The Los Angeles commission that oversees cannabis regulation advanced a proposal to the City Council Thursday that requests the creation of a law allowing city officials to padlock, barricade or fence in a property where marijuana is sold illegally without a license.
The request came from Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, which was deliberated by the city’s Cannabis Regulation Commission, and it asks the city to draft the enforcement measures.
“Unlicensed cannabis businesses violate city and state laws,” Harris-Dawson’s motion read. “Despite increased law enforcement efforts to shut down unlicensed cannabis businesses, they continue to open for business and thereby jeopardize public safety and customer health, along with making it harder for licensed and regulated businesses to survive the competitive cannabis marketplace.”
Thursday’s deliberation was about the initiating new enforcement measures that, if passed by the City Council, would later be discussed in detail.
Commission President Robert Ahn spoke during the meeting about the need for the enforcement in order to decrease the city’s unlicensed cannabis dispensaries.
“It’s a complex problem that really is unprecedented. As a city, we’ve never really had to deal with this,” Ahn said. “There’s not a silver bullet that will solver this over night. But I think it’s very critical that we utilize the resources that we have. We’ve got to minimize the illicit market.”
Ahn said illegal operators could be selling products that have not been tested or approved by regulators and that they could be selling to minors, which is illegal.
“It’s an unequal playing field. You’ve got situations where you’ve got a licensed … dispensary that has to contend with a competitor just a few doors down that’s selling (cannabis) for a third of the cost,” Ahn said. “I think we have to do everything that we can as a city to put try to put a dent in this problem.”
Several public speakers who said they work in the cannabis industry said the regulations would be overly punitive and that they would rather the city work with owners to come into compliance, rather than boarding up a shop.
Concerns were raised by commissioners about creating barricades and fencing in that they “increase blight” in communities. Ahn said the details of the enforcement would be hashed out in a forthcoming ordinance, if approved by the City Council.
The Southern California Coalition and Americans for Safe Access both wrote letters of support for the enhanced enforcement.
Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in April that the city would put tens of millions of dollars toward cracking down on illegal cannabis dispensaries.
The Los Angeles City Council in May took a major step toward charging the owners of illegal pot shops and their landlords for the costs associated with shutting off utilities at the businesses.
“This is a very important and no-nonsense enforcement tool that will be crucial in tackling the spread of illegal cannabis operators in our communities,” City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, chair of the city’s Public Safety Committee, said in May. “Property owners responsible for harboring illegal cannabis businesses must be held accountable for their role in undermining our legal system. They should be held responsible for the full costs of public safety enforcement efforts.”
Rodriguez’s motion said the cost of cutting the utilities at the businesses includes “materials used to secure facilities, staff hours generated by those engaged in enforcement and other costs.”
Since the beginning of 2018, all businesses conducting commercial cannabis activity in Los Angeles are required to be licensed by both the state and city, but hundreds without the proper licenses are believed to be operating, according to the LAPD.