California’s Legal Dispensaries and Delivery Services Outnumbered 3 to 1

California has always been at the forefront of Marijuana legalization, as one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, and again for recreational use twenty years later in 2016. Today, California residents 21 years and older are endowed by the law to purchase, consume and even grow marijuana legally for recreational purposes, but the majority of marijuana and cannabis products are still being bought illegally.  

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, California’s cannabis ‘black market’ is roughly three times the size as its regulated cannabis industry. The report followed figures rolled out by an audit made public by the United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA). The audit revealed that approximately 2,835 unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services are currently operating in the golden state. In comparison to the 873 cannabis retailers operating under California State licensed Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC). is happy to report our marijuana delivery service operates as one of the 873 cannabis retailers licensed by the BCC and the state of California. We ensure all delivery services, drivers, vehicles and products are held to the same esteemed standard, and you, as consumers are directly contributing to the solution to eventually dissolve the illicit cannabis market and empower the future of cannabis as a whole. 

Cannabis is an industry that struggled for decades to exist legally and still finds itself engaged in a national fight. Understanding this battle of the legal market is paramount, especially when the industry finds itself in the news for people dying from tainted vape cartridges, falling ill from pesticide-sickened flower or other forms of contaminated cannabis. That being said, it can be difficult to truly grasp why an industry with intense legalization enthusiasm can still be suffering from black market sales. It’s even harder to truly grasp what this means if you’re a cannabis consumer. 

For legally operating California cannabis dispensaries and delivery services like GrassDoor, there are a number of key reasons the black market continues to dominate over its legal adversaries. Since adult-rec-use started in California, slow permitting and inefficient enforcement of BCC permitting has dulled the edge of licensed dispensaries. Some of those issues result in blocking building permits, or locations of dispensaries failing to meet ambitious codes and standards. Licensed dispensaries have continually reported that the BCC and other forms of red tape have undercut their growth and ability to fight the illicit cannabis market. It is exactly to avoid these permitting and judicial hurdles black market competition chose not to undergo the rigorous product testing and regulations demanded of the BCC. Simply put, right now there still exists a tremendous amount of incentive to be an illegal dispensary versus a licensed one. Maybe putting the blame isn’t the best way to combat the issue, but either way, the issue remains the same. 

The BCC has also since reacted in response to the allegations, so to speak: “The Bureau would love to be able to license more cannabis retail locations in California,” BCC spokesperson Alex Traverso, told the Los Angeles Times. “Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that prevent us from doing that. It’s not all under our control. As far as illegal activity is concerned, the Bureau will continue its enforcement efforts and continue looking out for the public’s health and well-being.”

The Los Angeles Times projected an estimated $8.7 billion will be spent on unregulated, illicit cannabis product in California by the end of 2019, compared to just $3.9 billion spent on cannabis sold through BCC licensed dispensaries and delivery services. 

It is of interest to note, the UCBA researchers utilized the online cannabis directory of WeedMaps, counting all the dispensaries and delivery services offering marijuana in California. WeedMaps has since come under intense fire for indiscriminately advertising both illegal and legal cannabis sellers. In a report by Lawrence Mansour, chief technology officer for APOP Media, a UCBA member focused on cannabis advertising, told the Los Angeles Times he found 3,757 listings on WeedMaps; a far larger number than the total list of licensed cannabis sellers. “The unlicensed operators on Weedmaps do not pay taxes or the cost of compliance with local and state regulations, do not follow required worker or consumer protections and do not allow labor unions to organize workers, in turn allowing them to charge a fraction of the cost,” Mansour told the Times. The criticisms have poured in for well over a year while as recent as last month, WeedMaps promised to remove illicit sellers from its online directory; but that promise has yet to be implemented. 

In a statement issued earlier in September, WeedMaps Chief Executive Chris Beals expressed his perspective on WeedMaps’ role in the issue: “While these policy changes will only have a symbolic impact on the size of California’s unlicensed market without more licensing opportunities and other large listing platforms following suit, we want to continue to lead by example.” 

In all hopes of cannabis websites like WeedMaps abandoning their unlicensed advertisements, there still exists a number of major issues out of cannabis retailers hands. Right now there is not enough licensed dispensaries and delivery services to keep up with state demand. Unless we can supply the cannabis market as legal retailers, the black market shows no signs of slowing down. Less than 20% of cities in California, 89 of 482, allow for recreational cannabis shops to operate. However, even with cities like Los Angeles, San Fransisco and San Diego allowing the commercial sale of recreational cannabis, the State still struggles to depress the illicit sales of cannabis. It is up to us as consumer to impact the market by aligning our purchases with our principles. That is why we humbly appreciate you as consumers for choosing GrassDoor for your legal cannabis market needs. 

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