More Than 500 Face Charges in Crackdown on Unlicensed Marijuana Businesses in L.A.

The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has charged 515 people with misdemeanors since May in a crackdown on 105 illegal marijuana-related businesses, authorities announced Friday.

The charges stem from 120 criminal cases, City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a press conference alongside Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michael Moore, City Councilwoman Nury Martinez and Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation Executive Director and General Manager Cat Packer.

The goal of the crackdown is to bring L.A.'s cannabis industry in line with what California voters intended when they legalized adult recreational use of cannabis in the state through Proposition 64 in 2016. The city later applied its own laws to regulate the burgeoning industry.

"Los Angeles voters wanted common-sense rules to regulate recreational marijuana so public safety is protected in our neighborhoods," Feuer said. "Our message is clear: If you are operating an illegal cannabis business, you will be held accountable."

That includes retailers, growers and other related businesses.

Those charged with shirking city ordinances governing the pot industry could face up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000.

LAPD Chief Michael Moore said he applauds the city's efforts.

Today, I’m particularly pleased because in the first eight months of this implementation, we have not just a bark, we have a bite," he said.

"We know we live in a city or in a part of California that has had hundreds of these dispensaries or commercial locations that, in many times, have served as hotbeds for criminal enterprise, including gangs," Moore said.

With the cities cannabis law in effect since the start of the year, "This time, I have hope, as a chief, that the right set of regulations and controls are going to be in place to allow for the responsible implementation of what the people intended," Moore said.

The prosecutions should send a message to those operating illegal dispensaries, and their landlords, that the cannabis ordinance will be enforced, the chief said.

"The Los Angeles Police Department will continue to assign resources, dedicate personnel to take enfacement action -- criminal action -- against unlicensed retailers, manufactures, cultivators who have not followed the rules," Moore said. "We know there are still hundreds of these locations out there, and we will continue to identify and take action."

In addition to criminal case, Moore said city prosecutors will also work to seize properties used in illegal marijuana businesses through civil action.

Councilwoman Martinez said it's important that the city not turn a blind eye to marijuana businesses operating without licenses.

"Since the city began its work on laws regarding cannabis, I have been consistent in my argument that we must enforce these new regulations," she said. "Today, we are letting our residents and those who want to flout our laws know that the city is not going to stand idly by while the safety of out communities are at risk."

Cracking down on unlicensed businesses also helps levels the competitive playing field for those who run their businesses by the book, city officials said.

Under a city ordinance that took effect in January, all marijuana-related businesses must have both a state and city license.

Complaints can be submitted to the Department of Cannabis Regulation via the agency's online portal at cannabis.lacity.org.