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LA County Introduces Ordinance to Charge Illegal Cannabis Businesses $30,000 per day

Los Angeles County has been home to illegal marijuana enterprises for a while. The Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that would allow cannabis business owners to charge tens of thousands of dollars daily.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday a bill to begin fining illegal cannabis business owners. Unincorporated areas in the county may soon see dispensaries or cultivation being charged with $30,000 per day. While the Board approved the adoption, it still must vote to formalize the legislation.

The official motion text describes the “nuisance abatement ordinance” that could be approved in a future meeting. “The unpermitted commercial cannabis activities including illegal cannabis cultivation are incredibly profitable and in particular, cannabis cultivation has continued to proliferate due to the ease of establishment in more remote and rural locations,” the motion reads. “Therefore, the penalties contained within the draft ordinance should, consistent with State law, be adjusted and increased to ensure that they act as a deterrent to the continued operation of illegal commercial cannabis operations.”

Supervisors Kathryn Barger & Sheila Kuehl drafted the motion. “The County Code currently prohibits all commercial cannabis activity within the County’s unincorporated areas, including the establishment, maintenance, and operation of any commercial cannabis business activity, and the renting or leasing of, or allowing property to be used for that purpose in all zones,” the motion states. “However, the County continues to be inundated with unpermitted cannabis dispensaries in the unincorporated areas. Despite the efforts of numerous County departments, the growth of unpermitted cannabis dispensaries continues to outpace enforcement.”

Barger proposed the motion in the hopes that it would help curb illegal cannabis operations. She noted that chemicals-laced water poses a danger to the public and is a concern for other people. She states that even though the county’s work against illegal cannabis is steadfast, a lack of “legally enforceable options” puts the efforts at a disadvantage.

Barger provided a brief summary in a release about how the illegal cannabis business are causing harm to the county. “Unpermitted commercial cannabis cultivation is profitable and has thrived in the rural Antelope Valley because of how easy it is to stand up operations. Communities in the desert continue to report illegal large scale cannabis grows that have been accompanied by water theft, trespassing, trash and the use of dangerous pesticides and fertilizers, putting residents’ health and safety at risk.”

Sheila Kuehl, Supervisor agreed with this sentiment. “California voters legalized recreational cannabis in order to create a system that assured consumers of product safety while prohibiting cannabis access to minors,” said Kuehl, “but illegal cannabis operations continue to  undermine the will of the people. This motion puts teeth in enforcement and ensures that unpermitted dispensaries face stiff penalties in the future.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn confirmed that strengthening and protecting the region’s legal cannabis businesses is also a way to tackle the illegal businesses head-on.

“I do know that providing a legal pathway for people to grow, produce, sell cannabis can help in some way to tackle the illegal market,” Hahn shared. “Hopefully, we’re going to be voting soon on the idea of legally providing options for cannabis businesses in unincorporated county [areas].” A news release on Barger’s website confirms that a study is being conducted to determine recommendations for legal cannabis businesses, such as retail, manufacturing, distribution and more.

Los Angeles County allocated $5 million in October 2021 to help fund efforts to eradicate illegal cannabis from Antelope Valley. A press release states that $2.4 million will go to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and $1.2 million toward the department’s Marijuana Eradication Team, while $503,000 will go toward Lancaster Sheriff Station overtime patrols and $707,000 will be used to buy trucks that can traverse tough terrain in these investigations.