Illegal LA County Cannabis to Face $30,000/Day Fines
The Daily News reports that LA County supervisors recently unanimously passed an ordinance that places new penalties on illegal cannabis. While one more vote is essential to formally adopt the ordinance, this is primarily an administrative issue.
Soon enough, the fines for illegal cannabis grows and dispensaries sprinkled throughout Los Angeles County’s unincorporated areas will rise to $30,000 per day. This is the result of the vote made by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, January 11.
The vote passed unanimously, allowing the county to introduce the ordinance including these new penalties. Supervisors Katheryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl co-authored this motion with the new ordinance recommendation. Barger believes this is necessary to deter the massive grow operations throughout the Antelope Valley.
These illegal grow operations are a serious concern for locals as they’ve taken over and contaminated water supplies with dangerous chemicals, which has resulted in public safety threats to neighbors and increased the area’s risk of wildfires, according to Barger.
“Illegal grows, though, are not just occurring in the open spaces of the Antelope Valley. Homes are being gutted and converted to indoor grows to grow hundreds of plants,” she explained. “This motion is not about making cannabis illegal. This motion is about protecting the consumer and the community against the unforeseen impact of illegal cannabis cultivation.”
“Large-scale illegal cannabis operations cause huge public safety and environmental safety concerns,” Kuehl said. “It includes water theft, damage to our fire hydrants, just stealing water to make this happen. This water is a great loss to our communities that are imminently threatened by wildfires.”
During her months of looking for criminal penalties for these grow operations, Barger found resistance from her colleagues. They believed that the plan wasn’t in sync with the criminal justice reforms that the county sought to instate. However, Supervisor Hilda Solis believed the stricter civil penalties were essential, as well.
“We have 30-plus illegal dispensaries operating in the unincorporated area of East Los Angeles alone,” Solis said. “I know our residents are going to be thrilled to finally have some teeth in this enforcement.”
Despite the county’s efforts to crack down on unauthorized dispensary operations, it still sees new ones opening each time one is shut down. Even though these operations are illicit in unincorporated areas, these communities sometimes have two in a single block.
In July, Supervisor Janice Hahn encouraged the board to vote to reconsider its broad ban on cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and distribution of cannabis for anything besides personal utilization. She explained on Tuesday that a county workgroup tasked with creating a new set of recommendations for legal cannabis retail expansion, regulation, and enforcement had finished its job in December.
“I do know that providing a legal pathway for people to grow, produce, sell cannabis can help in some way to tackle the illegal market,” Hahn explained. “Hopefully, we’re going to be voting soon on the idea of legally providing options for cannabis businesses in unincorporated county (areas).”
While more progress is being made, it’s important to remember that the legal cannabis space is still in its infancy. Cali voted for legal adult-use cannabis in 2016 and the legal recreational sales started in January 2018.
However, regulation is still acting as a bottleneck in much of the state. And it’s important to remember that these rules will continue to change as the need arises.
Do you agree with the fines imposed on these illegal dispensaries? Let us know in the comments below!