Drugs and the City

Pot Farms in Strip Malls, Storefront Dispensaries and a New Economy

Story by Zak Stone

Published on Dec 23, 2013

After 17 years of half-hearted attempts to fit medical marijuana into California’s mainstream economy, the optics of hustle culture still shroud the weed market. This is apparent in places like L.A.‘s Venice Beach Boardwalk, where new zoning rules have patients corralled into shuttles that take them from doctor’s offices, where they get prescriptions, to dispensaries a few blocks inland, where they actually get the weed. The process has so many rules that more than a few people still rely on traditional, illegal dealers. But voters approved the regulations this year with the passing of Measure D, which mandates that the vast majority of Los Angeles dispensaries — those that opened after 2007 — must close. Now feeling the squeeze, those in the L.A. weed industry want to prove to the city that they do legitimate business, focusing first and foremost on patient care. Meanwhile, other cities have demonstrated just how much of an economic impact dispensaries could make. Oakland, for instance, earned $1.4 million in taxes last year from only four dispensaries. Writer Zak Stone travels from massive growing operations in suburban shopping centers to the Venice Beach Boardwalk to find out how, and to what extent, medical marijuana will shape L.A’s economy.

Subscribe to Forefront for only $20/year.
You’ll get a new story each week and full access to our archives.