I was recently in Los Angeles visiting family in the San Fernando Valley. California legalized recreational pot for adult use in 2016. Now there are dispensaries tucked away in malls, across from car washes, and on main avenues in suburban towns. I visited two – strictly for research purposes, mind you – to get a taste of the new green world that awaits cannabis connoisseurs in the Garden State.
I’m a kid of the 60s. Back then, tagging weed meant finding a dealer, convincing them you weren’t a hookah, and listening to lies about the potency of their product. Then you handed over $ 10 and got a bag partially filled with something that looked like oregano with lots of seeds.
Not a bag in sight at the Upper path at Sherman Oaks, the dispensary I visited with my 25 year old son, brought with me to make sure I didn’t make a fool of myself. And not some illicit figure lurking around the entrance, though the high temperatures of the ’90s probably discouraged even the most determined.
It is certainly a concern in New Jersey, where a revelation 400 municipalities – 70% of the full list of 565 state members – have banned adult-use cannabis growers, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, delivery companies and dispensaries.
For some cities, the ban is a quality of life issue. Ocean City Councilor Jody Levchuk told the Philadelphia Inquirer he was worried about âA smoke festivalâ on the beaches and the promenade.
Lacey Mayor Peter Curatolo was even more frank. Townspeople âdid not vote for 17 year olds to become drug addicts. They didn’t vote for a premium product, so an MS-13 gangster can come here and undermine (legally sold marijuana).
A growing market sector
Judging from our first stop in Sherman Oaks, Curatolo and others concerned about dispensaries attracting thugs and thugs seem to care about nothing.
We were stuck and buzzed in the main auction room: wall-to-wall carpeting, wooden shelves displaying a scintillating array of products in brightly colored glass containers – much more of an upscale boutique than a den of iniquity. .
An electronic kiosk suggested various varieties of sativa to match the mood I was hoping to achieve – creative, relaxed, sleepy, energizedâ¦ âBlottoâ and âobliteratedâ were not among the choices.
Our young budtender (yes, that’s what they’re called) offered some hands-on help, showing us gelatin bears, chocolate bars, cookies and other foods made with varying amounts of THC, the main and most active ingredient in marijuana. The background of the marijuana industry is important for quality control and repeatability.
And sure enough, we saw compressed bud nuggets in various shades of purple, green, and brown.
Better yet, the folks at Higher Path gave my son a t-shirt when he left.
The Marijuana plant in Chatsworth there is a different vibe, more of a hip clothing store – brightly painted cement floors and walls, music with lots of bass, and a ship’s bell that has been rung to commemorate each sale. No gazebo, but large windows allow you to look into the grow and pruning rooms. This is probably more of a spectacle than anything else; the factory could only harvest a tiny fraction of the pot it sells.
As a reminder, the Marijuana Factory is located in an industrial park. We visited at night; everything except the dispensary was dark. Again, no thug character is walking around.
High Path and the Marijuana Factory take online orders and provide delivery service. Both had security guards and both restricted the number of customers in the auction room at all times. And California law prohibits customers from consuming their purchases on the spot. COVID-19 protocols were in effect in both.
But the quality of life may not be the main reason why so many municipalities have pulled out. Under the New Jersey Recreational Marijuana Act, cities that decide to license dispensaries commit to a five-year commitment. Some municipalities have said they are waiting to see regulations issued by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission. The Commission voted to adopt the first set of rules August 19. The withdrawal deadline was August 21. This did not give city officials enough time to read and digest the information.
Mayor Shawn klein de Livingston put it succinctly: âWe just don’t know what we’re allowed to do as a city.
Now that the rules are in place, municipalities that have opted out can change their mind and join.
My decidedly unscientific conclusions: dispensaries do not attract unwanted customers. Business seems to be booming, which is good for battered small businesses in New Jersey and the state’s tax offices. And moving marijuana down Main Street should be good for nearby stores and for residents who want to inhale.