California Cracks Down on Referrals to Unlicensed Marijuana Dispensaries

The California Burea of Cannabis Control estimates more than 1,000 marijuana dispensaries are operating without a license in the state. In addition to directly addressing these businesses, the Bureau is cracking down on referral services like WeedMaps for directing buyers to unlicensed retailers.

The Bureau sent WeedMaps a cease-and-desist letter, warning the popular pot-finding service that they are “aiding and abetting” in illegal drug sales. Fellow dispensary mapping service Leafy is a step ahead. Leafy recently announced it would no longer list cannabis businesses that operate without a license in California.

The situation puts WeedMaps, one of the state's biggest contributors to the campaign to legalize marijuana, in a questionable position. In their mission to become a dominant player in the state's newest industry, WeedMaps donated more than $750,000 to push recreational marijuana in California, while simultaneously promising to offer the most extensive marijuana map in the state.

The state's crackdown on marijuana referral services is yet another growing pain in its transition away from decades harboring a thriving black market. However, the situation is not so black-and-white for business owners. Obtaining approval is expensive, prohibitively so for some.

Several small cannabis growers in the state say the cost of going legal is out of their budget, and retailers argue they will never be able to afford the license and taxes if they have to cease their current operation. Though the state promised the market would be welcoming to small businesses, business owners say the regulations favor large-scale operators.

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