The surge of the illegal weed dispensaries amongst LA marijuana dispensaries is an issue caused by the city itself.
Los Angeles is home to one of the globe’s biggest cannabis markets. However, the city’s officials were not completely prepared for the introduction of the Adult-Use of marijuana (recreational use) at the start of 2018. Due to these officials not having the due preparations, dispensaries without the proper legal licensing have been allowed to secrete into the legal dispensary industry in the city. Reports say that the number of illegal dispensaries outweighs the number of legal dispensaries.
According to an interview published in the L.A Times in 2009, one dispensary owner is quoted as saying that the city’s processing of licensing for medical marijuana dispensaries was like they were “…being railroaded by kangaroo courts.”
The dispensary owner goes on to say how the Los Angeles’ city officials were denying as many potential dispensaries as they could, with an “obvious intent to close everyone down.”
Fast forward 9 years, into 2018, and the city is reaping the repercussions. While the laws and regulations have changed, there are many things that have remained unchanged. Despite the state of California having legalized recreational marijuana, a vote that came into official effect on the first day of 2018, there are numerous owners of LA marijuana dispensaries reporting the uninviting and unfriendly environment that they have to face with regards to licensing and regulations. Some dispensary owners claim that it is this very attitude from city officials that make it close to impossible for the industry to run as fully legal in the city.
California is known across the world as one of the key fundamental elements of the medical marijuana movement and profitable industry. This, coupled with L.A being recognized as one of the globe’s most predominant marijuana market, should pave the way for a successful implementation of a legal cannabis industry within L.A. Furthermore, these two factors should have garnered enough motivation and foresight for the city officials to, in the very least, be more prepared for the introduction of recreational marijuana.
Instead, the restrictive and outdated licensing program has seemed to cause more damage than good. Because of the lacking licensing system in place, many dispensaries unable to obtain licenses have sprung up in numerous amounts throughout the city.
According to the city’s online registry, there are only 169 marijuana dispensaries with the correct licensing in the city. However, Curbed released an estimate that places the number of dispensaries operating within the city without the correct license at approximately 1,700. Furthermore, the popular cannabis ‘roadmap’ website, Weedmaps, shows that there are dozens of available marijuana dispensaries in the downtown area of Los Angeles. And the official number of licensed dispensaries in the downtown area, according to the official city records? Five.
The response of city officials has been swift and unrelenting. Without factoring in any raids or charges that may have been made in the month of October, according to LAist, The Los Angeles Police Department has charged more than 500 individuals and they have raided more than 100 suspected illegal weed dispensaries in the city. These individuals charged in connection to an illegal marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles could face six months prison time and fines of approximately $1000.
One suspected cause of the explosion of illegal weed dispensaries in LA has been directed towards the near impossibility of attaining a license in L.A. The city has imposed very strict regulations on those dispensaries that have opened after 2007, making it almost impossible for them to operate legally.
Another suspected cause for the rampancy of illegal weed dispensaries in the city is the somewhat confusing system of legalities and authorities; the Department of Building and Safety, City Planning, City Attorney’s Office, The Los Angeles Police Department, Department of Cannabis Regulation, City Council, Mayor, and more than 100 councils from the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, are all involved in the process. This involvement of all community areas, if organized fairly and with due consideration, should be a positive method of implementing a successful and uplifting legal marijuana market in the city. Instead, the public looking to open a legal dispensary are finding it to be a tight and confusing legal web to navigate.
Once the recreational use of marijuana was voted in, the city soon passed a law that would provide preferential treatment to the dispensaries in Los Angeles that have opened their doors prior to 2007. While the law does state that implementations will be put into place to see new dispensaries legally opening their doors for business, this has yet to materialize off the paper and onto the streets, according to reports from Curbed.
While it must be said organizing one of America’s largest recreational and commercial marijuana regulation programs is by no means simple, it is important for the success of this very commercial market that the responsibility for the illegal weed dispensaries that have been popping up in the city is placed in the hands of the city officials themselves- and measures taken to ensure that it does not create an opening for this to happen in the future.