After voters in California approved the first medical-marijuana law in the U.S. in 1996, the result was an explosion of marijuana dispensaries.
All anyone needed was a note from a doctor that they require pot to treat a wide range of complaints, everything from cancer to migraine headaches to anxiety, and they could legally smoke it.
And those doctor’s notes are easily available at any one of 600 marijuana dispensaries operating in California, part of a $1 billion dollar industry.
Marijuana is still illegal in the United States, but the loophole afforded by the the medical pot law turned out to be wide enough to drive truckloads of marijuana through, distributed in coffee-shop-like environments by so-called “cannabaristas” who offer a variety of pot strains and marijuana laced candies and cookies with names like “Reefer’s Peanut Butter Cups” and “Munchy Way.”
As in B.C., sometimes people use legal non-profit growing and distributing licenses as fronts for illegal production.
One report in a national business magazine noted that a chain of seven supposedly non-profit dispensaries in San Francisco and San Diego managed to generate $95 million in sales, enough for the owner to buy a Mercedes-Benz and property in Costa Rica.
Recently, city councils in Los Angeles and San Francisco have both moved to restrict the number of dispensaries, through moratoriums and outright closures.