Pubdate: Sun, 08 Jan 2017
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: Brooke Edwards Staggs


Though Prop. 64 legalized recreational marijuana, businesses aren't
allowed start selling it until the state establishes a licensing system.

A security guard enters a shop with a sign posted that reads PROP 64
FRIENDLY! in Compton on Wednesday. (Photo by Ed Crisostomo, Orange County

The online ad for Green Light District -- a pot shop in a brick office
building 5 miles from Disneyland -- was clear: Anyone 21 years and older
was welcome to buy weed with only a "valid ID."

During a visit to the unlicensed Anaheim dispensary Tuesday, a worker
behind tinted glass in the lobby did ask to see a doctor's recommendation
for medical marijuana. But when I told him I didn't have one, he said my
driver's license verifying I was over 21 was fine so long as I still
signed a form stating "under penalty of perjury" that I was a legitimate
medical marijuana patient.

I declined, reminding him I was not in fact a patient. So he declined to
let me into the locked shop, where a steady stream of visitors was greeted
by dance music and a distinct herbal smell.

Green Light District in Anaheim. Mr Nice Guy in Downtown Los Angeles.
Smoking Loud Society in Highland. They're among the dozens of pot shops
throughout California advertising that, since voters legalized
recreational marijuana under Proposition 64 two months ago, they'll now
sell cannabis without the doctor's recommendations that have been required
under the state's medical marijuana law for 20 years.

Many of these shops are billing themselves as being "compliant" or
"friendly" with Prop. 64, which made it legal as of Nov. 9 for
Californians 21 and older to consume marijuana in private, carry an ounce
of weed and grow six pot plants per home.

However, Prop. 64 also makes it clear that businesses can't start selling
recreational cannabis until the state establishes a licensing system,
which is expected to take until Jan. 1, 2018.

Of course, some dispensaries sold weed to just about anyone long before
Prop. 64 passed. But the legalization law seems to have made these shady
players even more brazen. A search on turned up many shops
that now openly state they'll sell everything from infused gummy candies
to concentrated waxes after verifying only the buyer's age, not his or her
medical status.

"I think that they've gotten more emboldened," said James Wolak, captain
of the Narcotics Bureau for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"People feel like now that it's legal, anything goes. And that's just not
the case."

Despite a spike in reports of illegal sales since the legalization measure
passed in November, Wolak acknowledged it's been tough for law enforcement
to encourage prosecutions against people who are quick to note the broad
protections afforded to medical marijuana providers under California law.

That's angering above-board marijuana retailers and others in the industry
who are paying taxes, licensing fees, security and more to legally sell
medical marijuana while they wait for the state to permit legal
recreational sales.

"Are we going through this licensing process as a charade?" asked Aaron
Herzberg, who hopes to one day expand the clientele at two licensed
medical dispensaries owned by his company, Calcann Holdings, in Santa Ana.

"(The illegal retailers) are making a mockery of the entire effort the
state is going through to try to legalize cannabis.

"We've got to make it possible for licensed businesses to have a fighting
chance or the whole thing's going to fail."

Ever since Californians approved the first, largest and most relaxed
medical marijuana program in the nation two decades ago, people looking to
make money in the industry have grown accustomed to testing the waters.
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