Cannabis is legal for all adults (21+) in California. So why do almost 85% of cities and counties ban its sale?


Mother on a Mission to Find Cannabis Medicine After California Legalization

Joni Hill of Hacienda Heights is the mother of twins, a son and a daughter. Since the first of the year, she and her wife have found it almost impossible to find the medication their special needs children require. California’s failure to license cannabis businesses has robbed them of precious time and peace of mind. Joni and her family can no longer wait for bureaucrats and politicians at the local and state levels to act on what voters decided years ago.

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Joni’s twins, Cosmo and Vivian, each have an individual set of challenges related to their autism for which Joni and her wife use cannabis to treat.  Cosmo, a lover of the outdoors, is nonverbal and has seizures, among other complications. To control his seizures, Cosmo’s neurologist recommended putting him on a pharmaceutical drug that would cause him to lose access to his communication.

“And for me, I thought my head was gonna explode,” Joni said. “It’s just like, ‘What?! He can’t speak!”

Meanwhile, Vivian, who loves to dance and sing, suffers from anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Her doctors recommended Risperdal, an antipsychotic used to treat irritability caused by autism, along with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Side effects include nausea, drooling, drowsiness, and other more serious reactions.

“So, when the doctor started talking with me about how to help Vivian with this pharmaceutical and the side effects started coming, I said ‘We have to find the right medicine.’” Joni said.

Joni and her wife turned to cannabis.

“So, when you find the medicine that is working for them, and [think] ‘Oh this is it! These are the two brands, these are the two strains, this is the medicine,’ you covet that,” she said. “And you have to really make sure that you can get that [exact] medicine.”

The retailer who provided Joni cannabis products that worked for her children is out of the business due to being unable to acquire a license to sell recreational cannabis.

“So, now I’m, you know, it’s a whole different game, let’s just say,” she said. “… It’s definitely become a lot harder now that it’s been legalized in the state of California for us.”

Joni says it’s difficult to drive around for hours, which causes her to miss out on other family activities, to search for her children’s medicine. Additionally, when she does find the medication, she has to hoard it out of fear of not having access again.  The situation costs the family both time and money.

Now I have to hoard the medicine because I’m afraid that I won’t be able to find it or get it when my kids need it,” she says. “I have two children, so it’s thousands of dollars a month for me to have their medicine. And it’s not an option. It’s not an option. The quality of my children’s life based on this medicine is everything. It gets them through the day.”

Inadequate Cannabis Licensing has Painful Consequences for Sick Children

Bureaucrats in Sacramento and local government leaders across California may not know it, but their short-sighted and sluggish approach to granting licenses to cannabis businesses is having dire impacts on sick children and their families.  

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Dr. Bonni Goldstein is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on cannabis medicine. Her Southern California medical practice includes hundreds of pediatric patients. She has seen firsthand how access to medication for children and all patients has been severely limited since Jan. 1, 2018, and how that limited access is having a devastating impact on patients and their families.

“Since Jan. 1, 2018, I’ve been inundated with phone calls and emails from panicked parents of sick children, from panicked adult children of elderly parents, from other patients who are having trouble accessing the medicine that they’ve been using for years,” she said.

Dr. Goldstein has been working with pediatric patients whose parents have turned to cannabis for help with serious health issues.

She tells the story of one patient named Vaughn, a 2-year-old with leukemia who had undergone intense chemotherapy sessions that lead to two stints in the intensive care unit and the development of a condition called mucositis, which caused Vaughn to lose a layer of skin in his mouth and almost 20 percent of his body weight.

“His parents came to me when he got out of the ICU and they asked me if cannabis could help him,” she said. “So, we started him on low-dose cannabis oils. It’s been an amazing journey with him  because he’s had no further hospitalizations, except to get his chemotherapy, but he’s had no further side effects, he’s been sleeping through the night, he’s playful, he’s happy, his hair has even grown back.”

However, when recreational cannabis legalization rolled out in California on Jan. 1, 2018, Vaughn’s parents encountered an unforeseen difficulty: The state left it up to counties and cities to decide how to license cannabis businesses within their jurisdiction — and many either refused or are dragging their feet in the licensing process.

Nearly 85% of California cities and counties ban the sale of cannabis. In many of those communities, medicinal cannabis producers and retailers that were once legal are now unlicensed, leaving parents of sick children at risk of losing access to their children’s treatments.

“Cannabis is not interchangeable,” Dr. Goldstein said. “Once you find something that works for you, that’s the product you want to use. And if the company making that product isn’t licensed, if the delivery service that delivers that product isn’t licensed, if the dispensary isn’t licensed, these patients are cut off from their medicine.”

Dr. Goldstein isn’t arguing that cannabis businesses should not be licensed, but that the regulation and licensing that is intended to protect consumers to effectively serve the needs of medicinal cannabis patients.

“This is medicine for these people. Of course it should be regulated, and of course the places that are helping patients with their medicine should be licensed,” she said. “Patients should have some sense of protection when they’re getting their medicine. But rather than shutting places down … let’s get everybody on board whose already been part of this system, let’s get then licensed, let’s get them regulated, let’s make them part of this growing industry so patients can get and access medicine comfortably and safely and in a regulated environment.”    

Californians Demand a Functioning Legal Marketplace

The Lack of Licensing is a Statewide Epidemic

Despite the fact that Californians across the state voted to legalize cannabis, almost 85% of California cities and counties have banned cannabis businesses. As a result, it is almost impossible for small-business owners to secure a license to operate legally.

Learn more about the discrepancy between voter support for legal cannabis and local licensing.

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Local bans have prevented hard-working small-business owners from operating legally. Californians who invested their time, work and money in a business with the expectation they would be able to operate legally should not be forced to choose between working without a license and losing their business entirely.

Fill out the form on this page to let your local government leaders know you want licensing and access.

While the majority of California voters supported Prop 64, the majority of cities and counties have yet to issue, or refuse to issue, licenses to cannabis businesses operating within their jurisdiction. This map compares the percentage of people who voted to pass Prop 64 to the number of cities and counties in California that are actually issuing licenses. The disparity is staggering.

Combined with local bans, the path for small cannabis businesses to get a foot into the legal market is daunting. California has a dual licensing system: local jurisdictions must issue a license to an operator before the state issues one. Both licenses must be obtained before a cannabis business can legally operate. Streamlining this expensive and lengthy process is key to ensuring more diversity of applicants and allowing the licensed market to triumph over the illegal market.

The current system is blocking many small-business owners who don’t have the money to lobby their way to access. It’s time to speak out so that small businesses, small towns and the people who voted yes on Prop 64 get access and the economic benefits of the legal marketplace. Fill out the form on this page to help save California’s cannabis future now. 

Patients and Other Consumers Do Not Have the Access Promised by Prop. 64

This is particularly alarming given that legal dispensaries are intended to replace the medical marijuana collectives that previously served patients. The illegal market simply won’t go away until enough legal dispensaries and delivery services to meet demand are licensed.

At Weedmaps we believe that all Californians should have reasonable access to cannabis where they live without stigma.

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Greater Access Starts at the Local Level: The People Demand It.

With almost 85% of cities and counties in California outright banning cannabis businesses, local representatives have failed to do their part to uphold the wishes of the voters in their cities who overwhelmingly passed Prop 64 in 2016. California can no longer claim to be a global leader in cannabis legalization as states like Massachusetts have advanced far more progressive policy.

It is impossible to control the illegal market through enforcement if the underlying policies are broken. Professor Miron from Harvard explains, “Instead, black markets arise only when government policy forces markets underground by outlawing them or by imposing excessive regulation or taxation. After the United States repealed Alcohol Prohibition in 1933, most of the market returned to the legal sphere, except in states that continued prohibition or imposed excessive taxes.” It’s estimated that one cannabis retailer to every 7,500 people is needed to tamp down the illegal market and meet consumer demand. Join our campaign to help ensure reasonable access throughout the state.

Policymakers are Costing Local Communities Millions of Dollars

As pointed out in a recent Forbes article, licensed cannabis businesses have the ability to turn around cities in desperate need of jobs, tax revenue and business development. Building a stronger economy means local officials must establish effective policy that brings well-regulated and licensed operators to their city.

The cost of a police raid on an unlicensed cannabis business ranges from $50,000 to $100,000. On top of that, most businesses reopen quickly anyway. The result is cities losing out on tax revenue while wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars on police enforcement that could be better used elsewhere.

We’re Doing Our Part, You Can Too

Weedmaps has spent the last year working to educate local governments and communities by generating policy research and model ordinances to make it easier for jurisdictions to issue licenses. You can make a difference too! Attend local government meetings in your community and make your voice heard. Fill out the form on this page to demand that your local representatives respect the will of California voters and issue enough licenses to meet demand.

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