Recreational pot sales have been legal in California for the better part of a year now — but that doesn’t mean all pot in Los Angeles is being sold legally.
Unlicensed businesses still make up a huge chunk of L.A.’s cannabis industry. By avoiding taxes and regulations, they can undercut their legal competitors with much cheaper products.
“It’s rough out there, if you’re a licensed operator. In general, you’re getting crushed,” said Adam Spiker, executive director of local cannabis group the Southern California Coalition.
The city has been trying to shut these unlicensed businesses down. It’s filed criminal charges against more than 500 people in connection with more than 100 businesses. But that hasn’t been enough to stop the lucrative black market.
So on Friday, L.A. City Council’s Rules Committee began exploring ideas to smoke out illegal operators. Here are five new ways the city could start playing hardball:
1. Shut off their water and power
The city may be struggling to choke off the supply of black market cannabis to illegal shops. But could it cut off their basic utilities?
It’s an idea that follows efforts in other California cities. Last month, council members askedthe the L.A. Department of Water and Power to look into whether the approach would work here.
The department has reported back, saying other city departments would have to be responsible for determining which establishments to target. And it requested police protection for any staffers who have to physically go and disconnect utilities at these potentially criminal business sites.
With those precautions in mind, the motion is moving forward.
2. Padlock their doors
The city may already be arresting people connected with illegal businesses. But there’s concern that they just go right back to work after they’re freed.
So how about literally locking shops down?
Council members are asking staffers to get back to them on the possibility of passing an ordinance “to barricade, padlock, fence or secure an unlawfully operating cannabis business that has failed to comply with an order by the City to cease operation.”
3. Increase fines for workers
Council members say crackdowns should mostly focus on property and business owners, the ones profiting the most from black market sales. But they want to punish workers in those businesses too.
A new motion seeks to come up with plans for handing out citations to employees caught working for unlicensed businesses.
The motion says the “fine amount should be based on the number of citations and increase for every citation, with individuals who are repeatedly caught working in an illegal cannabis-related business subject to misdemeanor charges.”
To Read The Rest Of This Article By David Wagner on LAist
Published: October 19, 2018
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News