Los Angeles has a love-hate relationship with its marijuana dispensaries. The city’s latest marijuana cure-all is Proposition D, which is supposed to give a facelift to L.A.’s dispensary scene by reducing the number of dispensaries within city limits to 135 (the number of dispensaries in 2007). A 2012 UCLA study estimated Los Angeles had at least 472 dispensaries. So far however, Proposition D has done little to prevent illegal dispensaries in L.A., but law enforcement says it’s a work in progress.
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Prop. D “came amid neighborhood complaints about smokers loitering outside dispensaries and concerns about increased crime at the sites, and followed years of failed efforts by local lawmakers to regulate the marijuana industry.” Though L.A. seemingly had the best of intentions with this latest attempt to clean-up its dispensaries, illegal dispensaries are apparently on the rise again, but local law enforcement indicated to media that those efforts won’t last for long as a strategic local crackdown is coming.
L.A. Daily News states that, since the law went into effect last summer, more than 100 dispensaries have closed. But the L.A. city attorney acknowledged in a press conference on Monday that the number of illegal pot stores currently in operation is unknown and that the number of unlawful operations could be in the hundreds.
One theory about these new illegal storefronts is that California’s Department of Finance is unwittingly granting tax registration certificates to these businesses to allow them to do business in the State. Local landlords are also adding to the problem by sometimes unknowingly renting to illegal dispensaries. L.A. has started responding to all this by issuing shutdown letters to illegal operators and by meeting with local realtors to try to get them to educate landlords about Prop. D. The city prosecutor’s office will also be putting more personnel on Proposition D enforcement and the police are undergoing additional training on enforcing the law.
Prop. D (and L.A.’s varied history with marijuana enforcement) vividly demonstrates how urgently California needs real marijuana reform. The state’s ambiguous and incomplete cannabis laws put patients and entrepreneurs at risk while also creating massive headaches for cities and counties. The back-and-forth in L.A. over marijuana should be a red flag to the State that the marijuana laws need to move towards more standardized regulations (and hopefully before 2016). All this is necessary to bring rationality and more high end (no pun intended) operators to California.