With hundreds of illegal marijuana shops continuing to operate in the city, the Los Angeles City Council Friday unanimously approved an ordinance aimed at cracking down on the businesses by shutting off their utilities.
"These are the types of efforts that we can deploy in being resourceful looking at our existing city resources to help combat some of the challenges that we have before us," Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez said before the vote.
The new ordinance, which needs to be signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to become official, authorizes the Department of Water and Power to disconnect utilities at illegal businesses, with the requirement that the Department of Cannabis Regulation provide written confirmation that the address in question does not have a license.
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The Los Angeles Police Department or another city agency will also have to provide written confirmation to the LADWP that commercial cannabis activity is occurring at the address.
Although marijuana has been legal for recreational sales in California since Jan. 1 of last year, a license from both the state and city is required to legally operate a dispensary in Los Angeles. Hundreds of illegal businesses are believed to be operating in breach of the regulations, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Chief Michel Moore.
The Cannabis Regulation Commission expressed support for the utilities ordinance, along with a number of other aggressive methods to crack down on the dispensaries, including the formation of a special task force.
"I'm frustrated, as many of you are," Commission President Robert Ahn said last week during a meeting of the commission. "I would have to say of all of the cannabis questions that I get or inquiries, at the top of the list is enforcement, and it's really the one issue that, whether you are in the industry, part of the industry or in the community, (is) something that everyone agrees on. It's just common sense. If you create laws, what good are the laws if they cannot be enforced?"
City Attorney Mike Feuer announced last September that his office had filed 120 criminal cases within a nine-month period against 515 defendants associated with 105 illegal commercial cannabis locations across the city. Closing down illegal pot shops has proven to be a challenge for the city; it often involves an undercover police operation and the use of other significant law enforcement resources.
There are 178 cannabis-related businesses currently operating legally in the city, according to the Department of Cannabis Regulation.