California Weed

Is your favorite dispensary out of marijuana? Blame this new state regulation

Cannabis dispensaries must clear out much of their inventory to comply with state law

New California regulations on marijuana mean non-compliant products began being pulled from shelves on Sunday, July 1, 2018. Prior to the deadline, Sacramento dispensaries worked quickly to try to clear out inventory.
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New California regulations on marijuana mean non-compliant products began being pulled from shelves on Sunday, July 1, 2018. Prior to the deadline, Sacramento dispensaries worked quickly to try to clear out inventory.

A newly-enacted state ordinance regulating cannabis products has forced multiple area dispensaries to close while others make do with a limited selection.

Sunday marked the end of California dispensaries' grace period before new restrictions on THC limits, packaging and labeling took effect. The state Bureau of Cannabis Control mandated the destruction of all improperly labeled or overly strong products by July 1, leading to steep clearance sales at the end of June as up to $500 million worth of marijuana was predicted to be destroyed statewide.

The new regulations were approved as part of recreational marijuana's statewide legalization in November 2016 under Proposition 64, and required cannabis products to first be tested at state-certified labs starting on July 1 of this year before they can be sold. Such labs can be hard to find and are in high demand, said Shayna Schonauer, the Sacramento regional manager for Metro Cannabis Co.

While Metro Cannabis Co. has a good amount of marijuana buds available, edibles and concentrate have been harder to come by. That won't change anytime soon, she said.

"We're doing the best we can, but we're basically at the state's mercy in terms of being compliant," Schonauer said. "It's going to be a little while before you see that rush of product."

At Valley Health Options, ordinarily open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. near the intersection of Auburn Boulevard and El Camino Avenue, two security guards turned customers away on Monday afternoon and said the store would be closed through the end of the week. A guard confirmed the closure was related to the new regulation and said Valley Health's owner had been in and out of the building throughout the morning.

Turlock-based Dry Lake Wellness was also closed Monday despite normally being open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., though Bureau of Cannabis Control spokesman Alex Traverso said they were an unlicensed dispensary. Other dispensaries such as A Therapeutic Alternative gave their non-compliant substances away free to customers Saturday to avoid handing them over the next day to specialty waste hauling services that would lock buds and pre-rolled joints in compost bins and deposit crushed cartridges in landfills.

A California Cannabis Industry Association spokesman told Wired he expected four tons of marijuana to be destroyed in the Sacramento area alone. Steep discounts led to record sales on June 29 and June 30 at Green Solutions, manager Justin Robertson said, as dispensaries attempted to make some money back on their inventory.

Green Solutions previously ordered bulk shipments of buds from distributors and packaged them into various weights down to individual grams in a back room. Distributors now have to do the final packaging under the new regulations, Robertson said, and Green Solutions hasn't found one willing to spend the time and money on shipping small quantities of weed.

Prices have risen at Robertson's store due to having an "enforced middleman" making child-proof containers instead of the typical mylar bags he bought and filled in the back, and about one in five customers came in looking for their usual items Monday only to find them unavailable. Some forms of cannabis were especially hard to come by: Green Solutions had just one type of concentrate in stock instead of the usual 15.

Still, Robertson wasn't convinced the extra oversight would ultimately be bad for business. It's better to have top-grade product in the long run, he said, even if the initial transition is rocky for low-budget customers.

"(People are) guaranteed to get a certain product now, compared to before when the quality could vary," he said. "(The change is) bad for people's wallets, but good for their lungs."

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