With hundreds of illegal marijuana shops continuing to operate in the city, a Los Angeles City Council committee signed off Tuesday on a proposed ordinance aimed at cracking down on the businesses by shutting off their utilities.
With the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee’s approval, the measure will now go to the full council for consideration.
“Shutting down the utilities for an operation that’s illegally operating, it’s a no-brainer, it’s just that simple,” City Councilwoman Nury Martinez said last week. “By operating in a community illegally, you are creating havoc, you’re not playing by the rules, you should get shut down.”
The Cannabis Regulation Commission has also expressed support for the idea, along with a number of other aggressive methods to crack down on the dispensaries, including the formation of a special task force.
“I’m frustrated, as many of you are,” Commission President Robert Ahn said last week during a meeting of the commission last week. “I would have to say of all of the cannabis questions that I get or inquiries, at the top of the list is enforcement, and it’s really the one issue that, whether you are in the industry, part of the industry or in the community, (is) something that everyone agrees on. It’s just common sense. If you create laws, what good are the laws if they cannot be enforced?”
The commission unanimously voted to send a letter to the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee asking the city to immediately establish a task force on unlicensed cannabis businesses to include members of the Department of Cannabis Regulation, the Los Angeles Police and Fire departments, the Department of Building and Safety, Department of Water and Power, and the city attorney’s and mayor’s offices.
The letter also will recommend that the task force consider shutting off utilities of illegal pot shops, padlocking or barricading illegal businesses, prosecuting the operators and the landlords, and assessing fines and penalties to property owners that allow unlicensed dispensaries to use their property.
The proposed utility ordinance would authorize the Department of Water and Power to disconnect utilities at illegal businesses, with the requirement that the Department of Cannabis Regulation must provide written confirmation that the address in question does not have a license, and the Los Angeles Police Department or another city agency must provide written confirmation to the LADWP that commercial cannabis activity is occurring at the address.
Although marijuana has been legal for recreational sales in California since Jan. 1 of last year, a license from both the state and city is required to legally operate a dispensary in Los Angeles. Hundreds of illegal businesses are believed to be operating in breach of the regulations, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Chief Michel Moore
City Attorney Mike Feuer announced last September that his office had filed 120 criminal cases within a nine-month period against 515 defendants associated with 105 illegal commercial cannabis locations across the city.
Closing down illegal pot shops has proven to be a challenge for the city; it often involves an undercover police operation and the use of other significant law enforcement resources.
There are 180 cannabis-related businesses currently operating legally in the city, according to the Department of Cannabis Regulation.