When California opened up its regulated cannabis retail program in January, marijuana consumers rejoiced. But after three months, the cheers have subsided.
According to a detailed examination by the Orange County Register, only 144 out of 482 cities in the Golden State allow any kind of cannabis business inside the city limits and only 18 of 58 counties allow the industry in unincorporated areas.
Although recreational marijuana legalization received 57 percent of the vote in November 2016, nearly tw0-thirds of the cities continue to ban the now-legal herb.
The Sacramento Bee has called the situation “marijuana deserts,” using the term used to describe the paucity of healthy food and grocery stores in poorer areas. According to the Bee’s analysis:
- 30 percent of the state is within 30 miles of at least one dispensary. These are mostly the metro areas for the state’s biggest cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.
- 29 percent of the state is between 30 and 60 miles of a dispensary.
- The biggest part of the state, 38 percent, is between 60 and 120 miles of a dispensary.
- Eastern California — from Oregon to Mexico — has the longest drive times to dispensaries.
The Register report revealed that less than 20 percent of California cities allow medical marijuana, depriving patients with medication to treat various ailments. Six out of seven cities still have a ban on recreational retail outlets.
This is not what Californians voted for, according to some cannabis advocates. “It’s really beyond what the normal powers of local government are under the California constitution,” Dale Gieringer, California’s director of the marijuana rights advocacy group NORML, told the Register.
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“Voters passed Prop. 64 in 2016 with the idea that they would be legalizing marijuana, including cultivation,” said Jolene Forman, an attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance. “We want to ensure that people’s right granted by Prop. 64 is honored.”
The Register reports that every city in the tiny counties of Madera and Sutter have passed the toughest rules possible.