Pubdate: Fri, 07 Sep 2018
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2018 Los Angeles Times
Author: Joseph Serna


A police crackdown on local unlicensed marijuana businesses has ended
with misdemeanor charges against more than 500 people in Los Angeles,
the city attorney's office said.

In 120 criminal cases filed since May, City Atty. Mike Feuer has
charged 515 people in connection with 105 illegal marijuana
businesses, grow sites, extraction labs and delivery companies located
throughout the city, his office announced Friday.

All of the defendants were charged with unlicensed commercial cannabis
activity within the city, which carries a potential sentence of six
months in jail and $1,000 in fines. Local judges have been hearing the
cases since May with arraignments scheduled through the end of
October, Feuer's office said.

Though the number of defendants is staggering and will make a dent in
unlicensed operations in the city, the larger aim of the crackdown is
to try to level the playing field for the marijuana businesses that
are following the rules, Feuer said.

"If they're going to go through this process, it just cannot be the
case that others that flout the rules are allowed to function," Feuer
said. "It's bad for those who buy from them, it's bad for the
communities in which they're located and, again, it threatens to
undermine the viability of a system that's predicated on lawful licensing."

As of Thursday, there were 165 approved cannabis storefronts and
delivery businesses operating in Los Angeles, but many more without
licenses are also open in Los Angeles. The crackdown reached all
corners of the city, from South L.A. and Boyle Heights to communities
in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, officials said.

"It's important that every element of the new recreational marijuana
regime in our state be implemented in a way the voters anticipated in
the first place," Feuer said.

Some of the unlicensed storefronts were near schools or didn't follow
city regulations regarding security, among other things, Feuer said.
Without proper permitting, there is no way for customers to know that
the marijuana they're buying is safe from toxins or other contaminants
it's exposed to when it's grown, he added.

"Today, we are letting our residents and those who want to flout our
laws know that the city is not going to stand idly by, while the
safety of our communities are at risk," Los Angeles City Councilwoman
Nury Martinez said in a statement.

Of the 515 defendants Feuer's office has charged, 21 have so far
pleaded guilty or no contest to misdemeanors or infractions, one
defendant was placed in a diversionary program, 11 cases were
dismissed and 10 defendants are wanted on bench warrants. The
remaining 472 cases are pending, city officials said.