This Chart Reveals California's Urban–Rural Cannabis Divide – Leafly

Cannabis Deserts in Rural California

The local ban has become the bane of legal cannabis states. With every new legalization vote, the pattern repeats: Local town or county officials scramble to “keep marijuana out of our backyard” by banning licensed and regulated cannabis stores.

Rural counties ban cannabis to ‘keep it out of our community.’ But it’s already there.

We all know that cannabis isn’t “coming in” anywhere. It’s already circulating in every county and town in America. You can have it as an illegal product, untested and sold to minors. Or you can have it tested, regulated, and sold only to adults in licensed stores.

In California the problem is especially acute. In the state that practically invented cannabis culture, home of the famed Emerald Triangle, 39 of 58 counties prohibit the retail sale of cannabis. While researching Leafly’s new report, Debunking Dispensary Myths, we discovered that 400 incorporated cities and towns have banned stores as well. We also found that legal, licensed cannabis can’t be purchased at all in 14 of California’s 58 counties—in other words, both the county and all municipalities within the county prohibit legal sales.

At some of these council discussions, it’s not uncommon to hear a version of this sentiment: Let the big cities handle it. Keep the dispensaries in Los Angeles, Oakland, and Sacramento. That’s anecdotal evidence, but it adds up to this eye-opening chart that lists California counties according to population.

‘Allowed’ counties contain at least one town with a legal cannabis store. ‘Banned’ counties contain no cannabis stores whatsoever. (Leafly)

The pattern is clear. Heavily populated counties, near the top, tend to allow cannabis stores. Sparsely populated rural counties almost all move to ban the stores.


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