24 unlicensed cannabis dispensaries operating across the Los Angeles area were raided and shuttered by local police last week. Local officials are now calling this the largest crackdown against the city’s black market storefronts since legalization began nearly two years ago.
According to the Los Angeles Times, cops served search warrants at two dozen unregulated pot shops between Tuesday and Thursday last week, eventually confiscating more than $8 million worth of cannabis product, 10,000 vape cartridges, and $129,000 in cash.
California has struggled to slow down the state’s expansive cannabis black market in the first two years of legalization. LA’s network of illegal pot shops, most of which opened prior to adult-use sales, has been a constant thorn in the side for licensed operators and state regulators alike.
The BCC and DCA’s Cannabis Enforcement Unit served 24 search warrants over a 3-day period on #illegal cannabis #retail locations in Los Angeles.— BCC Info (@BCCinfo_dca) December 14, 2019
$8.8 million in cannabis and #cannabis products were seized, including 9,885 illegal vape pens and $128,742 cash. pic.twitter.com/Q8gpxmdfOV
“In California, we have a challenge with the illegal cannabis market, and as we’re trying to stand up the legal industry, we’re also trying to minimize the illegal industry,” Alex Traverso, spokesman for the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, told the LA Times. “Part of that is following up on complaints we receive about unlicensed shops, and a pretty large portion of the unlicensed shops happen to be in Southern California.”
Since unregulated pot shops do not pay taxes or licensing fees, nor do they stock product that has been rigorously lab tested, these dispensaries are able to undercut prices and offer products like high dose edibles that are not allowed at licensed shops.
Over the past year, legal cannabis operators and law enforcement officials have joined together in the fight against the black market. No matter how many shops have been reported and raided, though, industry experts say that black market businesses typically relocate and re-emerge within days or weeks.
“For a long time, we have been playing a game of whack-a-mole, targeting and shutting down a small handful of illegal shops at a time, only to have them reopen days later in the same location or down the street,” said Jerred Kiloh, head of the United Cannabis Business Association.
It is unclear if any of the LA pot shops that were raided last week have already re-opened their doors. But with 75% of the Golden State ganja market still operating outside of the law, BCC regulators said that last week’s law enforcement offensive against unregulated dispensaries was just the start of a concerted effort to eradicate the black market.
“We look forward to working with local jurisdictions and law enforcement as we continue to shut down unlicensed operators,” BCC head Lori Ajax told the LA Times.
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