Behind the scenes at a California dispensary preparing for legal pot on Jan. 1


For years the only way to get marijuana was to grow it at home illegally or buy it on the black market. But today 205 million Americans live in a state where marijuana is legal for either recreational or medical use. Kristen Hwang/The Desert Sun

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From left, Hunter Gillman, John Chaisson and Carlos Esparza are photographed in an area of Atomic Budz that will be opened to the public after December 31, 2017 when recreational use of marihuana will be available to adults. (Photo: Omar Ornelas/The Desert Sun )Buy Photo

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. — John Chaisson didn’t get into the marijuana business to turn customers away.

But Chaisson reckons that his dispensary, Atomic Budz, sends a handful of would-be customers home without so much as a gram every day. Unless they have prescriptions, it’s illegal for him to let them step into the store.

Not for long. California is less than a month away from allowing any adult 21 and up to purchase marijuana from a licensed dispensary. No doctor’s note needed.

With that change on the horizon, pot shops like Atomic Budz that are a part of California’s $2 billion-a-year medical cannabis industry have spent the past year hustling to stay on the right side of state and local laws. They’re stocking up on different cannabis products and staffing up in anticipation. And they’re doing whatever it takes to thrive in the largest legal pot market in the nation.

“If you don’t have good product in the market, you’re not going to last,” Chaisson said. “But if you do, what’s going to differentiate you?”

Chaisson thinks he’s found the right formula to make his dispensary off of Highway 111 inthe Southern California desert town of Cathedral

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