CMA stands for the California Minority Alliance, and they’re fed up with what they feel is the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office turning a blind eye to the black market. The CMA sent a letter on May 31, 2019 stating that the City Attorney Mike Feuer and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office have ignored and overlooked the high amount of unlicensed cannabis shops in South LA. They have the backing of many in the community with a class action lawsuit that includes licensed cannabis dispensary owners, community leaders in South LA and social equity applicants.
The CMA claims that the unlicensed shops that continue to operate in South Los Angles have proved to be a public safety and public nuisance issue. These communities have turned into safe havens for black market cannabis distributors according to the CMA. Sellers on the illicit market are in fact so brazen, that they’re occupying retail real estate out in the open.
This issue is a valid concern when taking into consideration that cities all over California claim to provide social equity programs to low-income communities who have been ravaged by the war on drugs. CMA went into detail stating that these illegal dealers are leaving no commercial space for Phase 3 applicants under the SEP (Social Equity Program.) To add more salt to the wound, these illegal shops are not competing on an even playing ground since they’re operating in the black market, saving them from paying LA City and State taxes of 34%.
Laws that Can Slow the Growth of the Illicit Market
CMA is threatening legal action because they believe that the city of Los Angeles is not enforcing the laws that are already on the books. They state that this problem could easily be eradicated if the following was implemented:
- Submit letters to the owners, operators, and landlords informing them that their property is being used for the operation of unlicensed cannabis businesses and if they don’t close their business immediately, they will face prosecution.
- Send out public notices through press releases of enforcement efforts with the name of offenders
- Letters of follow up with criminal prosecution proceedings against the operators and landlords for illegal actions
- List public shut offs, injunctions, civil fines and arrests of shops that are non-compliant on the Department of Cannabis Regulation websites as well as the City Attorney’s
- Shut off city utilities of offending properties
- Assess civil $20,000 daily fine to owners, landlords, and operators of non-compliant dispensaries.
- Enforce code violations on their properties.
The United Cannabis Business Alliance stands in support to get rid of the black market. They’re sponsoring Assembly Bill 1417 to combat the illegal marijuana market in Los Angeles. This bill would aim to get rid of advertisements for illegal dispensaries online by requiring the California license number to be accompanied on each listing. Violators would receive a 2,500 penalty fine a day, stakeholders would also be allowed to bring civil suit against offenders for illegal marijuana advertisements. These efforts would aim to bring relief to legitimate dispensaries who have to compete with black market dealers who receive advertisements online.
Steps the LA Attorney’s Office has Taken so Far
To be fair, Mike Feuer and the attorney’s office have enforced some of these laws. In April 2019, the City Attorney placed an injunction on Kush Club 20. They were accused of selling cannabis that had been tainted with Paclobutrazol which is a pesticide that is banned for use on cannabis.
Feuer’s office is also going after the owners of the real estate and the brokerage firms that are helping the illegal dispensary operate. Feuer spoke up for legitimate cannabis businesses in a news release. He stated that the black market threatens the public’s safety and health. He also cautioned consumers who shop at illegal dispensaries that they risk their health and hurt business owners who are trying to follow the law.
The L.A. Attorney’s Office also brought to attention that between May 2018 and April 2019, there were 217 criminal cases that his office brought forth that included 840 defendants and 172 illegal shops. In March the L.A City Council struck a blow to illegal dispensaries by authorizing the cutting off their utilities. He gave a stern warning that these penalties should serve as caution to anyone who is thinking of entering the black market or anyone who’s contemplating facilitating the illicit sale of cannabis and that his office will go after them and justice will be served.
A Solution on the Horizon
Hopefully CMA can motivate the LA Attorney’s Office to take more action and devote the manpower needed to go after multiple illegal marijuana sellers who are running rampant in South L.A. The point of legal action is not to waste time and money on lawyers and legal fees, but to rather give the City of Los Angeles a wake-up call. Lower income communities have a right to have neighborhoods free of illicit cannabis sales, while at the same time benefiting the legal way from something that has done a lot of harm to their neighborhoods in the recent past.
You can support legitimate businesses and have the peace of mind that you’re buying safe lab tested cannabis by purchasing from legal dispensaries such as Harbor Collective. If you need cannabis for medical reasons, you can apply for a Medical Card and pay zero taxes with any California based dispensary.