by Tyler Evains
photography by Katie Pyne
Three possible “budtenders,” or dispensary employees, emerge from the side door of Brown Memorial Temple in Pomona, now known as Supreme Green. One man claims to be a security guard at the establishment. He wears a green plaid shirt and gold framed glasses, reminiscent of the gang on Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. He immediately challenges me and my photographer.“I’m an armed guard,” he says as he takes a drag of his cigarette. We search him with our eyes for an unsnapped bulletproof vest, gun or any type of weapon. The mix of smoke with his cologne is just as funky as this operation. “They don’t want dispensaries in Pomona,” he says. “That’s why we get scared when we see any type of camera or anything.” He drops his guard and starts talking. He says no one is getting licensed because of the taxes they’ll have to impose. “It’s always been about money,” he says. “The government only made it legal because they want a piece—we won’t be able to take cash only, or pay people under the table.” There is no type of payroll, making budtenders quickly interchangeable. Taxes collected from recreational patients could be beneficial, but the dispensaries themselves will have to pay taxes too. This is the confused state of marijuana sales.
California legalized the use of medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, the economy within the marijuana industry has blossomed into so much more. Storefronts adorned with green crosses are sprinkled on streets like Western Avenue in South Los Angeles, signaling the places where people can get their hands on the ganja.
Under the California medical marijuana law brought about by Proposition 215, patients can still legally buy marijuana if they suffer from a bona fide medical condition as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. To continue buying medically, patients must go through a process to receive their physician’s recommendation.
Now, though, thanks to 2016’s Proposition 64, the state voted to legalize the recreational sale and use of marijuana. Patrons 21 and older can now enter and purchase products with THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, without a medical recommendation. Los Angeles’ west side cities have seen price increases due to taxes. Shops leading back to South Central Los Angeles have chosen not to implement the extra cost, trying to keep customers close with reasonable prices and all-cash transactions. This means they continue to run the risk of getting raided and shut down by police.
According to the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, or MAUCRSA. The new law allows the legal use of the plant in one’s own home. California also has eased up on prosecution for public use since rules are still misunderstood in this implementation stage. The state legally allows carrying a certain amount in one’s vehicle. However, it is tricky because cities can mandate marijuana law enforcement at their discretion although it is legal state wide. Police officers in San Bernardino County have been cracking down on dispensaries in that area, leading all the way to the east side of LA County. Shops in Montclair and Upland have been virtually wiped out—even one of the most conspicuous and commonly visited by La Verne students, Captain Jack’s in Upland. “Its blatantly obvious why Pomona is more scared,” Jeimi, manager at Golden Scale Collective in Pomona says. “I guess you can say LA isn’t as worried because it’s much harder for cops to close a shop down there. They can pop right up the next day in a different location. Pomona is closer to La Verne, Claremont and Montclair—places that aren’t too fond of having shops near them.”
University of La Verne student Zach (identifying information withheld for privacy) says that if a dispensary is good and close by, it has his business. Limited options exist for the on-campus stoner to buy and especially smoke weed. “I’d say the best place is in your car,” Zach says. “Or walking over to the train tracks at the end of D Street is a chill place to sit and watch trains go by,” he says.
Loretta Rahmani, chief student affairs officer at the University of La Verne, says that despite recreational use being legal in California, marijuana possession, distribution and use are prohibited in the residence halls and anywhere on campus. “There is no change because ULV is still under federal law,” she says. “We seek federal funds for our loans, so we have to be in compliance to get federal funding.” When the news of legalization hit the University, Student Information sent an email in November 2016 to inform students that despite the state-wide excitement, ULV would not allow them to partake in the green celebration. Consequences for a student caught violating the rules depend on the conditions: Who caught you, and where you were doing it, Rahmani says. Residence life coordinator Stephen Heggem says that if the smell of marijuana is attached to a student when he enters housing, it calls for an issue. “It’s not just about having it; it’s the smell,” he says. “I don’t know anyone who particularly likes that smell. Some people are allergic.”
“It’s actually common to have to respond to marijuana incidents,” Kyerra Green, Vista La Verne resident assistant, says. She says she is on duty once every week and responds to a complaint concerning weed in the residence hall at least once every two weeks.
Don Kendrick, mayor of La Verne, says that under the new law, the state allows cities to control whether people can grow marijuana commercially and whether businesses can sell it. “We don’t allow the commercial growing of it, and we don’t allow the commercial selling of it. Residents can grow up to six plants at a time in a confined space, indoors, that you cannot see from the street. “The city is allowing it to be personally grown, but they don’t want to create criminal activity. I don’t think that you can buy for medical purposes in La Verne,” he says. As for dispensaries in neighboring cities: “They’re not getting licensed so they’re already involved in criminal activity,” Kendrick says. Freer use of marijuana is not something impossible for La Verne’s future, but the city’s demographics will most likely not allow it any time soon. “I wouldn’t say it could never happen,” Gilbert Ivey, chairman of the La Verne Planning Commission says. “If we reach a certain point in the economy where we see we need that revenue, maybe.” Kendrick says that marijuana is still taboo to people because it is considered a drug. Tobacco has become a bit of a taboo as well. A couple decades ago, cigarette smoking was prevalent, and those who refrained did not bat an eye when they smelled smoke in public. Now, people wrinkle their noses at the odor. “I would be more offended by an underage student smoking cigarettes than a 21-year-old smoking weed,” Kendrick says. “Nevertheless, even if its legal, I try to avoid it.” ■