By Howard Fine
When Proposition 64 passed in 2016 legalizing marijuana sales in California, Wilmington dispensary owner Javier Montes and hundreds of other cannabis retailers hoped for better times ahead.
“We fought so hard to get us from the underground market and into the light,” said Montes, who is managing partner and owner of Delta IX THC in Los Angeles.
Instead, things have gone from bad to worse for the local cannabis dispensary industry.
When the law first went into effect in 2018, there were licensing delays and a wave of communities enacting bans on retail sales of cannabis, which forced many cannabis businesses to close.
More recently, though, licensed cannabis retailers have found themselves in a struggle for survival against a thriving black market whose players don’t have to pay high taxes and comply with stringent regulations.
According to the United Cannabis Business Association, a Sherman Oaks trade group, there were an estimated 8,000 cannabis retail outlets in California in 2017, before the law took effect. The group drew that estimate from the website Weedmaps.com, which attempts to map every cannabis business.
Today, the association says, there are roughly 850 licensed dispensaries statewide, a staggering drop of nearly 90% in just five years.
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