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Let’s be Real

California’s connection with cannabis is as legendary as it is complex. But understanding our past is key to creating a better future.

A cannabis cultivator trims young plants in a greenhouse

Unlicensed cannabis

Why does this matter?

Unlicensed and unregulated

Many people aren’t aware unlicensed dispensaries exist, while others don’t see an issue with shopping at unlicensed dispensaries. Unfortunately, because these businesses are unlicensed, they aren’t obligated to follow any of the regulations designed to keep consumers, workers, and communities safe.

The Real CA Cannabis campaign was launched by the California Department of Cannabis Control to support licensed cannabis businesses and consumers. The campaign is paid for using funds generated through cannabis sales in California.

  • 01

    Risks to consumers

    Cannabis sold at unlicensed dispensaries doesn’t have to meet consumer health standards or safety requirements and has been known to contain harmful toxins, mold, and dangerous bacteria. There’s also no way to verify where these products came from or the condition under which they were made since they aren’t tracked from seed to sale like regulated cannabis is.

  • 02

    Environmental hazards

    Unlicensed cannabis businesses aren’t required to meet environmental standards and have been known to deplete valuable natural resources and contaminate freshwater supplies, some of which feed into local drinking water. These unsafe growing practices harm wildlife and put communities at risk.

  • 03

    Unreliable labels

    The lack of formal testing of cannabis sold at unlicensed dispensaries increases the risk that products are mislabeled with the wrong dose or strain. When you shop at these dispensaries, there’s no way to know for sure what you are getting or what effect it will have.

  • 04

    Unethical labor practices

    Without state oversight or formal labor protections, workers at illegal cannabis operations are subjected to wage theft and unsafe working conditions.

Next steps

The future of cannabis

Building a licensed cannabis market that works for everyone

Real CA Cannabis educates consumers about the importance of purchasing regulated cannabis from licensed dispensaries and makes it easier for people to find them—but education alone will never be enough. Ensuring all consumers have convenient access to licensed cannabis dispensaries must be a statewide priority to promote safe consumption.

Real California Cannabis seal in white over a photo of a cannabis retailer. Seal reads, "Real CA Cannabis. Tested & Licensed. California Department of Cannabis Control."
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