By all accounts, the Bay Area cannabis industry did remarkably well for itself in 2020.
Forced to deal with new COVID-19 restrictions, a crumbling economy, fallout from multiple wildfires, and a string of high-profile robberies, cannabis companies still managed to rake in close to $1 billion for California in state tax revenue alone.
At the same time, the window for equity brands to establish a viable foothold in the industry continues to rapidly close.
It’s now been a full three years since California’s adult-use market began in earnest. That’s a lot of time for consumers to develop brand loyalty, be it on the product side or the shops they frequent. Nonetheless, the time required to move through San Francisco’s equity program means that a number of new, equity-owned businesses are just now getting off the ground.
And they could use your help. In fact, there’s a number of ways individuals can make a difference! On that note — and in the spirit of starting 2021 on the right foot — here are four resolutions for conscientious local cannabis consumers to consider.
There are two types of dispensaries that exist in San Francisco: those that were grandfathered in from the Prop. 215 days and those owned by equity operators. To be sure, there are plenty of great pot shops that fall into the former category, but in the spirit of spreading the love around, it’s also extremely important to support the new crop of Black and brown-owned dispensaries now open in the city if we hope to see them endure. In 2020 alone, new shops to open from equity owners include Stiiizy-Union Square (SF’s first dispensary owned by a Latina woman) and Posh Green (SFs first dispensary owned by a Black woman). There is also a newly created “SF Equity” seal that customers can look for when shopping for local products across all categories. More new shops, including one affiliated with the combo print shop and arcade, Free Gold Watch, are expected to open in 2021 as well.
It may sound like a flowery platitude, but to truly understand cannabis, one should really see it grow. In the past, such a visit might have put you at risk of doing time, but nowadays, there are legal opportunities for individuals or groups to tour outdoor and indoor grow sites. Walking between rows of towering plants at the peak of harvest is something everyone should experience. From the scents to the scale to the solace, there is so much to soak in at a cannabis farm. As an added bonus, you’ll likely also get to meet the farmers responsible for growing your medicine. They can tell you about the ways smoke changes sunlight, which in turn affects terpene output. They can share their personal stories of what led them to this career (hint: when it comes to craft growers, the answer is not “getting rich”).
If we haven’t yet arrived at the molecular gastronomy phase of the cannabis cooking revolution, it’s assuredly coming soon. From the golden days of brownies baked by intuition, the modern edibles market is, by contrast, a brain-bursting cornucopia of choice and potential confusion. If you’re tired of trying to understand the difference between live resin and raw flower or continue to question how dosing works, why not get a little hands-on experience? The time has quite honestly never been better to bring cannabis into your home kitchen. Local cannabis chef (and Mellows founder) Stephanie Hua has a cookbook to guide newbies along, while San Francisco’s Potli prides itself on offering products designed to serve as staples of a cannabis-friendly pantry. Once you’ve tackled a few recipes on your own, you’ll likely have a far more nuanced appreciation for all of the many ingredients that go into preparing an infused edible!
Yes, 2020 was a big year for people asking for money. No, that’s not likely to end anytime soon. Of the many worthy causes in need of your funds, several groups focused on advocacy and racial justice within the legalized cannabis space are notably also seeking donations. In the Bay Area, Oakland’s the Hood Incubator is calling for financial contributions. It’s difficult to overstate how the industry — both in the Bay Area as well as across California — might look without their tireless efforts to empower local equity applicants to reach the finish line and remain viable. Another one to consider is the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Advocates for patients and sensible drug laws, it’s likely both CA NORML as well as the organization’s national wing will both be very busy this year as the prospect of federal decriminalization (or outright legalization) continues to gain traction in Congress.
Zack Ruskin covers cannabis for SF Weekly in his column, Pacific Highs. Follow him on Twitter @zackruskin
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