A member of the Los Angeles City Council, which recently enacted a policy to shut off the utilities at illegal pot shops, proposed Friday that the city start charging business and property owners for the costs associated with the enforcement action.
With hundreds of illegal marijuana shops continuing to operate in the city, the council in March unanimously approved an ordinance aimed at cracking down on the businesses by shutting off their utilities. The Los Angeles Police Department, Department of Water and Power and other departments also recently began actively flipping the switch on the shops, and as of earlier this week, the LAPD said that at least 22 businesses had already been cut off.
Councilwoman Nury Martinez’s motion says the cost of the enforcement includes “materials used to secure facilities, staff hours generated by those engaged in enforcement, and other costs. The city must establish a policy that seeks full cost recovery from those that lease their property to illegal cannabis businesses.”
The city currently assesses property owners and businesses for the costs of other specialized public safety enforcement efforts, such as brush fire hazard abatement, and illegal cannabis businesses “pose similar threats to public safety and similar policy and procedure should be established,” the motion says.
Other options are also being considered by the city to close down illegal shops, including padlocking their doors. Councilman Paul Krekorian said this week that the city should pursue liens against commercial property owners in the same way it does for an illegal fence, improper signage or some other violation.
The City Attorney’s Office said on Wednesday that it has filed 216 criminal cases against 861 defendants associated with 182 locations.
The city also has the power to seek civil penalties against landlords of illegal shops, which could reach up to $20,000 per day, but the City Attorney’s Office to date has not pursued any cases. David Michaelson with the City Attorney’s Office told the City Council on Wednesday that civil nuisance cases can take years to prosecute and “you never really know what the judges will do with them,” which is why the office has not made civil penalties a priority.
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.