The benefits of buying cannabis legally and locally

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Pam Chotiswatdi, head of community education of the Long Beach Collective Association. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

The Long Beach Collective Association was established in 2010 to advocate for safe access, fair policy, and public safety.

Its public service announcement #buylocalbuylegal campaign began as #buylegal to promote public safety and legal cannabis businesses. Adding #buylocal encourages buying from legal — local — delivery services. The only legal delivery services in Long Beach are from the legal brick-and-mortar dispensaries — everything else seen on the favorite “cannabis finder” are illicit deliveries (there are more than 80  illicit cannabis delivery services in this city alone).

The city of Long Beach has recently rolled out an “emblem” campaign that issues a plaque to each legal cannabis retail location. Similar to the restaurant ratings placed in windows, the plaque is displayed outside near the dispensary entrance informing patrons that the retail location is a credible Long Beach legal cannabis dispensary.

The benefits of buying legal cannabis include:

  • Tested Product — through regulations, the legal market must test all cannabis products for pesticides, molds, heavy metals, fungus, and other microbials.
  • Consistency — testing helps maintain consistent products and supply chain transparency.
  • Socio-economic development — Illicit operations do not participate in state or local taxes, education, advocacy, social-equity, living wages, or community programs. All legal Long Beach cannabis businesses participate in social-equity efforts. The LBCA held its first expungement fair/record-changing clinic in February in Downtown Long Beach where 80+ cases were changed.
  • Breaking stigma – buying local and legal assures safe access, provides confirmation for federal rescheduling, and propels cannabis research. Breaking stigma also includes promoting and training for cannabis careers. The LBCA offers workshops for those interested in making a career in cannabis. Traditional degrees similar to my own in public health are greatly needed in the emerging industry.

From a public health perspective, the state is extremely late with cannabis education or (credible and accurate) public safety announcements. The first cannabis regulations that included the entire state of California were implemented in 1996 — state-wide education began more than 20 years later — they could have been pro-active and we might have avoided the whole trap-shop era of “boobs and buds.”

There were no public safety campaigns until after the passing of Prop 64 in 2016 — a disservice to communities. Politics are local and in constant discussions of compromise. The LBCA encourages Long Beach’s progressive status and continues to help change policy to advance business fairness and ethics in the cannabis industry as well as promote public safety.

Converting from the illicit market into the legal space is extremely difficult and expensive —- there are many obstacles, so many in fact, that not one legal entity is owned outright by one person —- it takes a village to make this industry succeed while at the same time trying to keep out entities like “big pharma” and “big tobacco/ alcohol.”

It is no wonder that the illicit market is thriving: its patrons are not paying 38% tax and its supply chain is not taxed at all. It is a public-safety issue because none of the products they carry are held to legal regulations. Their efforts are not going back into the community at large.

The LBCA teams up with the Long Beach Health and Human Services Department’s Cannabis Education Program to bring credible information to the Long Beach Community, seen at CSULB campus, neighborhood associations, and at community events.

These efforts are only possible with credible education and PSAs like LBCA’s #buylocalbuylegal campaign and collaborative efforts with the city’s Cannabis Education Program and Emblem Program.

Find Pam Chotiswatdi, MPH @cannabiscloset or [email protected] and more information about the LBCA @theLBCA or

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