BY BY MICHELLE ANN RIZZO
As cannabis has taken over national news in the recent weeks due to vape pens causing illnesses in the respiratory system and even death, a major piece of education is missing from the headlines. I’ve been coming to understand that many consumers of cannabis are unaware of how to discern the difference between a legal and illegal cannabis shop, especially in California counties were regulated cannabis dispensaries are banned. Many reports are urging and encouraging cannabis consumers in the legal states to solely purchase cannabis from legal dispensaries. Unfortunately the same articles are not educating cannabis consumers about the difference between illicit and legal shops. How is a cannabis consumer supposed to make the assessment that a shop is legal simply from walking in?
One immediate difference between illicit and legal cannabis shops is that you will always be checked in at the front desk where you will be asked for your ID. Some recreational and medical dispensaries also require you to fill out a form upon your first time of visiting that dispensary. Another sign is to look on the walls to see if there are any visible signs from the Bureau of Cannabis Control in California. If you walk into a dispensary and you are not checked in and you see no visible validation of the business’ license with the Bureau of Cannabis Control it never hurts to ask the person that is tending to you if the dispensary is licensed. A licensed dispensary staff should be aware and able to answer and show you their BCC validation.
Another way to discern if you are in a licensed or unlicensed shop is how the cannabis is packaged on the shelf. If you are in an illicit shop, cannabis typically is loose in large jars and being handled by hand by a customer service representative. This is an absolute no-no in the legal market of cannabis in California. All cannabis flower is required to be in regulated
child resistant packaging with total cannabinoid and THC percentages. A sticker with a cannabis leaf inside of a triangle with the initials CA under it, are also required to be on cannabis packaging. Your cannabis flower jar should also have a seal on it. This ensures that it is indeed an un-opened and un-tampered with cannabis flower product.
When purchasing vape carts and edibles they should be in prepackaged containers as well. The state of California symbol should also be visible. In California Edibles are not allowed to be over 100 mg per package. Edibles are required to be in doses of five or 10 mg and some options offer 2.5 mg per dose. If you are purchasing any edibles that are over 100 mg you are in an illicit shop. In the case of purchasing vape pens, which have been storming the news with associated health risks, it is crucial to purchase from well-known brands on the market.
Another way at the end of your transaction to discern if your cannabis shop is regulated or unregulated is if your balance is including taxes. This is a little bit difficult to discern and should not be used as a rule of thumb as some licensed shops include taxes in their price so be sure to ask your bud tender if taxes are included or applied at the end of the sale. If your bud tender lets you know that there are no taxes you are in an illicit shop.
It is really important to discern whether or not you are patronizing an illicit or legal cannabis dispensary. With reports of illnesses popping up it is crucial to educate yourself about how to know if you are inside of a legal dispensary. Beyond health illnesses that can be associated with purchasing products from an unregulated dispensary it is also important to be aware that as a consumer of an unlicensed shop you can be apprehended if law enforcement shuts down the dispensary. In the Coachella Valley most dispensaries listed on Weedmaps are compliant and state regulated with Bureau of Cannabis Control licenses. Unfortunately, the delivery dispensary market in the Coachella valley is still widely unregulated and Weedmaps allows these illicit delivery dispensaries to list on their website.
Be vigilant when purchasing from delivery dispensaries if unassociated with a licensed brick and mortar shop that you are familiar with. These delivery dispensaries can indeed be selling unregulated and potentially harmful cannabis products including cannabis flower that can be contaminated with powdery mildew, harsh pesticides, heavy metals, and more or, Vape carts that contain propylene glycol or vitamin E or even worse additives and fillers. The current national news regarding vape pens being linked to respiratory issues is not a cannabis problem. This is a problem that comes with prohibition. If you happen to read this and are currently living in a banned county in the state of California please write your representatives. If you know friends and family who live in other states that are currently not regulated again have them write their representatives. The only way that we will avoid these types of situations in the future is to have a regulated legal national cannabis market. Contact your legislators.