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Supervisor Barger Looking to Combat Illegal Cannabis Operators

Published on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 | 9:08 am

As part of an effort to combat illegal cannabis grows and dispensaries in unincorporated Los Angeles County, Supervisor Kathryn Barger introduced a motion Tuesday afternoon, co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, to implement a nuisance abatement ordinance and to charge offenders up to $30,000 per day who are out of compliance.

“Our County is working aggressively to protect our communities against the harm inflicted upon them by illegal cannabis operations,” Barger said in a prepared statement. “We lack legally enforceable options to combat dangerous operations that are continually putting neighborhoods at risk. Today’s motion is about addressing that gap.”

Late last year, cannabis operators said in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom that the industry could collapse due to high taxation and the inability to compete with illegal operators.

“California voters legalized recreational cannabis in order to create a system that assured consumers of product safety while prohibiting cannabis access to minors,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, “but illegal cannabis operations continue to undermine the will of the people. This motion puts teeth in enforcement and ensures that unpermitted dispensaries face stiff penalties in the future.”

Despite efforts by County departments, the growth of unpermitted cannabis dispensaries and grows currently outpaces enforcement. In response, this ordinance declares any unpermitted commercial cannabis activity in unincorporated areas to be both illegal and a public nuisance and establishes procedures for abatement.

Unpermitted commercial cannabis cultivation is profitable and has thrived in the rural Antelope Valley because of how easy it is to stand up operations. Communities in the desert continue to report illegal large-scale cannabis grows that have been accompanied by water theft, trespassing, trash and the use of dangerous pesticides and fertilizers, putting residents’ health and safety at risk.

Currently, Los Angeles County is developing a study that will propose recommendations for legal cannabis operations including retail, manufacturing, distribution, growth, testing, regulation and enforcement.

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