OAKLAND, Calif. — When officers burst into Rickey McCullough’s two-story home in Oakland a decade ago they noted a “strong fresh odor of marijuana.” Mr. McCullough had been growing large amounts of marijuana illegally, the police said. He was arrested and spent a month in jail.
A few weeks ago the city of Oakland, now promoting itself as a hub for marijuana entrepreneurs, awarded Mr. McCullough, 33, a license to sell marijuana and the prospect of interest-free loans.
Four hundred miles to the south, in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, Virgil Grant, 50, straddles the same two worlds, but with a different outcome. He was a marijuana dealer in the 1990s whose customers are said to have included rap stars like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac, and he spent more than eight years in prison on marijuana convictions. But his vision of starting a marijuana dispensary in his hometown was dashed in January when the residents of Compton voted decisively to ban marijuana businesses from city limits.
From a distance, the legalization of recreational marijuana in California can appear like a giant collective embrace of the drug by a state that is by far its largest producer and consumer. Yet the diverging paths of Oakland and Compton, two cities with histories of illicit drugs and years of aggressive law enforcement crackdowns, highlight the continued ambivalence of many Californians toward marijuana.
It is also a lesson for states and municipalities across the country that are drawn to marijuana legalization as a source of revenue and see it as an inevitability given the failure of decades of federal efforts to stamp out cannabis. National polls suggest a majority of Americans favor legalization. But opinions can diverge sharply at the local level, and there are tensions between those who want to treat it as a