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Cannabis retailers face challenges as they prep for California marketplace

Don Goofy/Flickr

The Bureau of Cannabis Control has taken a long awaited-step by releasing online applications for retailers, distributors, testing labs and micro-businesses who want to jump into the new state-sanctioned marketplace in the new year. 

Kimberly Cargile is executive director of A Therapeutic Alternative, a medical cannabis dispensary in Sacramento. She's been involved with the California Cannabis Industry Association since it was formed and sits on the board of the California Growers Association.

"We've been advocating and working on regulations for a very long time," says Cargile. "However, we're still in the stressful (phase). The relief won't come until we have our license."

A Therapeutic Alternative will apply for two state licenses: one medical, one recreational. The store's been operating in Sacramento legally for years but will need to renew its permit. The price tag for those three licenses will come to about $170,000.

And this is the least complicated step. Cargile's got a serious to-do list to come into compliance. 

Like "hiring a new security company, setting up a new point of sales systems, making our building handicap accessible," Cargile explains. "You know, there's some really high-dollar costs (coming) in the next 30 days."

And while hiring a new security company may sound straightforward, it's not, says Cargile. Over the past five years in her role as executive director of A Therapeutic Alternative, she's crossed paths with dozens of businesses that simply don't want a medical marijuana dispensary as a client.

Cargile says discrimination against the industry born out of fear and stereotyping. She's currently scrambling to find a new bank after her previous one said the dispensary was too "high risk."

She hopes that the transition to a state-sanctioned marketplace will help dissipate negative representations of the industry.

Not all medical marijuana dispensaries operating legally right now will get into the state-sanctioned marketplace. If they operate in a city or county that bans cultivation, sale or manufacture of cannabis, they won't get a state license.