The city of Los Angeles would start charging business and property owners of illegal pot shops for the costs associated with shutting off their utilities under a motion approved Tuesday by a City Council committee.
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 recently began acting on the policy, and as of last week, LAPD officials said at least 22 businesses had already been cut off.
Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez on Friday introduced a motion stating that the cost of such enforcement actions 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 already assesses property owners and businesses for the costs of other specialized public safety enforcement efforts, such as brush fire hazard abatement. Rodriguez’s motion — which was approved by the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee and will next go before the full council — states that illegal cannabis businesses “pose similar threats to public safety and similar policy and procedure should be established.”
Other options are also being considered by the city to close down illegal shops, including padlocking their doors. Councilman Paul Krekorian said last week 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 last week 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 of the City Attorney’s Office told the City Council last week 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.
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