California occupies a sparking place in the imagination of people around the world. Almost instinctively, the Golden State conjures up images of beach parties, movie stars, and sun-drenched boulevards.
But the reality is far more complicated.
Because while there are a few notable exceptions—motorcycle lane splitting, innumerable liquor stores, obviously illegal taco stands—California legislators like nothing as much as regulation, preferably one which creates a tax, barrier to entry, or fine. In legendary Venice Beach, for example, you’ll be cited for throwing a football on the sand, and if you can’t decipher signs like this one, prepare to pay hefty parking tickets.
So while legal recreational use of marijuana is almost assured after the November election, forces in California are already aligning to ensure getting access to will be harder than it is in, say, Colorado. As Marijuana Business Daily reports, a recent recommendation from the Public Policy Institute of California opens with, “it will be easier to loosen a tight market than to tighten a loose one,” which might be an ominous sign for current and prospective business owners.
The horizontal model of integration endorsed by the group is far friendlier to big business—and could lead to de facto monopolies—than the vertical approach embraced in Colorado. And the group is also calling for caps on dispensary licences, a seed-to-sale tracking system, and foolishly, in a state with such pronounced tourism, a residency requirement. Stringent testing and labeling of edibles is also being recommended, which is somewhat comforting, as it stops short of the outright ban Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin supports.
Fortunately, none of the group’s recommendations are legally binding, so none of this is settled law. But it’s a powerful warning to activists in California that making recreational marijuana use legal is often just the beginning of the fight.