LA County to expand efforts to combat illegal cannabis businesses:
Even though all types of cannabis-related businesses are banned in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, over 80 businesses are illegally conducting cannabis activities in defiance of the County’s ban. Today, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion, authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, directing LA County to report back to the Board with an unlicensed cannabis business closure plan.
“For the past year and a half I have been working closely with many community members from my district to combat illegally operating marijuana businesses,” said Supervisor Solis. “Before the County considers recommendations for expanding marijuana businesses, we must put into place effective measures to end illegal operators. Today’s action is a step forward in ending this countywide game of ‘whack-a-mole’ and reassuring our communities that LA County will protect our residents, consumers, and our neighborhoods.”
“Our current process for shutting down illegal, unlicensed cannabis dispensaries in our unincorporated areas is not working,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “We need a better and more effective strategy that uses every tool at our disposal to shut down illegal dispensaries quickly and permanently.”
The report back, which is due within 90 days, will include a critical public education and outreach component so the public knows if a cannabis business is licensed and how to report an unlicensed cannabis business. Enhanced enforcement, including increased civil penalties and potentially a multi-department inspection and enforcement team, will also be included.
In March 2016, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors established the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Enforcement Team (MMDET), comprised of County Counsel, the District Attorney, the Department of Regional Planning, and the Sheriff, to close illegal cannabis businesses in the unincorporated areas of the County. Despite this effort, preventing new unlicensed cannabis stores remains an ongoing challenge. In April 2017, the MMDET estimated that approximately 75 illegal cannabis stores were operating in unincorporated areas. Six months later, 29 illegal cannabis stores were closed but 31 new stores opened during the same period.
Illegal cannabis businesses are open at all hours, create parking issues, and are not equitably distributed throughout LA County, thus widening existing gaps in public health and contributing to a lower quality of life. Many of these illegal cannabis businesses are in communities that are already overburdened by liquor stores and in low income neighborhoods and communities of color. These illegal cannabis businesses also place tremendous additional pressures on neighboring small businesses. Supervisor Solis is committed to developing and passing cannabis regulations that protect local communities from unequal and negative impacts while respecting the intent of the majority of California’s voters who supported legalization.
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