LA County moves to shut down unlicensed pot shops

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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With state and local leaders still working out how to regulate legalized marijuana, L.A. County on Tuesday signaled it would extend a temporary ban on the cultivation, testing and sale of the drug and called for a renewed crackdown on illegal dispensaries.

The moves came in unanimous decisions by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on two motions.

In the first, Supervisor Kathryn Barger instructed county staff to prepare an ordinance that will extend an already existing ban on medical marijuana cultivation and distribution in the unincorporated areas of L.A. County. The ordinance will also reinforce the ban's inclusion of recreational marijuana.

The ban is meant to remain in place until a regulatory system is established in the county.

The second motion was submitted by supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Janice Hahn, and it's meant to establish that regulatory framework. It calls for research into where shops should be located, how many should be allowed, how to help communities most impacted by the war on drugs and other issues. The framework will be prepared and presented to the supervisors by December. 

While best practices are being determined, Supervisor Hilda Solis moved to have illegal cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated L.A. County cities to be shut down. She did this by submitting an amendment that urges the district attorney and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to have a plan to do so in the next 30 days.

While dispensaries have been illegal in the county for years now, they've continued to pop up and proliferate, said Solis. She said that even though she's brought the problem to the attention of both the district attorney and the LASD, little has been done. 

"As it is now, I feel very frustrated," Solis said. "Areas that are heavily impacted, like East Los Angeles or South Central L.A., we deserve to have the appropriate enforcement and regulation."

A lot of questions remain for marijuana businesses throughout California. The state still hasn't finished building its licensing system, and likely won't until some time in 2018. So, it's tough for them to figure out what's allowed.

Locally, the situation is just as complicated, as each city and county will likely write their own set of rules.

Until everything's sorted, marijuana businesses will have to wait and see how things shake out. And when they do, there's always the possibility that they won't be welcome wherever they're located.