LA’s Weed Black Market Is Booming In Plain Sight

A recent influx of unlicensed dispensaries, subject to minimal punishments, has brought drugs, guns and violence to the streets of California, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office has attempted many methods, such as cutting power and raiding establishments multiple times, yet the idea that “it’s just cannabis” continues to foster a surplus of “pop up shops” which steal revenue from licensed dispensaries, the Times reported. Since 2016, when recreational cannabis use was legalized in California, numerous shops have casually flourished throughout the state, the Times reported.

Lis Cadens, store manager for the Artist Tree Marijuana Dispensary & Weed Delivery in Los Angeles told the Daily Caller News Foundation that unlicensed dispensaries appear around licensed dispensaries regularly to steal profits. “It happens all the time. They pop up on the same street, it definitely happens,” she said.

In August 2021, a man was gunned down in the doorway of the unlicensed dispensary he ran in East Los Angeles, one of many examples of crime associated with unlicensed dispensaries; however, unregistered dispensaries continue to operate because starting costs remain low and punishments are minimal, said the Times.

When people are charged, the punishment is typically a misdemeanor, the Times reported. The LAPD believes the most effective way to stop the crime associated with unlicensed dispensaries would be to raise the punishments associated with running one, yet the social acceptance and community surrounding cannabis makes establishing harsh penalties a controversial move, said the Times. (RELATED: Marijuana Dispensary Owner On Oakland Crime Surge: ‘I Was Safer Selling Weed On The Streets’)

Lt. Howard Fuchs of the sheriff’s department’s Narcotics Bureau told the Times, “The district attorney will not file these cases whatsoever, even if it’s near a school, they’ve told us they will not file these cases.”

Alongside the crime increase that comes with unlicensed dispensaries, dwindling profits cause licensed dispensaries’ sales to hurt, said the Times. The unlicensed shops overstep permits and taxes; therefore, their cannabis is sold far below the price of legal cannabis. While legal shops sell cannabis for around $15 per gram, unlicensed shops can sell between $8 and $10, the Times reported.

While licensed shops struggle, unlicensed shops are pulling in up to $25,000 per day of untaxed revenue. Many licensed shops have invested millions of dollars and worked for years to open only to be undercut, said the Times. Some licensed dispensaries are even forced to wait over a year before receiving their license, the Times reported.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office referred the DCNF to a 2021 press release about grow sites in the desert.

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