Nearly 3,000 Illegal Marijuana Businesses Found in California Audit, Dwarfing Legal Trade

A budtender handles marijuana at a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles on Sept. 7, 2012. (Credit: David McNew / Getty Images)

A budtender handles marijuana at a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles on Sept. 7, 2012. (Credit: David McNew / Getty Images)

California’s black market for cannabis is at least three times the size of its regulated weed industry, according to an audit made public Wednesday, the latest illustration of the state’s continued struggle to tame a cannabis economy that has long operated in legal limbo.

The audit, conducted by the United Cannabis Business Assn., found approximately 2,835 unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services operating in California. By comparison, only 873 cannabis sellers in the state are licensed, according to the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

The figures are the latest sign of California’s rocky rollout of its legal marketplace, which promised better regulations and control beginning in 2018. Legitimate marijuana businesses have repeatedly criticized state leaders and law enforcement for failing to curb unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services, which sell cannabis at a much lower price by skirting state and municipal cannabis taxes.

Earlier this year, an industry-backed financial audit projected that roughly $8.7 billion will be spent on unregulated cannabis products in California this year, compared with just $3.1 billion spent on cannabis sold by legal businesses.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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