In terms of size and potential, no single legal cannabis market in the United States can rival California. And with over 20 years of legal medical marijuana experience, there was every reason to believe that the advent of adult-use legalization would be an explosion of economic activity for the state.
Yet, as we have discussed before, circumstances have fallen far short of expectations in the Golden State. With excessive taxes, fewer legal retail shops than neighboring Oregon and heavy regulations/fees, adult-use cannabis sales in CA have struggled.
So what happened? In a word: “government”. While the state government has done what they can to hamper the legal market when it comes to competing with the illegal market, most local jurisdictions have banned retail sales despite the fact that Prop 64 received some 57% of the statewide vote in 2016.
Inadequate supply leads to higher prices, which further cripples the legal market. A crippled legal market drives away investment, which further hampers supply, and so on. So, unfortunately, while many thought the battle over adult-use cannabis was over in California, there is still much to be done, especially on the local level.
“As well as overtaxation at the state and local levels, the biggest stumbling block has been the 2/3 of cities and counties who have banned or not yet regulated cannabis businesses in their borders, “ Ellen Komp, the Deputy Director of CANORML, told The Marijuana Times.
“It’s going to take citizen action at the local level to bring about full legalization in California. Opponents show up at city and county meetings spouting false ‘reefer madness’ claims and NIMBY arguments. Advocates need to counter with the facts: marijuana legalization has decreased crime and youth use, and increased access to safe, tested cannabis products for adult consumers. People should join with Cal NORML and/or their local NORML chapters, or start a chapter of their own.”
On the state government level, Ellen told us that a “bill that would have lowered taxes on cannabis at the state level stalled in the legislature this year, [and we’re] awaiting a report on the cannabis program that is due at the end of the year. We expect another bill to be introduced next year and will be lobbying for it.”
In the end, only a lot more adult-use retail shops will solve the problem with the industry in California. And with almost 8 million people voting for Prop 64 in 2016, one can assume there are a lot of people who voted in favor of legalization who also live in a jurisdiction that has banned sales. While some continued prohibition was to be expected, most of the state lacking retail sales doesn’t seem in line with the will of voters.
Battling jurisdiction by jurisdiction throughout the state to get shops open seems like it should be unnecessary after the Prop 64 vote, but here we are. It will likely be a long process, but one that has to happen if California’s legal recreational cannabis market is ever to approach its potential.