Sporting a “Bad Grandpa” name tag, Ray Taylor recalled how, working in the Maryland music business in 1969, he risked “life in prison for one joint.”
Now co-owner of a Mission Valley dispensary, he marveled at crowds queuing up for an ounce of cannabis a day. Cash only.
On Saturday — the sixth day marijuana has been legal for recreational users statewide — his second-floor THCSD outlet, all 335 square feet, was a flame drawing moths.
On Monday, his business did 400 transactions, said the former classic-car show organizer (29 years at the stadium). He thought crowds would fade.
Since Friday night is usually his busiest, Taylor was curious whether his 2-year-old shop could beat Monday night’s take.
“It did by $1,000,” said the 71-year-old potreprenuer.
A couple blocks west, floor manager Jackie Callison guided browsing customers at one of two Apothekare shops in San Diego (the other being in Clairemont).
With bulletproof glass windows, two locked doors between the waiting room and shop, and security guards, the slick showroom allowed customers to collect what they wanted. (Typically, shops have products behind counters.)
“The first day we opened, out of about 300 people, about 250 of them were first-time users,” said Callison, 24, a Mission Valley resident.
“All of our people coming in are just patient. They’re just excited that they can come and do this finally. A lot of people are … saying: ‘I’m just coming in because I can.’”
Callison said a woman asked: Have anything for hot flashes? She was shown a Whoopi Goldberg line, also “good” for PMS and menstrual relief.
Like a waiter recommending the best house wine, she pointed to her favorite edible, “Bottom of the Ninth.” It’s like Crackerjack but has 100mg of cannabis per package.
“It has to have 10 pieces,” she said.
Times of San Diego also toured Torrey Holistics in a Sorrento Valley industrial park.
There, general manager Christine Bordenave of Little Italy talked about how long lines — 150-200 waiting all day Monday — were kept amused and fed.
On Saturday, local CannaCraft rep Jeff Storm of Carlsbad played acoustic guitar — one song was Ryan Adams’ “Lucky Now” — for a couple hours with friend Jason Toney of San Juan Capistrano on amplifier percussion.
Also “Free drinks, food,” Bordenave said. Food trucks were present earlier.
“We’ve been doing some raffles in line,” she said. “Just trying to keep people entertained.”
Old medical marijuana patients went through a metal detector in a short line. The recreational cannabis customers sometimes waited an hour in a separate queue.
Once inside the waiting room or shop, they watched flat-screen TVs playing a closed-circuit marijuana channel. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be seen over display cases.
Having recently declared a new War on Cannabis — giving his U.S. attorneys nationwide license to crack down — Sessions was an object of scorn everywhere Times of San Diego went Saturday.
Taylor of THCSD said Sessions dare not poke the hornet’s nest.
“It’s an $8 billion business just for California,” he said. “I got a feeling that California is going to fight anything the feds would do to disturb that. I really don’t think [the Donald Trump administration is] going to be around that long.”
Taylor said he had a feeling Sessions “is going to end up moving somewhere,” hinting prison. “Believe it or not, my partner is a Trump fan. I’m absolutely anti-Trump. We don’t talk about it too much.”
At the month-old Apothekare, customer Maureen McQueen of North Park bought some CBD rubs and a couple of edibles for arthritis and chronic back pain — a broken back 10 years ago.
“Regular pain medications are harder to obtain,” said the 61-year-old North Park resident. “This makes a lot more sense” than opioids, “and I’m familiar with the effects of THC and CBD.”
She shuns smoking pot and isn’t a vaper, saying: “Why do that to my lungs?”
McQueen added: “When I was in college, there was a lot of pot. I smoked it a few times, didn’t enjoy it. Didn’t really get high. (Had an allergy attack). I sneezed and coughed. It was not pretty.”
Neither was the first dispensary she visited Saturday in Point Loma, which she called “scummy and nasty.”
“It’s in a grungy industrial area,” she said. “I don’t like standing on the street, waiting to get in.”
McQueen was repulsed by Sessions as well — at least his interim U.S. attorney in San Diego, Adam Braverman, who backs a focus on cannabis-law enforcement.
“I think Mr. Braverman is wasting his time,” she said. “There’s many more important things to worry about than marijuana. It really isn’t a gateway drug.”
Floor manager Callison at Apothekare said Sessions wasn’t a concern for her or her customers.
“If it was, I would see the numbers go down,” she said. “We’ve seen the numbers go up regardless of that thing being said.”
She said the feds should instead go after unlicensed pot shops, citing ones in Spring Valley and La Mesa.
“I know they’re doing the best that they can,” she said, “but don’t focus on us. More people are coming in here because of how open we are. We do great service. Not doing anything very sketchy.”
White-haired Taylor says his son — a marjuana grower in south Rverside County — encouraged him to open a dispensary if cannabis was ever legalized.
“I was 69 years old, and he came up to me and said: ‘Well, you promised.’ But I’m like retiring; you want me to take all my money and put it all into this? He said: ‘Just saying. You promised.’”
Now cannabis product distributors have to be state-licensed.
His 43-year-old son?
“No, much to his chagrin,” Taylor said. “I just buy the best I can for my patients. I can’t buy from my son yet.”