Dispensaries Closing Quickly
The pot shops are out of Anaheim. The city closed the last of its medical marijuana dispensaries late this spring, making it one of the last cities in Orange County to shut the door on retail weed.
The city closed 11 clinics in late May. The move came shortly after the California Supreme Court ruled that counties, cities and other municipalities in the state may use local regulations to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries.
Anaheim had been trying to shut down the dispensaries for years. With the shops closed, Orange County no longer has any legally operating pot stores. The city has imposed a $1,000-a-day fine on operators who stay open in defiance of its rules, and has threatened possible criminal charges.
Many other communities in Orange County have banned dispensaries, including the county itself. The area once thrived with medical marijuana clinics but they’re all gone now.
Anaheim and Orange County are part of a massive swath of California, more than 80 percent, that has banned dispensaries. Only a few liberal holdouts, including Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, still allow them. And even there, strict new regulations are being enacted.
Anaheim has taken a particularly aggressive stance against dispensaries, joining with federal law enforcement and declaring the shops to be illegal, not merely in violation of city regulations. At one point Anaheim had more than 140 of them, and in 2007 the city council banned them by ordinance.
The city was sued, and a few of the dispensaries stayed open while the case made its way through court. When it was decided by the California Supreme Court in early May, Anaheim prevailed, winning the right to close the businesses.
The city promptly ordered every remaining clinic to shut its doors as of May 24. By the time the order was issued, there were 11 dispensaries left. They all went out of business.
Patients in Anaheim are left with limited options. Those who are able may drive to Los Angeles, where dispensaries are still allowed. Some will return to the black market, which will doubtless fill the void with inflated prices and inferior product.
But many of Orange County’s dispensaries are adopting a new model, one that might suit patients in Anaheim: free delivery. Some of the very dispensaries that were closed by cities like Anaheim and Costa Mesa have reopened as a marijuana delivery service.
Other delivery providers have been around for much longer. The real question is whether the operators and drivers who keep these collectives running will last. Some cities have already sent police after them, claiming they violate the same regulations that prevent dispensaries.
But for the time being, there may be no other options. Anaheim has closed the door on pot shops, and it’s unlikely they’ll open again any time soon.