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How to Tell if a Dispensary is Illegal

Chris Desabota Photography

There are a LOT of cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles, but did you know that most of them are illegal? With January 2018 fast approaching & legal cannabis coming to LA, law enforcement is really going to be cracking down on illegal shops & the people that visit them. But how can you tell if the dispensary you’ve been frequenting is illegal?

Here are five things you can keep an eye out for:

(1) Check their hours of operation. If a shop is open past 8pm, they aren’t legal. Currently in the city of Los Angeles, legal cannabis dispensaries are only allowed to be open from 10am-8pm–even if they have a pre-ICO license and claim to be Prop D compliant, being open outside of these hours is a direct violation of Prop D and the shop could be raided or shut down at any time. (UPDATE: As of January 2018, licensed shops may now operate between the hours of 6am-10pm)

(2) Do they pay their taxes? All legal dispensaries in Los Angeles are required to pay taxes, so check your receipt for a section that indicates how much tax you paid on your order. If you receive a handwritten receipt that doesn’t specify tax or don’t receive a receipt at all, chances are the shop isn’t paying their taxes which is illegal. (Here at The Higher Path we’ll always give you a receipt that shows you exactly how much you paid in tax on your order–feel free to ask your Cannabis Consultant to show you the tax section if you’re having trouble finding it!)

(3) Are you required to show your MMJ recommendation & photo ID every time you visit? ​Dispensaries in Los Angeles are required by law to verify that anyone who enters the area where cannabis and cannabis products are sold has their MMJ recommendation and photo ID on their person. It doesn’t matter if you’re a regular, the person at the front desk should ALWAYS ask to see your recommendation and photo ID. If they don’t, they’re violating Prop D and that means the dispensary isn’t legal.​ (Obviously once dispensaries in Los Angeles go recreational in 2018 you won’t be required to show a MMJ recommendation if you are purchasing as a recreational consumer, but until then you do need to have a MMJ recommendation.)

(4) Are people medicating on the premises? Don’t get us wrong we love a good smoke session as much as the next person, but consuming cannabis (or alcohol) on the premises where cannabis is sold is a big no-no. So if the budtender offers you a hit from their bowl or there’s a dab bar in the dispensary, you definitely want to find a new place to pick up from.

(5) Do they deliver? Cannabis delivery is currently illegal in the city of Los Angeles, period. There is no such thing as a “legal delivery service” operating in Los Angeles right now, so if you’ve been using delivery we recommend that you stop immediately. Otherwise, you are putting yourself at risk of the cops showing up at your door instead of your order. If time is an issue for you, look for dispensaries that offer online ordering–you can place your order online ahead of time & it will be ready for you to pick up when you get to the store. Visit to place an online order with us!

One last place that you can check is this map of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of LA made with data collected by the Office of Finance and City Attorney’s Office. This map shows the legal status of every dispensary that the Office of Finance and City Attorney’s Office is aware of—any shop that has a green dot has current criminal cases against them, so you’ll definitely want to avoid those!

Still have questions about if a dispensary is legal? You can email us at [email protected] or visit the UCBA website for more information.

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