California cannabis legislation reaches local community


The inventory of Big Sur Canna+Botanicals, Carmel’s newest dispensary, holds a large variety of cannabis products. Courtesy of BIG SUR CANNA+BOTANICALS

When the ball dropped at midnight and the new year ensued, the distribution of recreational marijuana became officially legal in the Golden State.


One need look no further for evidence of the legislation taking effect than Carmel Rancho Shopping Center, where Aram Stoney and John DeFloria’s Big Sur Canna+Botanicals began selling over-the-counter products on Jan. 5.


The store has operated since October 2017, offering, as stated by the business’ website, “a safe, legal, and natural alternative to traditional western pharmaceuticals.” After serving only medical marijuana patients for the first few months, the locally-owned brick-and-mortar shop has emerged among the first of its kind in the Carmel area as a location where customers may purchase recreational cannabis products.


There are, of course, many rules and guidelines associated with the legalization of recreational marijuana sales. Proposition 64’s passing permits adults 21 and up to buy one ounce of cannabis per day, per PolitiFact California. Buyers must show a valid I.D. and driver’s license, and will most likely require cash, for the vast majority of dispensaries do not accept checks or credit cards. This is because, at the federal level, use of non-medicinal marijuana remains illegal, and most banks are federally insured. Additionally, stores may not sell between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.


On top of all this, while marijuana may now be legal, it certainly won’t be cheap. According to Civilized, all recreational purchases will include a state excise and cultivation tax, on top of a local sales tax of 7.75%. Before Jan. 1, a $50 eighth-ounce of a typical marijuana strain cost $53.88 after taxes. Now, the same strand costs an estimated $61.93 total.


“They are taxing it on pretty much every level,” Stoney told the Carmel Pine Cone. “It’s not that we’re raising prices—they’re going up because you’re paying new taxes.”


And so, the pressing question remains: How will the community take to the new legislation and subsequent normalization of the use of marijuana? Will the stigma surrounding use of the Schedule-I drug diminish, and become comparable to, say, drinking alcohol? Will the subject continue to be taboo, with proprietors of small businesses unable to comfortably discuss their occupations in daily conversation?


Eric Morton, a Carmelite and graduate of CHS, spent a year and a half working at Monterey Bay Alternative Medicine, a medical cannabis dispensary in Del Rey Oaks.


“I’ve seen a few faces fall when I told them the kind of shop I worked at, and I’ve had at least one neighbor stop being so pleasant when we pass, but I’ve never gotten real flak from my family or friends, I’m happy to say,” Morton describes. “I think the most important thing that needs to happen is for the DEA to stop categorizing cannabis as a Schedule I substance. If you want to disregard the medicinal benefits it’s been shown to have, the very thought of it being somehow worse than opioids is asinine.”


IT manager and soon-to-be Seaside dispensary owner Cary Stiebel has had an even more positive experience.


“I see [the stigma] changing already,” Stiebel says. “It’s amazing how the social movement is transforming. Lots of positive energy, people who are normally conservative-minded starting to change their ideas. I think, lately, I’ve been getting nothing but positive looks when I describe what I do. People look at me and my colleagues as entrepreneurs and risk-takers. I think they’re as excited as we are.”


Whatever one’s position on the new legislation may be, a change may be on the horizon with regard to the way marijuana is treated, considered and spoken of in society. People in the industry are enthusiastic and forward-looking, and it remains to be seen what will become of the perhaps not-so-heinous leaf as the year progresses.


“I’m excited about the decriminalization of this plant, and the effects it’s had on the medical industry are undeniable,” Stiebel says. “I see nothing but opportunity for the future industries.”