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Orange County California

Orange County Forces Dispensaries to Close

Orange County, CA patients with medical marijuana needs will have to look far from home, or hope they can find a collective that delivers. The region has officially become part of California’s huge dispensary-free zone.

The California Supreme Court ruled this spring that cities, counties and towns in the state have the legal right to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries out of business. So far, more than 80 percent of California has done just that.

The more conservative the region, the more likely it is to have banned pot shops. Only a few liberal strongholds remain where dispensaries are allowed to operate. Those are generally in big cities such as Los Angeles and Oakland, and even there new regulations are tightly restricting the number of stores allowed.

The last of Orange County’s legal operations were ordered to shut down in May. Garden Grove and Anaheim, the last two cities with dispensaries, told those shops to close up shop shortly after the California Supreme Court issued its ruling.

Anaheim had banned dispensaries since 2007, but more than 100 had opened in the city by 2011. That year, the city asked the federal government to help it shut them down. Together they seized property and drove operators out of town. They threatened to take a $1.5 million retirement property from an Iranian-American couple after an undercover cop bought $37 in medical weed from their collective.

Some underground dispensaries may continue to operate in Orange County municipalities, but options are extremely limited. Even if a handful can convince their host cities to look the other way, few if any landlords will be willing to rent to pot shops that have been legally banned.

That leaves patients with few avenues to find their medicine. Collectives will still try to provide to patients, but the models will change. Delivery services are already taking the place of dispensaries for some Orange County medical marijuana users.

Free delivery has long been on the menu in Los Angeles, but it could now be the primary means of purchase in Orange County. Many dispensaries have closed their doors only to reopen as delivery services. In other parts of the state, some dispensaries have opened side delivery businesses in case they’re shut down by federal law enforcement.

There are examples of Orange County Marijuana Delivery Services. The OC Farmacy, once a major dispensary in Anaheim, now advertises online as “Orange County’s Premiere Delivery Service.” Their competitors includes businesses like Safe 420 Delivery and Mobile Meds of Orange County.

It remains to be seen, however, whether these operations will be tolerated by the same communities that have banned dispensaries. Delivery services fall into a hazy legal area, but police in some areas have cracked down on them. And the fact that these services cross multiple jurisdictional lines creates additional legal complications for operators and drivers.

For the time being, at least, they do provide something of a replacement for the lost dispensaries. But if cities like Anaheim and Costa Mesa join the feds and crack down on delivery services too, patients may be left with nowhere to go.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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