Advice: Why are lines so long at California cannabis stores?

How to beat long lines at dispensaries? Order ahead.

Marijuana etiquette columnist Ngaio Bealum SOURCE: Photo by Russell Yip | San Francisco Chronicle

If you’re new to legalization, going to a California store has been a five-star bucket list experience. But for long-time customers, things have been a bit rocky. GreenState’s advice columnist Ngaio Bealum explains.

Hello. I have noticed that since January 1, dispensaries have more people, longer lines, higher prices, product changes, caps on edibles, more wasted time, and more inconvenience. Question: Will this get better or only worse in the future? Thanks! — J Stacks

 Hello. Any new program takes time to get going. And while I feel that the Bureau of Cannabis Control has definitely erred on the side of over-regulation, I am optimistic that there will be positive changes.

First up: More people and longer lines. We’re seeing it, too. There is a huge demand for cannabis. The local license approval process has been slow, so the few clubs that are licensed for recreational cannabis are going to see way more visitors. There are about 300 licensed clubs for a state of about 25 million adults 21 and over, plus visitors.

You can beat the lines by calling a delivery service, avoiding peak hours like weekends and the after-work rush, or using order-ahead and pick-up options at some dispensaries.

And you should feel lucky. At least you have a dispensary in your town. Vast swaths of the state are legal cannabis retail deserts, because most counties have outright bans on cannabis businesses, including delivery services.

Look at our map and say a prayer for the Central Valley and the South Coast.

To counteract this, lawmakers have introduced SB 1302 , which would allow licensed delivery services to deliver statewide, even if they are making deliveries to dry counties. This is a good idea.

Higher prices: Yes, it’s mostly the new taxes and regulations. They run up to 40 percent when you add up state and local sales and excise levies. Assembly members Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) have just introduced a new bill (AB 3157) that would lower the excise tax on cannabis from fifteen percent to eleven percent, and suspend the cultivation tax for the next three years. These changes should be permanent, if you ask me, but it is a good start. Talk to your elected officials and tell them to support AB 3157.  No one wants to pay up to $25 for a gram of weed, especially when your friendly neighborhood weed dealer can hook you up for $10 or less.

One other problem contributing to higher prices is that smaller growers can’t even get into the game. State and city fees are steep, creating a barrier to entry that is forcing many folks that would like to go legit to stay in the black market. I would like to see the state lower its fees, allowing even more small business owners to have a chance.

As to the caps on edibles: Yes, they max out at 100 mg THC now, which is about ten standard doses. In the old days, edibles could run up to 1,000 mg THC. It’s just one of the trade-offs of legalization. Experienced folks might know eating a brownie with 500 mg of THC won’t kill you. But that brownie can make the average cannabis-naive person think they are dying and call an ambulance. That’s not a good look.  

You can always make your own high-potency edibles, or just buy a bunch of smaller doses.

The BCC seems to be trying to get it right. You should contact them and maybe attend a meeting or two. If things haven’t gotten markedly better by next year, we can plan a revolution. Just kidding.