It’s January 1st and Californians can legally buy pot.
But is it accessible to everyone? The answer to that question would be a categorical “no.”
For those who live in the Central Valley there are no retail pot dispensaries.
Fresno, Kern, Tulare and Kings Counties and virtually all of the Central Valley towns have banned the retail sale of recreational pot. Fresno, the fifth largest city in California, has only recently voted to allow the sale of medical marijuana but has banned the sale of recreational pot.
Only Woodlake and Coalinga have approved the retail sale of pot, but no dispensaries are open. Woodlake’s dispensary is the furthest along in the permitting process and might be open by February. Coalinga has yet to find any suitors.
Going either north or south, Visalia is more than three hours away from any legal pot retailers.
For what it is worth, neither Los Angeles nor San Francisco have dispensaries ready to open, but their residents live close to cities that do have them. Both major cities have approved giving licenses to pot retailers but have yet to write their ordinances.
Recreational pot dispensaries cannot get a state license until they receive a local license.
Only a handful of state licenses have been handed out by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control and those licenses have been concentrated in certain areas of the state. Those areas are in the greater Bay Area, Central Coast and the San Diego area.
Of the first 42 state retail licenses, nine were issued to stores in Palm Springs and seven to their next door neighbor, Cathedral City. Interestingly, Cathedral City is the size of Hanford, meaning there is a pot dispensary for approximately every seven thousand people.
San Diego received eight licenses and Santa Cruz and San Jose four each.
The bureau worked over the New Year’s holiday to get as many licenses issued electronically as possible to those businesses that had their paperwork in order. The licenses are valid for six months until the state has finalized its ordinance.
Roughly 100 stores around the state opened their doors on New Year’s Day.
Other cities that had at least one store open on January 1 include Berkeley, Santa Anna, Sacramento and Shasta City. West Hollywood plans on opening its stores on January 2.