Proponents of reforming California's marijuana law appear to be a bit jealous of the wildly successful launch of legal pot sales in Colorado this year — and you can't blame them. Any adult over 21 in Colorado can walk into one of more than fifty state-sanctioned stores and legally buy weed — no medical card necessary. The state of Washington plans to follow this spring.
But after going to Denver and buying some legal ganja, we can say, "Take heart, Cali." Here are seven reasons why California's weed scene still beats Colorado or Washington.
Legal Stores? Yeah, We Got That
People with a doctor's note for pot can go onto Weedmaps.com and find dank in any county in the state. I went into The Green Cross dispensary on Mission Street in San Francisco recently, showed my California driver's license, bought an eighth-ounce of outdoor Blue Dream for $25, and was on my way in, like, eight minutes. Revolutionary? Nope. Just another day in San Francisco, which has more than fifteen medical cannabis dispensaries.
The East Bay has dozens more scattered across Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond, as well as delivery services that will drive medical weed to your house. And San Jose has about eighty medical pot stores.
Sure, Coloradans no longer need a state marijuana card to buy weed, but a doctor's recommendation for marijuana is astonishingly easy to get in California. All you need is about $80 and some pain, depression, anxiety, etc.
Plus, "weed is de facto legal in most parts of the state," said 420-friendly comedian, frequent traveler, and Sacramento resident Ngaio Bealum.
In 2010, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made possession of less than an ounce of pot an infraction — equal to a parking ticket. Subsequently, pot possession arrests have plummeted from 54,849 in 2010 to 7,768 in 2012.
Ask Cannabis Cup judges and lab operators that work in Colorado and Washington — California blows the rest of the world away in terms of the best ganja. Why wouldn't we? We're the number-one domestic producer of the stuff, with an industry that stretches back to the Sixties.
Former High Times editor turned Vice correspondent David Bienenstock has helped throw Cannabis Cup competitions in Amsterdam and around the United States. The Emerald Triangle of Northern California remains unrivaled, he said. "When it comes to cannabis, there's a history, a set of traditions and a depth of knowledge in those communities that's just unparalleled," he said. "You've got third- or even fourth-generation growers and breeders who've been through a war with the government over this plant, and now stand poised to come out the other side victorious."
"California weed is still the best," added Bealum. "A club in Tahoe just won second place at the High Times Cup in Amsterdam."
We paid $48 for an eighth-ounce of top-shelf Blue Dream at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, which isn't bad. But statistically, Californians get the best deals on weed. Period. In Los Angeles, buy-one-get-one-free eighth-ounces of medical pot were the norm under the unregulated free-for-all of the past few years. Dispensaries also routinely cover the sales tax.
By contrast, Colorado taxes weed at about 25 percent, and Washington has taxes of 75 percent.
Californians can also access many more different types of weed as well as pot products, because an absence of state regulation has made California a hyper-libertarian weed dystopia. For example, you can't sell pure hash in Washington. In Colorado, pot retailers have to farm 70 percent of the weed they sell. But in California, dispensaries carry every type of hash and have the pick of the best of small-batch, artisanal herb in the world.
A Farmers' Market
Coloradans can now grow up to six plants indoors. But Washingtonians cannot home grow at all. Yet a Californian with a doctor's note can grow as many plants outdoors as is medically necessary, the courts have said.
California also has some of the best soil and weather for agriculture in the world. The Rockies? Not so much.
"The outdoor scene in Cali is leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else," said Bealum. "Colorado doesn't have the climate. Or the dirt. Or the old hippies."
"Listen: Cali is the home of weed culture," Bealum said.
There's a reason why Dr. Dre's The Chronic doesn't name-check Spokane. California has been synonymous with weed culture for the last half-century. We were the first to legalize medical in 1996.
"None of those states would have [anything] if California hadn't started the ball rolling — bud growing — in 1996. 1996!" said Bealum. "That's hella way before anyone else. So all these Johnny-come-latelies can pop all the yang they want, but they know who the true OGs — you heard me, OG, as in OG Kush — truly are."