Grow House - Photo courtesy of DOGCAN on Shutterstock

Responding to what City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez described as a “substantial rise in illegal cannabis grow houses” in District 7, the Los Angeles City Council Wednesday directed various city agencies to report on how to curb those profiting off the sale of unlicensed cannabis.

Rodriguez, who represents areas of San Fernando Valley, said during a May 10 Planning and Land Use Management Committee meeting that the increase in illegal grow houses is affecting the ability to effectively license cannabis growers.

“It’s taking our residential neighborhoods and frankly making them more dangerous in some circumstances,” Rodriguez said.

The council on Wednesday directed the following actions:

— the Los Angeles Police Department to report on the volume of service calls related to illegal grow, the “best enforcement practices” in responding to such calls and the demographics of arrests and charges related to illegal cannabis grow houses;

— the Department of Cannabis Regulation and the Office of Finance to report on how much revenue has been lost due to the production and sale of unlicensed cannabis;

— the Department of Building and Safety and the city attorney to report on how to recover lost revenue and the use of nuisance abatement actions, and

— the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to investigate areas of the city with high or excessive electricity use rates to identify possible locations of illegal grow houses.

Rodriguez said at the meeting Wednesday that the presence of illegal cannabis grow houses also leads to a rise in the cost of housing.

“This is an issue that has far greater implications than just public safety,” Rodriguez said. “And it’s imperative that we begin efforts that comprehensively take an approach that are more strategic than just using law enforcement efforts alone.”

In 2021, Los Angeles’ cannabis task force seized 257,732 pounds of cannabis and $2,127,112, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

According to the LAPD, the process to close down unlicensed cannabis businesses starts with a notice of unauthorized commercial cannabis activity mailed to the location from the police department. If the activity does not cease, the city disconnects utilities and the business occupant and property owner are subject to criminal prosecution.

If disconnection of utilities does not cause the operator to cease activity, police conduct a criminal code enforcement inspection along with the LAFD and the building and safety department. If activity still continues, police and building inspectors padlock and board up the premises.

Since this strategy was implemented, the city went from having over 300 unlicensed retail commercial cannabis businesses in 2018 to 87 now, the LAPD said.

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