Knowing what you’re getting when it comes to marijuana is a highly regulated process, if you are purchasing from a legal business.
State officials tell the NBC4 I-Team, hundreds of illegal shops are making it hard for customers to tell the difference and that could be putting your health at risk.
It’s an ongoing effort by the California Department of Cannabis Control to properly regulate this booming industry.
Mark Russ, from Gold Flora which operates King’s Crew Corona and 15 other licensed cannabis retail stores in the state, says all of the products in their locations have gone through a thorough review process.
“We sell everything you can possibly imagine in the legal cannabis industry, from vapes to edibles to flower, accessories,” Russ said.
“The number one thing you get from buying cannabis through a legal California dispensary is, you know you’re going to be in a safe environment,” he added.
Product packaging is also highly regulated and cannot be attractive to children according to the DCC. But the I-Team has shown before, that in illegal shops, unregulated packaging is common.
“We found a lot of product that is appealing to kids, a lot of packaging that we would never allow in our legal market,” Nicole Elliott, DCC Director said.
NBC4 I-Team was with a DCC enforcement team when they visited what they say are illegal locations in Los Angeles in November.
They tell us these businesses had been served with search warrants months before and warned about “unlicensed commercial cannabis activity”
“We have thousands of legal cannabis businesses in the state of California. They operate within the confines of our regulatory framework. They pay their taxes. This is unfair competition to them. It undermines the work that we’re all doing to try and create a safe space for cannabis consumption,” she added.
Though the illegal market remains prevalent, data obtained by the NBC4 I-Team shows the number of legal storefronts is growing quickly.
Retail storefronts with active state licenses to sell cannabis products have increased by nearly 59% from 2021 to November 2023, according to our analysis of the data.
In Los Angeles County, retail licensed cannabis storefronts increased from 216 to 382 during that same time period, according to the DCC.
Russ says it may likely cost shoppers a little more when going into a licensed store, and that’s because of the state and sometime individual cities’ tax requirements.
“So in some areas, it can be 30% or more on top of the price that you’re going to pay, which is significant for the consumer,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re just the person that has to collect it and pay it through,” he added.
Taxes, in part, that go to the DCC’s efforts to crack down on illegal operators, so you know what you’re getting.
“We really are here to make people aware. This is where you should come, because its safe, legal, and tested,” Russ said.
Licensed locations can be found by searching the DCC website, entering your location and seeing what shops are near you.
You can also search by business name. Gold Flora does have an active license with the state.
Source: NBC Los Angeles