The cannabis industry is growing in San Luis Obispo County and many people are purchasing products from companies that deliver, but most of those companies do not yet have approval from the state.
In California, local laws dictate where and how weed can be bought and consumed.
Out of the hundreds of companies in San Luis Obispo County that deliver pot for medicinal use, less than a handful are licensed by the state.
A state-regulated product goes through dozens of checkpoints and each packaging should contain the date the plant was harvested, the batch number and many other defining characteristics.
Ernest Hall says he’s proud to sell clean, tested products.
“You are ensured that your product has been tested for all contaminants and molds, you are getting a really safe product. But if you are getting your product from off the street, you just have to trust the person that is selling you stuff and that is the difference,” Hall said.
Hall owns Dub’s Green Garden, one of two licensed delivery dispensaries in SLO County and the only one in Paso Robles.
Hall also owns a CBD storefront in downtown Paso Robles where he says he gets a lot of customers who ask him about medicinal marijuana.
It took him a long time to get where he is now, saying the process of getting a state license almost put him out of business. Now, he says he’s getting punished for following the law.
“We get people sometimes saying that our products are priced too high but they don’t understand that we are paying taxes and that’s why they are going to the black market and they are getting products that are not as safe as they are as you get from the regulated market,” Hall added.
Currently, there are three state-licensed cannabis businesses in SLO County: one medicinal delivery-only, and two recreational storefronts, one of which also offers a delivery service.
However, Weed Maps, a “Yelp” for pot, shows hundreds of places to get a weed fix.
Businesses, licensed or not, can pay to be listed on the website. Recently, Weed Maps has come under fire for advertising the unregulated ones.
Paso Robles Police Commander Caleb Davis says he was surprised to see so many dispensaries listed on the site.
“There are a lot more businesses listed on there than there are legally listed. I’m not sure the credibility of the website as well, so I’m not overly familiar with that website, but it certainly would be a good tool for us to figure that out,” he said.
According to the Bureau of Cannabis Control, a retailer must have a licensed office space 600 feet away from schools.
They must also meet environmental regulations and describe how they will transport, store, control and even throw away products.
But getting a license isn’t easy.
New state regulations went into effect in January. Many businesses that were flying under the radar now suddenly have to answer to the government, pay taxes and hire accountants.
It’s a process that many can’t afford.
Mike Perea, owner of Euphoric Dreams knows the struggle, saying it’s an expensive and prolonged one.
“Trying to get offices, trying to get spaces to grow, trying to get anything. I mean, the prices are really, really high in this area,” he said.
Perea operates with a provisional city license while he waits for approval of a state one. But if he doesn’t find an office space by January, he will lose it all.
“They’re telling me, ‘hey, if you don’t have your paperwork by December, we can’t deal with you,'” he said.
Some say the state needs to speed up the licensing process for businesses like Euphoric Dreams and crack down on those with no regard for city or state laws.
Commander Davis says the department only investigates if they get a complaint.
“Any area consumer field whether that’s clothing, food, whatever, marijuana, whatever, we are not out there actively looking for those who are operating illegally,” Davis said. “Certainly though, if it is brought to our attention, it is something we would look into no matter what business it is.”
Until then, licensed cannabis sellers like Dub’s Green Garden say the black market will continue to thrive.
Less than a week ago, voters approved a number of cannabis business taxes which could open the door for more storefronts and deliveries.