The Great (Legal) Weed Drought Of 2018 Is Officially Here

RIP, Products (Courtesy of Mary Carreon)
 I started my Monday morning like normal: after waking up to feed the dogs, brushing my teeth, and a quick workout consisting of no more than seven push-ups I made my way into Santa Ana to replenish my supply of cannabis and grab some breakfast. After maneuvering through our world famous traffic, I arrived at my favorite dispensary to find the familiar buzz of customers flowing in and out of its heavily guarded storefront was absent and replaced with the equally familiar police barricades marking former clinics like gravestones along strip malls. Several phone calls and a few dead ends later, it was clear that we all should have seen this day coming.

On July 1 cannabis retailers in California were faced with a dilemma. A new level of legislation went into effect Sunday that outlaws the sale of cannabis products that haven’t been lab tested for pesticides, potency, and contaminants, forcing many local dispensaries to host “fire sales” to rid their shelves of non-compliant edibles, flowers, and topicals. According to the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), the products that weren’t sold before July 1 must be destroyed– hence the sales; better enjoyed than destroyed, right? Now, with many legal businesses forced to close their doors in order to restore their depleted stocks, a new problem has unfolded– one that was predicted long ago: there isn’t enough legal weed.

With only 30 licensed labs in Southern California– and hundreds of licensed cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries–the ever-expanding cannabis market will see a rise in costs and taxes, as well as a decline in products available in the coming months due to an increase in workload. Dispensary owners have warned that the legal market could face crippling losses during this time, unless the legislation was rolled back or delayed. By not doing so, the competing black market now has the upper hand, forcing growers to unload their stock at increasingly low prices or not at all.

“It’s basically up to the vendors to be compliant,” says Chelsea Hawksby, the manager of New Generation in Santa Ana when asked about the lack of products available for purchase. “Until these companies have updated their packaging to include ‘best by’ dates, childproof features, and up-to-date lab tests, our selection will be limited.”

It’s not just New Generation’s store that will be limited either– and this isn’t just happening in Orange County. Every dispensary in California is going to be low on canna-product until the market shifts, which it inevitably will. But the rollout of legal cannabis has come under fire by critics since its inception for its high taxes (as high as 50 percent at some dispensaries) and crippling regulations, which have caused medical and recreational users to get their flowers in more illicit ways, such as rogue storefronts and delivery services that operate outside of the law.

So what does this mean for us? We’ll just have to wait this out and hope for the best. Until then, I’ll have to start rationing my personal supply like a sailor, marooned on a deserted island somewhere in the Pacific.

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