A recent uptick in enforcement actions against marijuana businesses has the Los Angeles City Council considering a provisional licensing system that could come on line well before lawmakers implement comprehensive cannabis regulations.
A motion introduced late last month by Councilman Paul Koretz would establish an interim cannabis business registry that would allow a portion of the city’s dispensaries, cultivators, distributors, and other marijuana-related companies to operate aboveboard.
Koretz said in a statement there was a clear need for a stopgap measure that would help delineate bad actors from pot shop owners who intend to comply with nascent cannabis regulations.
“The surge in local enforcement (action) … is placing millions of dollars of business investment in jeopardy, costing jobs, and creating a situation whereby it will be more difficult for dozens of potentially legitimate businesses to apply for city cannabis business licenses once the new city ordinance is in place later this year,” Koretz said. “At the same time, we continue to receive numerous complaints about problem dispensaries against which city enforcement has been slow to take action.”
City Attorney Mike Feuer said through a spokesman he could not discuss the interim registry because doing so would breach attorney client privilege. However, he maintained his office had aggressively targeted noncompliant cannabis businesses for four years and would continue those efforts.
The city attorney has discretion to bring enforcement actions against pot shop owners under the city’s old medical marijuana laws, established in 2013 by the voter-approved Proposition D.
Many marijuana industry players are upset at Feuer’s continued strict enforcement of Proposition D after voters passed a new cannabis law, Measure M, in March. That ballot initiative, which authorized the City Council to enact an ordinance to regulate and tax marijuana, came in the wake of a statewide referendum passed in November legalizing recreational pot in California.
Dustin McDonald, vice president for government relations at Irvine-based pot shop search engine Weedmaps, said the city should focus on implementing Measure M so that licenses for cannabis businesses are available by the scheduled Jan. 1 rollout of the state’s permitting system.
“Throwing taxpayer money out the window to conduct whack-a-mole enforcement while the city scrambles to put together a policy solution is not the right answer,” McDonald said. “The Koretz motion should be expanded to establish a set of preliminary regulatory criteria that all dispensaries in the city would have to meet until formal licenses are issued later this year. This would be a big step in addressing the chaos of an unregulated environment established by Prop D.”
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