As more states across America legalize cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use, it becomes more ingrained into our national culture. Of course, pot always was ingrained into the American character, but these days more and more people are actually admitting to it.
And like a lot of other things – movies, cuisine, fashion, what-have-you – California is at the forefront of the cannabis movement. Home to historically weed-friendly farming communities like Humboldt and Mendocino counties, it was the epicenter of the bongwater-soaked hippie movement in the 1960s and the smoke-weed-every-day aesthetic of west coast hip-hop today. Countless cannabis strains were born here, others named to honor the Golden State, and still more are being developed by the state’s many pot startups. It’s the fertile crescent of the American pot scene.
In fact, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking California was the first state to make cannabis legal. The answer might surprise you. It’s Alaska! (Alaska’s relationship with pot was planted in rocky soil: Legalized by the state supreme court in 1975, weed went back to being illegal 15 years later, and stayed that way until 1998, when medical use was legalized. Recreational use was legalized by ballot measure in 2014.). Colorado and Washington changed their laws in the interim, and California joined the party in 2016.
But California not being first doesn’t mean it isn’t at the forefront of the cannabis industry. Wall Street analysts predict that California will generate between $10 billion and $11 billion in annual sales by 2030. Huge names in pot, like Harborside Health, Stiizy and Merry Jane Media, make their homes in the Golden State. Dispensaries dot the boulevards of San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. People smoke pot openly on the streets of those cities. It’s a weed wonderland. The only restriction is on exportation, since the federal government prevents growers and startups from shipping their products to other states.
What’s more, the state heavily taxes cannabis products, which isn’t great for users, but taxing weed generates goodwill from non-users, as well as generating income for state programs. California has a 15 percent excise tax on all cannabis – and that’s just one tax, levied by the state. Cities and other municipalities can levy their own taxes as well. Again, this can be rough on the consumer – making a simple bag of pot gummies cost upwards of $25. It’s cold comfort, but much of that tax revenue goes to the state programs and infrastructure that make California worth living in.
What makes California more impressive as a marijuana marketplace, though, is its sheer size – both in terms of population and economy. With nearly 40 million people, California has 12 percent of the country’s population. Its economy is the largest in the nation and the sixth largest in the world, with a gross product of $3 trillion. That makes it the largest marketplace for legal cannabis in the United States, and possibly the world.
That basically means Los Angeles – California’s largest city – is the epicenter of weed culture. Which is great news. is getting better and better – more dispensaries are opening every month, and state regulations are making them safer for consumers.
Alaska will always wear the crown of the first state in the union to legalize marijuana, and residents of Colorado and Washington will always be proud to have ushered in a new age where state prohibitions are relaxed. But California will always be king and queen of American cannabis culture.