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Home Rule Blues: Residents of Large Swathes of California Lack of Access to Legal Recreational Weed | East Bay Express

Last month the Sacramento Bee released a list of the 10 largest California cities that still ban cannabis dispensaries, although weed has been legal in the state since 2017. Pot advocates have cited the list as further evidence that cities shouldn’t be allowed to ban pot shops locally. level.

The only Bay Area city on the list is Fremont, coming in at No. 5. With approximately 235,000 residents, Fremont is the fourth largest city in the Bay Area, nearly twice the size of Berkeley, and the 16th in California. It not only bans any type of cannabis business from setting up, but also tightly regulates home cultivation – which is state-permitted and cannot be banned outright at the city level – and requires anyone growing pot to register with the cops. .

Other cities of Beethe list includes Fresno at No. 1; with around 525,000 residents, amidst much controversy, Fresno looks set to license now. Anaheim ranks # 4; in 2019, voters refused to allow pottery shops there. Santa Clarita ranks # 6; City council passed an “emergency ordinance” banning cannabis stores shortly after Californian voters approved cannabis for adult use in 2016.

Critics of the bans point out – with precision – that city autonomy powers are stifling the legal weed trade statewide and leaving many consumers without access to the legal pot. This has allowed the illicit market to flourish, and illegal weeds sell overwhelmingly more than the legal pot, accounting for up to three-quarters of the market at the state level. Some observers believe this to be an even bigger problem than the high taxes levied on the legal pot trade, which make the pot much more expensive than what we can buy on the street or from our dorm buddy. .

This can be seen as the original sin of legalization in California: proponents of Proposition 64 used home rule, a feature of the measure, as a selling point to get the proposition passed. Now that tactic is coming back to bite them. Residents of large swathes of California do not have access to legal recreational weed – medicinal pot is governed by a separate set of laws, and there are medical dispensaries in many cities that prohibit adult cannabis use. . Delivery is now legal statewide, but that doesn’t help much: many areas are too remote for delivery services, and retail cannabis relies heavily on walk-in activities.

Of 482 California municipalities, only 174 allow cannabis businesses, and some of them nonetheless ban cannabis retail stores, licensing only manufacturers and / or distributors. The state has issued 839 retail licenses, according to the Bureau of Cannabis Control. Per capita, Oregon has more than 15 times more adult-only dispensaries than California.

But what is the real effect of a given city banning the commercial activity of cannabis? It depends on the city. the BeeThe list shows that the largest municipalities that ban the sale of weeds are located in the Central Valley and suburban areas of Southern California. Bakersfield, as well as Kern County, ban sales to adults. Residents of Bakersfield who wish to purchase weed should drive about an hour before visiting an adult cannabis dispensary, according to data from Weedmaps.

But while Fremont could make a big mistake with his prohibitionist attitudes, it doesn’t affect consumers that much. They live a few miles from clinics in Union City, Hayward, San Jose, and Oakland. At least as important as direct bans, cities and counties limit the number of licenses they issue and concentrate dispensaries through zoning laws.

“Sonoma County only allows nine dispensaries in the unincorporated zone,” said Lauren Mendelsohn, a lawyer and cannabis activist, and a member of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance advisory board. While consumers who live in Santa Rosa have easy access to dispensaries in their town, there are “absolutely no cannabis dispensaries along the fairly large Sonoma Coast, or the Marin coast towards south from here, ”she noted.

“This patchwork approach has a negative impact on patients, tourists and local economies,” Mendelsohn said. This makes it more difficult for consumers, and it “adds more vehicles on the road and emissions to the atmosphere on long journeys”.

She added, “This is all counterproductive and contrary to the progressive philosophy of Northern California. “

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Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera