OJAI, Calif. — Imagine a restaurant where you can order cannabis-infused dark chocolate, or where you can choose a pre-rolled joint from a menu and light up at your table. Think your neighborhood Starbucks or local bar, but with unlimited marijuana.
It may look like Amsterdam, but these companies appear to be part of the next wave of California’s weed industry, which four years after legalization is still looking for ways to compete with the huge illegal pot market. State.
These cannabis lounges are opening (or reopening, after pandemic closures) in West Hollywood, San Francisco, Palm Springs and elsewhere. And many small California towns, including Ojai, a popular destination 90 minutes from Los Angeles, are considering allowing them as a way to boost tax revenue and attract tourists.
The idea is not universally popular. Although California voters legalized marijuana in 2016, the law has preserved local control, and many officials don’t want weed sold in their communities. Sixty-two percent of California cities and countiesincluding major municipalities such as Bakersfield, Anaheim, and Fremont, do not allow any type of retail marijuana sale.
And cannabis lounges in particular are raising a litany of new political questions that are unlikely to be easy to resolve, experts say. “This is a whole new frontier,” said Brad Rowe, adjunct professor of cannabis policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.
On a recent Sunday in the city, some visitors strolled along the arch-lined Main Street holding ice cream cones or sipping beers on shaded patios. A mile from the crowd, a sandwich board on a desolate road called on motorists to city dispensaries: “Let’s Get Baked.”
Despite being relegated to an industrial area, the three cannabis stores delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to Ojai, from both local and out-of-town customers. Jeffrey Kroll, who owns one of the stores, Shangri-La Care Centers, said 20% of his weekend sales came from visitors.
Currently, customers can purchase cannabis products to take home, much like a grocery store for pot. But Ojai officials are considering allowing its dispensaries to create spaces in their existing locations where customers can consume cannabis on-site, whether by vaping, smoking or eating edibles. (If you’re wondering, alcohol isn’t allowed in cannabis parlors.)
Port Hueneme, a seaside town 30 miles from Ojai, has recently become the first city in Ventura County to legalize salons, and seven states also allow them, according to City of Ojai staff. In other words, the shows could keep Ojai competitive in the tourism game.
“Who doesn’t want to, you know, smoke a joint or two in a hot tub with cucumbers on their face?” said Bob Solomon, a UC Irvine professor who studies cannabis law.
But there are a number of complications, experts say. California law prohibits smoking indoors, which could prevent patrons from hitting a joint in a salon. And there are regulations intended to prevent employees from working in smoky environments, Rowe said.
He also pointed out that edibles can take hours to manifest, so people might quit a weed cafe just as they start to feel the effects. And then there are all the considerations of where these salons are located in a city and the appropriate number to have in a community.
This segment of the industry is “in its infancy,” Rowe told me. “We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. We have work to do.
where we travel
Today’s tip comes from Murray Bolesta, who lives in Tulelake. Murray recommends a small town in far northern California:
“Most people speed through this town on Interstate 5. But I loved stopping recently and visiting historic downtown Dunsmuir in the shadow of Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County. Dunsmuir bills itself as the home of the best water on earth, with sport fishing streams within walking distance. It was shaped as a key transportation portal to Oregon and by logging. On the outskirts of the city, the Sacramento River rushes south in its high country configuration before reaching Shasta Lake. The railroad runs along the river and has an Amtrak station to start. Historic Route 99 also feeds into the city, the state’s main north-south artery before the interstate system disrupted things. A campaign to save the city’s California cinema is underway. Beautiful old houses, most in restored condition, dot this alpine village in a river canyon. What could be better? This: we ate a delicious brunch in the very friendly and highly rated Cornerstone Cafe.
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.
Summer is here. What’s your favorite part of the season in California?
Email us at CAtoday@nytimes.com with your stories, memories or recommendations.
And before leaving, some good news
For the first time since the pandemic began, hundreds of corgis descended on San Francisco’s biggest beach for the happiest day of the year: Corgi Con.
Founded in 2014, Corgi Con invites all stubby-legged pups to Ocean Beach to frolic or relax among their kind. This year the corgis were dressed as pop stars, Baby Yoda and more, SF reports.
And it was as adorable as you imagine.
Thanks for reading. I will be back tomorrow. — Soumya
PS Here today’s mini crosswordand a clue: Sinclair who won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (5 letters).
Briana Scalia and Jaevon Williams contributed to California Today. You can join the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.
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