Pot smoking in California has always been a popular sport. But since 2003, when the state legislature amended 1996’s Prop 215, making it easier to open pot clubs, a genuine marijuana renaissance has taken place. Even in unlikely quarters. In L.A., the “I-800-Got KUSH” billboards beckon from all over town. Middle aged parents smoke up at their kids’ private school camp-outs. Preschool drop-offs are as likely a place for a quiet pot exchange as the high school parking lot. Pot clubs cater Amsterdam-style to the discerning medical marijuana “patients” whose afflictions range from cancer to insomnia. The pot smoking stigma of years past has apparently so diminished that even the Governator himself (shown above in 1977’s doc “Pumping Iron”) admitted on camera last week to TMZ.com that, back in the day, he and Tommy Chong once shared a smoke.
Even routine raids by the DEA (the Feds don’t recognize California’s pot laws) haven’t slowed business. (Probably because every recent attempt to knock down Prop 215 has been swatted away by state and federal judges.) By some estimates, there are 800 cannabis clubs in California and at least 180 registered in Los Angeles County alone. Some say there are 100 more clubs operating under the radar. And there’s a whole sub culture of LA growers, turning downtown LA warehouses into giant greenhouses that secretly supply dispensaries around town. Earlier this year, a group of dispensary owners testified to state officials that their businesses earned as much as $1 billion a year, bringing in some $100 million in state sales tax. Nothing to sneeze at considering California’s staggering $15.2 billion budget deficit.