When the cannabis dispensary Hierba opened on Cesar Chavez Avenue in October, customers had “sticker shock,” Guillermo Menjivar, the general manager, recalled.
Even with a 30% opening week discount, shoppers still couldn’t understand why, for instance, a gram of First Class Funk cost $15.
They could be forgiven: Until Hierba — the first legal dispensary in the city’s Boyle Heights neighborhood — opened its doors, the only options in the area were unlicensed storefronts that charge far less for cannabis products because they don’t abide by the raft of taxes and regulatory obligations that state and local officials impose on legitimate operations.
A mile east of Menjivar’s clean, brightly lit business, in fact, an unmarked and unlicensed shop had put a folding sign out on the sidewalk that read, “4.5 grams for $20.” Inside the dimly lit room was a bare-bones array of grimy mason jars piled high with bargain-priced buds.
The continuing success of illegal cannabis shops and the struggles of legal ones in the heart of L.A.’s Eastside offer a stark illustration of how California’s legalization of marijuana has gone wrong. Far from being eradicated, the black market is booming in plain sight, luring customers away from aboveboard retailers with their cheaper — if untested and unregulated — product. [Read More @ LA Times]