LOS ANGELES – Over a three-day period, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control and the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs’ Cannabis Enforcement Unit (DOI-CEU) raided twenty-four unlicensed cannabis shops in the Los Angeles area.
Officials seized $129,000 in cash and $8.8 million in cannabis products, nearly 10,000 of which were illegal vape pens.
“This week’s collaborative enforcement efforts were a huge success,” bureau chief Lori Ajax said of the December 10-13 action. “We look forward to working with local jurisdictions and law enforcement as we continue to shut down unlicensed operators in the illicit cannabis market.”
The raids were a product, in part, of increasing pressure from legal cannabis businesses that have seen less-than-anticipated revenue, which advocates say is due to unfair competition from sources that are not licensed and do not pay regulated fees and taxes.
Alex Traverso, spokesman for the Cannabis Control division of the Bureau of Consumer Affairs, told Patch the owners of one the raided businesses, Saving Greens on Venice Boulevard, were not in the store during the raid but six employees were arrested. He said they probably will face misdemeanor charges and be released. Officials hope to find owners during the raids, he said.
“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,” Los Angeles-based United Cannabis Business Association President Jerred Kiloh said. “This week’s coordinated and wide-reaching enforcement activities gave us a taste of the type of systematic action required to combat the size and proven danger of these bad actors.
“We cannot afford to continue nipping at the heels of the illicit market with a slow drip of enforcement and one-off shutdowns,” he continued. “Every day, illegal operators are distributing products that are not tested, taxed, or tracked by the state, putting not only the ongoing vitality of the legal industry at risk, but also the health and well being of Californians.
“We are past due for long-term solutions to this existential problem, and we are dedicated to working with city and state officials in 2020 to build on the momentum of this week’s actions and begin to truly thwart the illegal cannabis industry once and for all,” he added.
XTown.com reported an analysis of Los Angeles Police Department 2019 incident reports showed a 10-percent rise in criminal activity at cannabis dispensaries, although the local news site did not specify how many occurred at legal dispensaries versus illegal businesses.