5 Things We Saw In California That The Mass Cannabis Industry Ought To Note

Our trip to a state where they almost treat consumers like adults

When writing the Massachusetts adult-use cannabis law and subsequent regulations that detail everything from how businesses operate to restrictions on how much weed you can buy, state officials and the experts holding their hands through the process had a guiding unspoken slogan: don’t fuck this up like California.

To be fair, Cali’s all-out wild west days of medical shops with their own docs on site to write bogus prescriptions are largely behind us. These days, a metropolis like Los Angeles still has a few hole-in-the-wall spots with bars on the windows, but it’s also home to mega recreational dispensaries like Dr. Greenthumb’s.

I hit up that store, which is owned by B-Real of Cypress Hill, as well as several others on a recent fact-finding trip to LA and the Bay Area. And while I wouldn’t say that Mass is still behind Cali across the board as used to be the case, the market there still has some features that are well worth recognizing—whether you’re a cannabis business owner in New England, or just a product hound who is excited to see what goodies may be coming here next.

Here are five things that caught my (very bloodshot) eye … 

Social consumption lounges

One of my main missions in Cali was to see how social consumption can and should work. With that said, it’s not like the Golden State is way ahead of the game on this; in fact, considering that they’re been legal since 2016 (and that, unlike in Mass, dispensaries were able to start selling adult-use weed immediately), by this point every neighborhood should have a lounge where you can buy your dabs, joints, or what have you and then consume on the premises. Still, there are only a few up and running, and we were sure to visit the most famous one of all—Barbary Coast on Mission Street in San Francisco.

In short, here are some things that can be found in this combo lounge and dispensary that we are anxious to see in Mass when the time and opportunity come: a dab bar where you can sit and enjoy choice melts using their sweet tools and pipes; a separate fish bowl for smoking; booths with tables where you can roll, burn, spread out, and work; no stupid rules that restrict movement between the retail and consumption areas or what you can eat and drink on the premises. As hopeful social consumption license holders and regulators rewrite the parameters in Mass, I cannot stress enough that they should visit the Barbary Coast in the process, even if taxpayers have to foot the bill for the trip.

You can grab boxes off the shelf

I honestly don’t know what is so great about this other than that it is cool to touch products before you purchase them. I can imagine it being a huge pain in the ass for retailers, so I’m not married to this one, but hey, it’s nice to feel like I’m shopping in a regular store, or even like I’m shopping in a liquor store when I’m shopping for weed. I guess I didn’t comprehend the absurdity of a system where you look expensive products up on a tablet before purchasing them sight-unseen until I was able to simply grab some gummies off the shelf and read the label.

Individuals and samples

In Mass, I’ve noticed that when shopping for weed in a city, like Boston or Worcester, you’re less likely to find single sample-sized servings than you are at a larger suburban dispensary. That’s understandable with storage space considerations and the need to bring in more bucks with expensive products to pay pricey urban rents. In Cali, though, I realized the importance of being able to spend $20 to try four or five new products. Almost every spot I hit also had a cooler with individual sodas and seltzers, not just the pricey four-packs typically found in Mass. Again, I understand that storage space is more tightly regulated here, but that doesn’t change how great it is to be able to purchase a single can of pop and walk down the street sipping.

Professional budtenders

Don’t reach for your pitchforks just yet, Massachusetts budtenders. I know better than most how helpful and knowledgeable most of the people behind counters in the Bay State truly are, but on this latest trip to California I had some conversations with several pros who have been in the job for more than 10 years and they enlightened me. Several of them said that they make good money, but noted that wasn’t the case early on, and said that a lot of employers still suck. Their advice to budtenders on the East Coast: stand up for yourselves now, while the industry is young, and take the time to research and apply to companies where people tend to stick around and rise up through the ranks.

Valet service

I’m sure that someone will emerge from the woodwork with this one and let me know about a store in Mass where they park cars. I’ve been to more than a hundred dispensaries though and haven’t seen it, whereas in Los Angeles I saw it at a few spots. This is obviously excellent for people with certain disabilities, but it’s also great for lazy heads who live in busy areas. Boston dispensaries, I’m looking at you.