California's 'Pot Desert' Problem

Although marijuana is legal in the Golden State, there are still large swathes where it's prohibited.

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California is the largest market for recreational marijuana in the country, but thanks to some loopholes in the law many residents don't have access to it. What's resulted is large swathes of "pot deserts," in which 40 percent of the state has drive 60 miles or more to find a licensed dispensary, according to the Sacremento Bee.

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Ironically, the problem lies with the very legislation that made marijuana legal in the first place: Prop 64 legalized cannabis in Cali, but it also gave local governments the power to ban or to regulate it. Guess what many have chosen to do?

Related: California Unleashes a Massive Market for Legal Cannabis

An expose in the Bee analyzed 284 retail dispensaries issued licenses in the state by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control and found:

  • 30 percent of the state is within 30 miles of at least one dispensary. These are mostly the metro areas for the state’s biggest cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.
  • 29 percent of the state is between 30 and 60 miles of a dispensary.
  • The biggest part of the state, 38 percent, is between 60 and 120 miles of a dispensary.

Related: These 4 States Legalized Recreational Marijuana but Each Is Doing It (or Not) in Its Own Way

Cannabis industry advocates are critical of the ban, saying that it doesn't reflect the will of the large majority (57 percent) who voted in favor of legalization. Meanwhile, local government officials say they need time to sort through their pot policies and that the bans are not permanent.

The good news is that help may be on the way. In April, Democratic State Senator Ricardo Lara introduced Senate Bill 1302, which would permit licensed delivery services to deliver marijuana throughout the entire state. This means that people in rural areas of the state would be able to order marijuana and have it delivered anywhere. The idea being -- if you can't go to it, it will come to you.

Jonathan Small

Written By

Entrepreneur Staff

Jonathan Small is editor-in-chief of Green Entrepreneur, a website and magazine focused on the cannabis industry. He is also an award-winning journalist, producer, and podcast host of the Green Entrepreneur and Write About Now podcasts and the founder of Strike Fire Productions, a premium podcast production company with clients such as SAG-AFTRA and Purely Elizabeth. He had held editing positions at Glamour, Stuff, Fitness, and Twist Magazines. His stories have appeared in The New York Times, TV Guide, Cosmo, Details, and Good Housekeeping. Previously, Jonathan served as VP of Content for the GSN (the Game Show Network), where he produced original digital video series.