The best part of legalized recreational cannabis is the abundance of local dispensaries vying for your business with deals, free gifts, and other first-time customer incentives. The worst part of legalized recreational cannabis is the abundance of local dispensaries with questionable claims of legitimacy, many of which disappear overnight, taking your new favorite strain with them. While the blame for the inconsistent dispensary market in California lies with often-conflicting state, county, and municipal regulations, it’s still up to consumers to vet dispensaries for quality and safety. Here’s how to tell if you’re dealing with a safe cannabis store or a grey-market pop-up that could vanish any minute in a puff of skunky smoke:

Look for licensed retailers

The easiest way to separate legit dispensaries with shady enterprises is to stick with licensed retailers. To obtain a dispensary license in California, cannabis businesses must apply for a retail license at both the state and local city levels, submit a bond payable to the state along with other local and state fees, follow location regulations as they relate to schools (must be at least 600 feet away), stick with strict operating hours (6:00am to 10:00pm), and prove they have an adequate security system in place. Licensed dispensaries will label themselves as such on their website, usually with their state license number, which lets you know they’re here to stay.

Check for proper packaging and labels

Licensed cannabis retailers are required to sell cannabis in re-sealable child-proof packaging, so if you walk into a dispensary with a dazzling display of bulk weed in enormous glass jars, you’ll know the place isn’t legit. Most licensed retailers also only sell lab-verified products labeled to include the lab information, THC/CBD content, terpenes present, and other key data that will ensure you’re getting exactly what you’re paying for. Those sparkly buds in the jars might look tempting, but there’s no guarantee it’s anything close to what the clerk behind the counter says it is, or whether it contains pesticides or other unwelcome ingredients.

Compare medical and recreational prices

Legit dispensaries have to add sales tax and other state taxes to their recreational customer purchases, although medical patients are exempt. If a dispensary doesn’t collect taxes or doesn’t even inquire whether you’re a recreational or medical customer, you’ve probably found one of the many grey-market shops that abound throughout the state.

Stay alert for red flags

Some unlicensed dispensaries put a lot of effort into appearing legit, even limiting their offerings to pre-packaged cannabis products and serving one customer at a time as required by the state. But there are usually signs that the place is questionable if you know where to look. Here are some red flags to watch for:

  • No obvious store sign out front
  • Lax or nonexistent ID checks
  • Operating at later or earlier hours than permitted
  • No address listed on their website
  • No reviews on sites like Weedmaps
  • Location is in a city that does not allow dispensaries to operate

Another subtle clue that a dispensary is shady is if the workers offer medical advice or make therapeutic claims about their products. Sales clerks are not medical professionals, and while they can offer information about the effects of a particular strain, licensed dispensary workers are not supposed to make any promises relating to specific medical issues.

Balboa Ave Cooperative of San Diego is Fully legit and at your service

Balboa Ave Cooperative is a fully state-licensed, legit cannabis retailer that you can trust, offering an incredible selection of flower, concentrates, edibles, and topicals at affordable prices. Check out our online menu or give us a call at (858) 598-5004.