LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a plan to crack down on unlicensed cannabis businesses, including locking and sealing premises and potentially shutting off utilities.
Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended implementing a set of recommendations for closing down illegal shops — which have often closed in one location only to pop up in another — as outlined in a May report from the Office of Cannabis Management. The county has been threatening these tactics since July 2018. [Read the motion here.]
Some details still need to be worked out, including the appropriate procedures for locking business owners out and the feasibility of shutting off utilities, as well as whether the plan can be paid for by civil penalties.
In the meantime, the county plans to hire a consultant to design an outreach campaign to educate residents who may be unaware of the applicable laws or how to tell if a cannabis store or delivery service is licensed and what risk they face by shopping at illegal businesses.
Solis stressed in her motion that the plan emphasizes “non-criminal interventions to avoid the inequities brought about by the war on drugs.”
The county has a ban in unincorporated areas on all commercial cannabis activity, including the cultivation, manufacture, processing, testing, transportation and retail sale of medical and non-medical marijuana.
One advocate urged the board to focus on orderly legalization and licensing and warned that otherwise, voters may take action on their own.
“I would like to encourage the board to please actively work toward licensing,” said Jonatan Cvetko, a member of the county’s Cannabis Advisory Working Group.
“The election period of 2020 is coming quickly upon us. The industry is more than prepared and working towards … voter initiatives that could potentially take the opportunity for the board to implement responsible regulations out of their hands,” Cvetko said.
California voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in November 2016 and the state rolled out a framework for licensing and sales in 2018. Personal use and cultivation of small amounts for that purpose is legal statewide, but local jurisdictions have the ability to regulate commercial activity.
Solis’ motion was approved without comment by the board.
A report is expected back in 120 days.