Aaron Justis: Winning Over Locals Can Be Matter of Life or Death for Cannabis Dispensaries.

Dispensaries that provide safe access to medical cannabis are still relatively new to the business world, creating some unique challenges for the MMJ industry as a whole.

Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to winning over locals and influencing the political process. Older, established industries have been regulated by federal, state and city governments for decades – and therefore know how important it is to have a positive reputation in the community, which can help them gain political influence and shape rules covering their operations.
Cannabis dispensaries, on the other hand, are still learning the ropes in these areas. They’re often unorganized and uninvolved, and sometimes it doesn’t even seem as if they care what their neighbors think of them.

This is a big problem: Not only can community involvement create a more stable business environment and a strong, unified political voice, in many cases it can be a matter of life or death.

Just look to Los Angeles, where community and political involvement by dispensaries played a critical role in the industry’s very survival.

In 2006, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA) launched as a trade association of like-minded dispensary owner/operators to tackle the important issues that the city and state did not. The alliance established protocols, and member dispensaries agreed to follow the rules in a bid to become more appealing to the neighborhoods in which they operate and fit into the community at large.
The rules included limits on how much each patient can purchase daily (up to two ounces) and restrictions on operating hours (dispensaries must close by 8 p.m.). Members also agreed not to allow patients to medicate on-site, as neighbors might not appreciate people driving away in their cars after they’ve ingested marijuana. Additionally, the alliance encouraged members to become active politically by informing them about meetings at City Hall and educating them about how they might be affected by certain proposals.
The formation of this type of industry group years ago proved critical in the summer of 2012, when the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to implement an ordinance banning all dispensaries, and the mayor signed it into law.