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What is an illegal dispensary?

What is an illegal dispensary?

The legalization of recreational cannabis in the United States is a relatively new phenomenon and government entities are still exploring regulations and how to enforce them. With uncharted territory comes uncharted problems. One such problem that some states, especially California, are facing is the rise of illegal dispensaries. As a consumer, it might come as a surprise that a dispensary would be illegal, but chances are you’ve probably stepped foot in one. The purpose of this article is to give you information on this issue. Cannacopia does not in anyway endorse illegal activity and we simply want to put the facts of the situation out to light. Making a decision on where to shop for cannabis is ultimately yours. At the end of the day we do want you to be versed on the pros and the cons of illegal dispensaries.


We are blessed to live in a time where access to cannabis is relatively easy, far easier than it was even 5 years ago. We have advocates and government officials to thank for this. If the legal history is perhaps lost on you, what you really need to know is how the government was able to agree to legalizing cannabis. The answer here lies in taxes. You see, the appeal for states to make cannabis legal was the tax revenue that it would ultimately generate from legal cannabis sales. These taxes are no small amount either. In its first year of cannabis legalization, the State of Colorado brought in 70 million dollars in tax revenue. Long story short, illegal dispensaries don’t abide by the regulations in place, particularly taxes and fees associated with legally owning a dispensary. Aside from not charging taxes, they also don’t comply with laws to have products chemically tested for safety, nor do they follow dosing or packaging guidelines. We’ll get into these more, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what makes a dispensary illegal.

How to tell a dispensary is illegal

By and large it can be difficult to know if a dispensary is not legit. You can usually find them on dispensary search engines and even on Google, however, once you approach the store, there are some dead giveaways. For one, the storefront might be hard to find. Illegal dispensaries work hard to keep a low profile. You might confuse the whole place for being shut down; there might not be a clear sign and bars might line the windows. Overall, if you get any sketchy or shady vibes, there’s a 99% chance that place is not legal

If in case that doesn’t give it away, the prices will. In California you can expect to pay at least $40 for a legal eighth. The price goes up from there depending on quality of flower. In an illegal dispensary however, you’re sure to find eighths for a fraction of that price. Edibles in store will have high THC contents, like a 500mg cookie. Legally, recreational edibles cannot exceed 100mg per package. A final giveaway is how flower is sold. Recent legislation in California requires that flower be sold prepackaged. The days of selecting bud from a jar are over… except in illegal dispensaries! Read on to find out the implications of shopping at such locations.

How do illegal dispensaries affect you

Although the prices you can find at an illegal dispensary are appealing, you might want to consider at what cost those savings really come. Perhaps the biggest concern is going to be safety. Products at illegal dispensaries are not chemically tested to ensure they are not covered in harmful components, like pesticides and fertilizers used in the growing process. When these chemicals are smoked or ingested, they can pose dangers to one’s health. An additional danger is related to dosing variability. Most edibles in illegal dispensaries do not have verified dosing quantities. This means that although an edible is advertised as 10mg, it might be more and it might be less. This variability can lead to undesirable effects such as an uncomfortable highs. When it comes to edibles, that’s really not what you want from your products. Finally, there are is also a risk of counterfeit products existing at illegal dispensaries. These counterfeit products mimic the branding and packaging of reputable cannabis businesses, but give a subpar quality product. This harms the integrity of companies who are working hard to do things legally. Overall these are risks one is subject to when shopping at an illegal dispensary. They might be worth it, they might not, that’s up to you!

How to navigate the legal landscape

If you find that the risks of illegal dispensaries are not worth it to you, what can you do? Many times you aren’t really aware that a dispensary is illegal, so you need to do your own research. There is likely a database that you can reference to ensure where you’re shopping is legitimate, like this one for Los Angeles County. Additionally you can keep an eye out for the red flags we outlined above. The biggest problem for many consumers is justifying the price that legal cannabis comes with. One way to deal with this is by keeping your eyes peeled for deals, happy hours, and promotions that legal dispensaries are having. Loyalty programs are also a great way to stay up to date with killer sales. It’s doable and you’ll be able to rest easy that your cannabis is up to safety standards.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps you didn’t know there was a problem with illegal dispensaries happening now in cannabis. Maybe you didn’t even realize that you’ve probably supported illegal dispensaries inadvertently. In a nutshell, there is a certain element of safety that is compromised when you shop at an unlicensed location. If that is a concern for you, look into finding reputable locations. At Cannacopia, we make sure to only support legal dispensaries. Every storefront on our platform is up to date on its legal end so you can be confident all their products are tested and safe. The Cannacopia App is available in the App and GooglePlay store, find it today! We hope you have learned a little something today, stay vigilant, stay high and we’ll catch you the next time!


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