L.A. County to dish out $30,000-per-day fines for illegally operating cannabis businesses

L.A. County to dish out $30,000-per-day fines for illegally operating cannabis businesses

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Cannabis growers who operate in the unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County, California must proceed with caution if they want to avoid extortionate fines. 

Following a vote by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, January 11, illegally operating cultivators and dispensary owners could soon face daily fines of $30,000 per day.

The district has been infiltrated with black market activity since way before statewide adult-use cannabis legalization occurred in California with the voter passing of Proposition 64 “The Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act” on November 8, 2016. 

Board members voted in agreement to welcome the new penalties as part of a local ordinance, which will be officially adopted once another vote takes place. A written request to the court was co-authored by supervisors Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl. 

Barger initially advocated the ordinance in a bid to extinguish an inferno of illegal grow operations across the Antelope Valley; operations that have contributed to chemical water contamination, increased wildfire risk and greater public safety threats. 

“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,” Barger 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.”

Kuehl, the ordinance motion’s co-author, agreed.

“Large-scale illegal cannabis operations cause huge public safety and environmental safety concerns. 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,” said Kuehl.

Stricter civil penalties have been long sought after in Los Angeles

Many months prior to the approval of $30,000-per-day fines for illegal cannabis businesses in L.A. County, Barber attempted to introduce criminal penalties for business owners found guilty of operating outside of the law. 

However, many colleagues who defied Barger’s wishes claimed that her plan was not in-line with the county’s criminal justice reforms. 

Nonetheless, Supervisor Hilda Solis acknowledged the need to introduce harsher civil penalties for illegally operating cannabis businesses in L.A. county.

“We have 30-plus illegal dispensaries operating in the unincorporated area of East Los Angeles alone,” Solis expressed. “I know our residents are going to be thrilled to finally have some teeth in this enforcement.”

New cannabis regulations for L.A. County were finalized in December

Despite ongoing efforts to force-close the county’s many unauthorized dispensaries from serving the growing consumer demographic, business closures usually trigger a repercussive launch elsewhere in the region.

Fortunately, according to Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, a new set of legal cannabis retail recommendations were completed by a county work group 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 said. “Hopefully, we’re going to be voting soon on the idea of legally providing options for cannabis businesses in unincorporated county locations.”

Back in July, Hahn stimulated a successful vote by the board to reconsider its extensive ban on cannabis cultivation, distribution, manufacture and testing; unless it is for personal use. This, she believes, will greatly contribute to tax revenue generation.