Like most Californians, I have been waiting for the day I could walk into a dispensary and buy marijuana without the required medical recommendation. Mine expired nearly four years ago, and I have been relying on other means to get my stash as of late.
On Jan. 1, weed went mainstream in my state, but as a native and current Los Angeleno, I already knew that it would be a minute before dispensaries all over the city could legally sell recreational pot.
Fortunately for me, I happen to live in West Hollywood, and in West Hollywood, four dispensaries already have the state license to sell for adult use (recreational), so when my co-worker, producer Danielle Young, let me know she was in town for a movie junket, we made plans to go together and see what the buzz was all about.
All of the dispensaries are on Santa Monica Boulevard, and all of them had lines that extended out the door. We chose Alternative Herbal Health Services because we found a parking spot out front as soon as we came up. By some weird coincidence, it also happens to be the dispensary that had a deal not long ago in conjunction with the Netflix series Disjointed. The owner was also the inspiration for the Nancy Botwin character in Weeds.
There was a long line outside, but the security guard—a nice black man who continued to address me and Danielle as “Queen” whenever he spoke to us, even after he learned our names—let us wait on the inside until it was our turn in line.
When we got inside, it was like being at the weed Genius Bar. All of the budtenders had iPads that they used to track inventory in the dispensary and let us know our options for purchase.
Let me just say, this part was incredibly overwhelming. I felt like I was making life decisions, and really it was just, “What weed do I want?”
“My mind was blown by how much the people knew about each strain and how the high would be. I mean, they did have a cheat sheet [iPad],” DY (as we call her on staff) said.
The woman helping us kept putting jars of delicious-smelling strains under our noses. It was hard to choose.
“My eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I wanted to order everything,” DY later said.
I ended up going with Blue Dream, Tangie, a sativa gummy and a preroll of 3 Kings. DY got a gummy, Gorilla Glue and Tangie.
So here’s where it took the longest.
They have two different lines: There’s one for the counter where you make your choices. You place an order with one of the iPad-wielding budtenders, and then you stand in a second line to pay and pick up your purchases, like in a pharmacy.
In addition, both the line to place your order and the line to pick up are divided into two further lines: medicinal purchases and recreational purchases.
Of course, the medical line is shorter and at at times nonexistent. It enables the dispensary to keep the recreational line moving as quickly as possible, but there is still a wait.
That said, I wasn’t annoyed by the wait and neither was DY. We mostly talked and looked at other stuff in the shop while we waited.
When it was finally our turn to hit the counter, both windows opened up, so we were helped at the same time.
With the extra taxes, my purchase came to just under $100. The person filling my order and taking the money from me asked, “Did you want a 5, or do you want it all in stripper coupons?”
I laughed so hard, and I wasn’t even high yet. I took the “stripper coupons,” and as I did, I started singing, “Rake It Up.”
DY immediately sprang into action with a twerk, raising her leg in the air.
And the young women working the counter behind us? They began singing along with me without me even asking.
It was a mood.
“Everywhere I go, I find my people,” DY said, “and it was no different at the dispensary. It was like they were waiting on me and Monique to come in. They made me feel like a queen.”
Me, too. It was quite the experience.
Oh, and the weed was good, too.
Here’s the downer. The tax on recreational weed is 24.25 percent. A $50 eighth is now going to cost you $62.13. And those prices are projected to go up even higher before the year is out. There is a 9.25 percent sales tax, and a 15 percent state excise tax. Some are concerned that high taxes could help the black market for weed thrive.
If you want to avoid the sales tax, you can allow your name to be put into a database by the California Department of Public Health, but that database is also accessible by law enforcement, and the U.S. attorney general has already said that he doesn’t care about state laws—he’s talking about fed time, so make the decision that is best for you where that database is concerned.
Because even if you get out of paying the sales tax, you will still pay that excise tax.
Will I buy legal weed for adult use again? In all likelihood, yes. The high tax notwithstanding, it’s just a more reliable source, so that almost makes the tax worth it.