It’s a New Day! Purchasing Legal California Marijuana in 2018

by on January 4, 2018 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

Recreational users line up outside dispensary at 4:20.

by Joaquin Antique

I’ve been smoking cannabis since I was a young teen, for over fifty years now.  As a kid, young adult, and on into middle age, I smoked it for the euphoric and mind expanding effects.  It worked well, too.  Used discretely and in relative moderation, it allowed me to have a great time and to still maintain a stellar professional career, be part of a functional and happy family, and avoid any legal problems or serious confrontations with the Man.

As I entered my late fifties, I developed some chronic health problems related to aging (joint pain and vertigo among them), I started using marijuana for medical as well as recreational reasons.  I’ve had a physician’s recommendation for cannabis for a long time but since the paperwork expired in late December, I decided to greet the new year as a recreational patient and experience purchasing weed as an ordinary civilian.

On January 3rd, I went as a non-patient to my medical dispensary,  Point Loma Greens, over on Hancock Street in the Midway area for the first time under the new laws.

New child-proof packaging

I had seen media coverage showing huge lines outside San Diego dispensaries but when I arrived at 8:30 AM there was only one person ahead of me.  I commented on the short wait and one of the budtenders said:

“We’re in the beach area.  A lot of our clients like to surf in the morning or sleep in or whatever.  The line will be out the door in a few hours.”

While I waited, a guard showed me a posted sign explaining the new sales tax schedule for the herb.  Like much of the new rules the tax categories are complex, so in order not to bore you, I’ll skip the tax explanation until the end of the article.

After a few minutes wait, a friendly budtender explained the new recreational policies to me and talked me through the shopping process.

There was only one shelf of top end bud available for purchase for the recreational user.  There were many more varieties available back in 2017.  Likewise some of my favorite products like edible Gummy Buddies were gone.  Instead of having a choice of several brands of pre-rolled joints, there was only one brand available.  Oh, the humanity!  I bought a few pre-rolls (15 bucks each) and I still got my senior discount!

Here are some of my observations from the January 3, 2018 experience:

1)  All categories of users, including medical patients, are going to be paying more taxes.

2)  At this dispensary they don’t use the term “recreational users”.  They refer to non-medical patients as “adult” users.  I guess “recreational” just sounds too fun and we are, after all, living in a nation founded by puritans.

3)  For now, you see less choices and varieties of cannabis in the dispensary, especially for the recreational user.  Only about a third of the product in my dispensary is available for purchase by recreational patients.  Medical patients, however, can purchase anything in the store.  This is because each step of the supply chain needs to be certified for recreational use, ie. the grower or manufacturer, the distributor, the transporter, and the retail seller all require licenses and apparently that’s not true for Medical herb.

Due to incompetency on the part of the State and City (they only had an effing year to get it together!), many people in the supply chain didn’t know what licenses were required or they were not able to get the licenses processed in time for 2018.  Now their products can’t be sold at a city approved dispensary until they get the appropriate licensure.

4) For the medical user there is also a more limited variety of product available because new laws have changed packaging and dosage requirements.  Some of the products that medical patients have been purchasing for years are no longer available because the packaging lacks clear labeling, utilizes images that might appeal to children, or has inadequate safety warnings.

Some popular products can’t be sold because they have too high a dosage for the entire package or for individual pieces of the edibles.  I can’t really tell you how much is too high (Actually that batch of brownies at the Allman Brothers concert at Hospitality Point in 1997 was definitely too high! But I digress.).   The reason I can’t tell you how many milligrams is too high is because I can’t find any clear answers about the policies anywhere.  Thanks!

5)  Any product that leaves the dispensary needs to be inside child proof packaging.  My dispensary is using ziplock envelopes with a child proof latch.

6)  Any of the above rules could change depending on law enforcement’s responses, consumer outrage, new interpretations of the law, or changing of policy by the State Board of Cannabis Control.  I get a big smile just typing that last sentence.  We have a Board of Cannabis Control!!!  I’ve waited 50 years for this!

7)  I was left with the question: Will things become more or less byzantine and arbitrary in the future?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Official application form for a California issued Medical Marijuana ID card

8) I would advise that in the meantime, if you are able, grow your own or find someone to sell you bootleg herb and make your own edibles because otherwise you’ll be paying way too much.  They’re already killing the goose, even before it lays the golden egg in their quest for lots of tax revenue.

Now don’t get me wrong, even though things are far from perfect, cannabis for recreational use is now legal!

People’s lives are less likely to be destroyed by irrational and puritanical cannabis regulation and legal encounters. Cannabis will become more available and hopefully that will result in a decrease in the use of alcohol, opiates, and other potentially harmful substances. This progress makes me really happy.

By the way, the budtender was right.  When I returned to the dispensary at 4:20 in the afternoon to take the accompanying pictures, the line was out the door.

Now for the tax explanation, as I understand it. 

There are up to three taxes that a consumer might have to pay:

  • City sales tax (5%),
  • State sales tax (7.5%) and
  • Excise tax (15%).
  • Recreational users pay all three (27.5% total).
  • Medical users with a State Medical Marijuana Program ID card (available at the Health and Human Services on Rosecrans, I’m told) pay only Excise tax (15%).
  • Medical users without the State ID card pay State and Excise taxes (22.5%).

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris January 4, 2018 at 5:05 pm

Will be interesting to see out things will pan out now because of Jeff Sessions.


Tim January 9, 2018 at 8:16 am

Another informative article, Joaquin. Thanks


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