LA County Introduces Ordinance to Cost Unlawful Hashish Operations $30,000 Per Day

Los Angeles County has long been home to illegal cannabis activity, and now the Board of Directors has approved the introduction of an ordinance that could levy tens of thousands of dollars a day on illegal cannabis operations.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to introduce an ordinance to fine illegal cannabis companies. Any grow or dispensary operating without a permit in unincorporated areas of the county could soon be billed $30,000 a day. Although the introduction has been approved, the regulation has yet to be voted on by the Board for formal adoption.

The official text of the application describes the “Troubleshooting Ordinance” that could be passed at a future meeting. “The illicit commercial cannabis activities, including illicit cannabis cultivation, are incredibly profitable, and in particular, cannabis cultivation has become more widespread due to the ease of establishment in more remote and rural locations,” the filing reads. “Therefore, the penalties contained in the draft regulations should be adjusted and increased, consistent with state law, to ensure that they act as a deterrent to the continued operation of illegal commercial cannabis businesses.”

The application was written by supervisors Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl. “The county code currently prohibits all commercial cannabis activities within the unincorporated areas of the county, including establishing, maintaining and operating commercial cannabis business activities and renting or leasing or permitting property to be used for that purpose in all zones,” it says in the application. “However, the county continues to be inundated with unlicensed cannabis dispensaries in the unincorporated areas. Despite the efforts of numerous county agencies, the growth of unauthorized cannabis dispensaries continues to outpace enforcement.”

Barger introduced the application in hopes it could help root out illegal cannabis operations, noting that water supplies containing chemicals pose a threat to public safety, among other things. She notes that while the county’s work against illegal cannabis is steadfast, a lack of “legally enforceable options” is penalizing the effort.

In a press release, Barger summarized how these illegal cannabis deals are hurting the county. “Irlicited commercial cannabis cultivation is profitable and has thrived in rural Antelope Valley because it is so easy to shut down. Communities in the desert continue to report illegal large-scale cannabis cultivation, which has been accompanied by water theft, trespassing, garbage and the use of hazardous pesticides and fertilizers, threatening the health and safety of residents.”

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl also agreed that something needs to be done. “California voters have legalized recreational cannabis to create a system that assures consumers of product safety and bans underage access to cannabis,” said Kuehl, “but illegal cannabis businesses continue to subvert people’s will. This motion brings teeth to enforcement and ensures that unlicensed pharmacies face stiff penalties in the future.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn confirmed that empowering and protecting the region’s legal cannabis businesses is also a way to tackle the illegal businesses head-on.

“I know that providing a legal way for people to grow, produce and sell cannabis can in some ways help combat the illicit market,” Hahn shared. “Hopefully we will soon vote on the idea of ​​offering legal options for cannabis businesses in unincorporated circles [areas].” A press release on Barger’s website confirms that a study is being conducted to identify recommendations for legal cannabis businesses, including retail, manufacturing, distribution and more.

In October 2021, Los Angeles County committed $5 million to fund efforts to combat illegal cannabis in Antelope Valley. A press release said that $2.4 million will go to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and $1.2 million to the department’s marijuana eradication team, while $503,000 will go to the Lancaster Sheriff’s overtime patrols station and $707,000 to be used to purchase trucks capable of traversing difficult terrain for these investigations.