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The proliferation of illegal dispensaries that are easily found throughout Los Angeles, California motivated authorities to increase the pressure to force those businesses to cease operations. A year ago, for instance, City Attorney Mike Feuer launched an aggressive crackdown on illegally operating businesses, but the problem remains. The city’s latest tactic? Shut off the power and water for illegal cannabis businesses.

Los Angeles is widely considered to be one of the largest cannabis markets in the world, but there are still many unlicensed cannabis businesses operating in the city. Proving this point, the number of dispensary markers and delivery services listed on popular cannabis-centric websites easily outnumber the amount of licensed businesses listed on the Department of Cannabis Regulation’s website.

On March 8, the Los Angeles City Council authorized the city’s Department of Water and Power (DWP) to shut off utilities at not only illegally operating dispensaries, but also illegal cultivation operations and other types of illegal cannabis businesses. The council voted 12-0 in favor of the ordinance. Ordinance No. 186029 amends Section 104.14 of Article 4, Chapter X of the Los Angeles Municipal Code. The ordinance was introduced by Councilmembers Nury Martinez and Monica Rodriguez.

The DWP is authorized to disconnect utilities at any location occupied by unlawful establishments if the police department or other authorities provide written confirmation to the DWP that illegal cannabis activity is occurring at the location. Then, the Department of Cannabis Regulation provides written confirmation to DWP that the city has not issued a temporary approval or a license to perform commercial cannabis activity.

Some members of the cannabis industry agreed with the ordinance, stating that illegal dispensaries snatch up a large fraction of potential business. Jerred Kiloh, owner of The Higher Path, for instance, is in favor of the new enforcement rules. As a legal dispensary, competition is fierce, given the fact that illegal dispensaries don’t charge taxes. Even with a large successful cannabis business like The Higher Path, people like Kiloh can’t compete with the illegal dispensaries undercutting prices.

CULTURE reached out to Council Aide Jonah Glickman of the office of Councilmember Martinez to get a glimpse of what she hopes to accomplish through this ordinance, and he provided a statement. “For years, I have made the case that businesses who flout the rule of law must not be allowed to take advantage of tax-payer funded resources,” Martinez stated. “Violating the rules and regulations that govern cannabis is not a victimless crime. It is our children and families who are forced to live near these hubs of crime and illegal activity.”

Los Angeles’ ordinance isn’t the first of its kind in California. Already, Pasadena and Anaheim have taken similar measures to fight the steady number of illegal dispensaries. In 2014, Anaheim authorities shut off the water and electricity to 20 dispensary sites that had been deemed illegal. It effectively forced some of the illegal dispensaries out of town.

“For years, I have made the case that businesses who flout the rule of law must not be allowed to take advantage of tax-payer funded resources. Violating the rules and regulations that govern cannabis is not a victimless crime. It is our children and families who are forced to live near these hubs of crime and illegal activity.”

 

During the city council meeting, the council also advanced a plan to issue 100 licenses to business operators who qualify under the Department of Cannabis Regulation’s social equity program. The underfunded program has led to slow progress, unlike other cities like Oakland, California where its social equity program is fully operational.

Illegal dispensaries’ days are numbered in Los Angeles. Without electricity and water, dispensaries cannot stay in operation, and licensed dispensaries will be able to absorb their clientele.

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