The Fight Between Legal and Unlicensed Pot Shops Continues in Los Angeles
Legal weed operators in LA say that unregulated dispensaries are undercutting the licensed market with cheaper weed that’s untaxed, untested, and potentially unsafe.
Published on June 11, 2019

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A group of licensed California cannabis business owners made their voices heard at Los Angeles City Hall this week, urging the city to reign in the glut of unlicensed marijuana dispensaries operating illegally throughout the Southland.

According to local news outlet KTLA, the legal weed trade group Southern California Coalition submitted a letter to city officials on Monday, suggesting that local authorities seize cannabis and cash and place tax liens on unlicensed dispensaries.

Since the illicit pot shops are not under the purview of the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the businesses do not require products to be tested for pesticides, other contaminants, or potency, and do not adhere to state dosage and packaging standards. Without those cost-intensive expenditures, and with no sales tax on the black market, unregulated dispensaries are able to significantly undercut pricing at legal shops.

And while California authorities have recently made a large show out of black market cultivation busts across both Northern and Southern California, unregulated dispensaries in Los Angeles have typically been able to rebound from any raids by changing locations or simply reopening after police leave. 

For licensed operators who have jumped through the state’s complicated hoops and paid huge fees to sell weed legally, the letter to LA city officials argued that they simply “cannot compete with illicit operators.”

To try and persuade cannabis consumers to shop consciously and avoid unlicensed dispensaries, legit businesses recently started a social media “green out” campaign based around the hashtag #ShopLegalShops. Without product testing regulations, licensed operators say that staying away from unlicensed shops not only supports the legal industry, but consumer health, as well.

“There’s a high probability the… cannabis products in these shops are contaminated,” the SoCal Coalition letter notes.

But as California continues to struggle with the best practices for promoting a robust licensed market in the face of the world’s largest black market cannabis industry, the state has not yet found a reliable method for removing illicit operators. For now, it appears that the push and pull between legal and unlicensed dispensaries in Los Angeles will not be over any time soon.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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