Chart: Number of California licensed recreational marijuana stores falls short

(This story has been updated from an earlier version with the start date for adult-use sales in Long Beach, California.)

The number of licensed recreational cannabis stores in California is far short of what’s needed to adequately supply the market, as licensing logjams at the local level constrain establishment of operations in large portions of the state.

It’s yet another issue hampering the rollout of California’s recreational marijuana industry, which has experienced lower-than-expected tax revenue and a flourishing black market.

Some numbers swirling around the situation include:

  • According to data from the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, the state currently has 358 licensed recreational marijuana stores. That’s less than one store per 100,000 residents – about 15 times less than the number of adult-use stores in Oregon on a per-capita basis.
  • In some major population centers throughout the state – such as Fresno and Bakersfield, which have a combined population of more than 900,000 – the nearest recreational store is more than an hour’s drive away.
  • Along Interstate 5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles – a major stretch of highway spanning more than 350 miles – adult-use shops are nearly nonexistent.

The issue stems from California’s dual-licensing system between state and local governments, which requires cannabis businesses to obtain local authorization from the city and/or the county in which they’ll operate before they can apply for a state license.

But only 70 of the state’s 482 cities allow adult-use retail stores, according to a database created by The Cannifornian, a news outlet covering the California marijuana industry.

Though it’s still very early for California’s recreational marijuana industry, and more towns and municipalities will likely eventually allow adult-use stores, the state has not kept pace with other markets on the number of licensed rec shops early on.

Colorado, for example, had 242 licensed recreational marijuana stores nine months after the launch of its adult-use industry – about 4.3 per 100,000 residents, nearly five times California’s current count on a per-capita basis.

Additional findings from the state licensing data include:

  • Combined, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento account for about 14% of California’s total population but are home to more than half of all adult-use stores in the state. Overall, roughly 30% of the state’s residents live in a city or town with a licensed recreational marijuana store.
  • To reach the same number of licensed adult-use stores on a per-capita basis as Colorado, California would need more than 3,700 retail locations – or more than 10 times the amount currently licensed. To match Oregon, California would require more than 5,500 recreational retail shops.
  • Four of the top 10 most-populous cities in California – Fresno, Long Beach, Bakersfield and Anaheim, which have a combined population of 1.7 million – do not have any retail marijuana stores. Long Beach, however, is slated to begin recreational sales Sept. 1.

Eli McVey can be reached at [email protected]

11 comments on “Chart: Number of California licensed recreational marijuana stores falls short
  1. George Bianchini on

    Jerry Brown’s BCC picks reminds me of how Donald Trump picks only the finest and best people for his cabinet. Our Rules and Reg’s are being designed to crash and burn. Pay attention to the new testing rules that start this week. The blind leading the blind! I had one test last week that came back with a total cannabinoid count at 1084 mg/g. When I discussed it with the BCC, they saw no issue with the results as the lab was certified and I should consider relabeling the product packaging. This is fifth grade math folks, and the BCC has no idea what they’re doing.
    Don’t expect many more dispensaries to start sprouting up in California with this regulatory Board in place. The new grey market is being met with customers that treat them as a godsend. Products at half the price and profits that make it well worth the risk. It’s the Black market that scares me. They are getting more powerful day by day and people are going to be collateral damage in the race to see who gains control of the industry after the BCC destroys it. I wonder how much of the $30 million the BCC borrowed from the state is left. Their prop 64 Hemp partner and it’s new Board did not get a dime of that seed money. Since Lorie Ajax intended to make Cannabis CBD sourced from hemp illegal to sell in cannabis dispensaries, why give them money to organize?

    Reply
    • Ak on

      George, maybe the illegal market wouldn’t exist if they had the opportunity to continue cultivating without the need to find half a million dollars in order to meet requirements. All the legal cultivators are rich folks who haven’t grown a cannabis plant in their life yet alone any plant!!! Now you guys are applying for multiple licenses. The legal cartel is far worse then the illegal one believe me. I hope the illegal market not only thrives, but puts these rich white men trying to make even more money bankrupt!!!! We could have had thousands making decent money instead of a few ending up making billions!

      Reply
  2. Doc on

    As a consumer I love the “black market,” have relied on it for years, and hope it flourishes into the future until the State gets its act together. (Very possibly never.) The State has made a joke of implementing the will of its voters: everyone responsible for this fundamental failure of democracy needs to be turned out.

    Reply
  3. Ak on

    Half the articles about the industry is about companies like medmen as if they deserve praise for trying to become the Starbucks of cannabis. Are we that blind? We really need to stop with having laws that benefit a few especially in an industry where thousands of us were doing this long before the current business owners.

    Reply
  4. Matthew on

    Legalization takes time, and there are inevitably hiccups along the way. California will necessarily lead the cannabis market simply due to its productive potential and cultural influence. I’m not worried. 🙂

    Reply
    • Pat on

      “California will necessarily lead the cannabis market simply due to its productive potential and cultural influence. I’m not worried.”

      Matt, you haven’t been paying attention. And, I think you’re missing the point entirely.

      Reply
      • Jack Ajax on

        Obviously a state paid agent. No one in their right mind that is aware of history would say that.

        “I’m not worried.” Said Patt.

        Wow. The BCC operates like state propaganda flooded CHINA paying state agents to respond with positive statements when the BCC and its agents are all uncle toms for the slavemaster!

        Reply
  5. Patrick McNeal on

    It is clear that the League of Cities and local politicians have succeeded in blocking the implementation of the Voter’s Choice. Unfortunately, as long as you allow local government, which is largely anti-cannibis to control the licensing, you will get this type of disparity.
    There should be a state-wide vote to amend the regulations and allow for state-wide licensing, and set up regional districts to otherwise regulate the amount and location of licensed businesses. Possibly patterned after the Alcohol Beverage Control Board… It would free up much of the log jam in production, distribution and retail sales of licensed product. Get the Local Governments out of it, they will never go along with a full implementation of the Legislation,, it has been over 20 years since the Compassionate Use Act was passed, and we are still largely relying upon black market to service the legitimate needs of the consumer.

    Reply
  6. Rick on

    Prop 64 high taxes and restrictions currently leaves millions of Californians (former legal medical marijuana users) doing illegal marijuana business in the black market.

    When is this enforcement supposed to start ? When the state gets more money from City people marijuana buyers ?\

    Black market criminal – to be or not to be? At ten times the cost …..

    Reply

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