As a ban on marijuana dispensaries continues into its second year, the few remaining legal medical storefronts have had to contend with a collection of illegal shops that have sometimes proven difficult to close.
Dispensary owners say the illegal medical dispensaries can charge cheaper prices because they do not have to comply with state and local regulations, undercutting the legal market.
Additionally, it can be difficult for law enforcement agencies to identify the illegal shops, allowing illegal businesses to reopen even after they have been shut down by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
“It definitely takes a lot of my staff’s time,” said Adam Plugge, commander of the Investigations Division at the Sheriff’s Office. “It’s not just merely simply identifying and going out into the shops and saying, ‘we are going to take all of your marijuana.’”
In the last round of closings that occurred late last year, Plugge said the Sheriff’s Office received a list of illegal dispensaries from the Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Department, and worked to shut down the shops that department identified.
But in some cases, the dispensaries reopened the day after being shut down.
Of the 15 dispensaries raided by the Sheriff’s Office, half have remained closed, said Angela Monroe, public information officer for the department, while the others have reopened.
Plugge said the Sheriff’s Office could conduct another sweep of illegal dispensaries later this year, and the department would focus on locations that received many complaints.
The officers in the narcotics division have many duties, he said, of which closing illegal dispensaries is one.
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