Back in January, when California first opened its legal cannabis market, the Los Angeles Police Department was busy arresting folks associated with unlicensed pot shops. In fact, 21 of them, with police detaining 160 people. Authorities continued with plans to eradicate businesses that violate the law. Despite pot being legal now, police are still busting growers and retailers.
This has had huge implications for various sectors, including the weed industry and investments. Transitioning from the jungle days of an underground, unregulated cannabis market to a legal, tightly controlled one is just one reason for these high numbers of arrest. Although most are trying to operate within current regulations, many remain unlicensed and the target of local and federal law enforcement.
Effects of Illegal Operations
There are consequences to everyone growing pot haphazardly so. Across Northern California, illegal growers are co-opting large acres of national forest lands for use in their operations, flooding the country with illegal pot and killing local wildlife and forests with toxic chemical residues. Early this year, U.S. Attorney for Eastern California, McGregor Scott, pledged $2.5 million to eradicating the problem.
Meanwhile, locally, several county and city governments are busting illegal marijuana stores to destroy competition for legal ones. Regulators sent more than 1,000 cease-and-desist letters to hundreds of unlicensed pot shops and California marijuana delivery services across the state. Law enforcement at all levels stepped up their efforts to arrest those openly violating the law.
Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer, filed 36 criminal cases against 142 people involved in illegal marijuana stores across the city. He sent letters demanding others also shut down, claiming a fine of $1,000 if caught running unlicensed pot shops, as well as a six-month possible jail term. Since then, the city has served another 54 search warrants and arrested a further 160 people.
Problems for California Marijuana Delivery
Officers also seized over $300,000 in cash, more than 6,200 pounds of illegal weed, and 29 firearms in the sting. California marijuana delivery drivers are somewhat in the crosshairs, with some operating very illegally indeed. In a press conference, Feuer said that, “The combination of significant amounts of cash and marijuana at these locations can make them dangerous.”
Thus far, California authorities are focusing on shutting down those operations that generate the most complaints from those living in their surrounding communities. “We have tried to be very responsible with taxpayer money, understanding that we have limited resources and are not able to necessarily address all of the locations,” an unnamed lieutenant added.
With Phase 3 of California’s licensing process likely to be underway by January 1, there is much uncertainty in the industry, enough to strike fear into the hearts of investors. Rumor has it that Phase 3 will include license applications for California marijuana delivery companies to operate legally. Until the fledgling industry and fast-changing laws settle down, insecurity will remain high.
The Future of Unlicensed Marijuana Stores
California has always been the nation’s go-to destination for marijuana. Its growing scene has iconic status and, for a long time already, it has proven a safe haven to consume as much weed as one wanted. Even during prohibition, the illegal market flourished. Now, after legalization, it thrives still in the variety of interesting ways. Tons of unlicensed pot shops operate throughout the state, hundreds, if not more.
For example, in just Los Angeles alone, its Police Department claims at least hundreds of unlicensed marijuana stores. “We have several hundred,” Deputy Chief John Sherman said, “Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 to 300, of what we believe are these unlawful and illegal establishments operating throughout the city.”
It is clear that many factors make these stores illegal, with proper licensing being just one of them. Many are in trouble for not following the correct security protocols, which include 24-hour surveillance cameras and security teams. Whatever the crime, law enforcement agencies will continue cracking down on any marijuana store they deem illegal.
There is much talk of legalization gaining fast momentum these days, with several new states about to legalize this November 6 ballot, if voters have their honest say. Public pressure is mounting for the federal government to legalize at the national level. Soon, pot will be legal everywhere, but only at select outlets, it seems.