed to a regulatory commission who records it’s destruction to ensure that every gram is accounted for. Instead of displaying large jars where our patients can see and smell a bounty of buds we have transitioned to small glass jars with 2 grams inside each. These samples can also possibly become dried out and less fresh over time, resulting in a poor display of possibly good product.
Overall, patient morale has been low when coming to terms with these changes. So much was unforeseen that most of my job has been to cushion the blow. Since the state reporting system is not currently up we luckily do not have to collect taxes on their behalf, but the second the state decides to flip that switch there will be an additional 20%-34.5% added on to each and every sale. That is something that will not make our patients and customers very happy. So many are currently struggling to make ends meet and will now have to make important and drastic decisions for their medicinal needs. We at the shop are anxious to see what develops next and hope we can still assist our clients with the same care, respect and compassion we always have.