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LA Adopts Emblem Program in Bid to Crack Down on Illicit Cannabis Operators

LA Emblem Program

Using cannabis products that haven’t undergone testing or regulation for safety can cause harm. In the effort to protect the consumers of cannabis from this danger, the Los Angeles City council has approved a motion meant to implement a program. The program will issue emblems to any licensed cannabis operator. Under the County of Los Angeles Emblem Program for Authorized Cannabis Stores, delivery and storefront cannabis businesses must apply for the official emblem and get the required inspection. Then they should place the emblem on the premises in a place that’s highly visible. 

Crackdown on illegal operations

On the 17th of May, 2022, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) carried out a joint operation to take down several illegal growers of marijuana in Antelope Valley. Now, Sheriff Alex Villanueva notified everyone that the operation is still ongoing. In the 1st quarter of 2022, the Marijuana Eradication Team (MET) has served 116 marijuana search warrants related to cultivation. Because of this, 107 people got arrested, wherein there were 100 misdemeanors and 7 felony arrests. There were also around 101,090 seized marijuana plants, 53 confiscated firearms, and 14,980 pounds of marijuana that they destroyed. 

The takedown continued in the spring when the narcotics investigators of the LASD conducted an aerial reconnaissance with the California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force. The teams used surveillance methods to identify 350 outdoor sites for cultivation in Antelope Valley, down from over 750 in the year 2021. The reduction in the number of Los Angeles cannabis cultivation sites is mainly attributed to the increased efforts of enforcement.

The MET investigators served search warrants at 80% of the sites they identified. The team anticipates that they will have completely eradicated these sites by the end of fall this year. Most of the sites they identified have connections to Asian organized crime, Mexican cartels, and other types of organized crime groups. These sites of illegal cultivation pose a threat to the safety of the environment, the local wildlife, and the communities. The unpermitted drilling of water wells for the irrigation of illegal crops also affects underground aquifers.

According to Sheriff Alex Villanueva, “We’ve already identified the problems that this causes here in Antelope Valley. Downstream, illegal cannabis dispensaries in the basin are a source of extreme amounts of violence. There are robberies, murders, and so much more that we’re handling. Other agencies have to handle in the basin, and they’re all tied to the cash trade down in these illegal dispensaries. In fact, illegal dispensaries outnumber legal ones 50 to 1. That will give you the size of the magnitude of the problem that we’re handling right here. Supervisor Barger is thankful to the partners that are gathered here today for their diligent efforts to keep combating illegal cannabis cultivation.”

The official emblem program

Any cannabis operator or retailer of cannabis products in LA can soon display the official emblem. This will notify the consumers that they operate a business licensed by the state. The emblem is only for legal stores and delivery Los Angeles cannabis businesses after passing the required inspections. The main objective for creating the County of Los Angeles’ Emblem Program for Authorized Cannabis Stores is to get rid of unlicensed cannabis stores and any products they sell that haven’t undergone testing in a laboratory for contaminants like mold. 

The LA City Council approved a motion that calls for the City Attorney to come up with an ordinance that will implement the county program within the city. Legal retailers of marijuana in LA expect to implement the program later this year. The approved businesses can display their emblem publicly after passing the required inspection. The emblem is in addition to the California mandate that came out in the year 2020, wherein all licensed products of cannabis must have their own QR codes.

The importance of the program

Councilman Paul Koretz has his own opinions regarding the importance of the program as he co-introduced it with Councilman Curren Price. According to Koretz, the program is a significant step toward making it easy to differentiate between illegal and legal dispensaries. But there is more to it. When talking about dispensaries, we simply classify them as operating as illegal or unpermitted. We don’t consider the bigger issues, namely the safety and health effects that come from illegal operations.

Councilman Korets also said that an unlicensed cannabis operator or dispensary would sometimes sell contaminated, mislabeled, and tainted products. This undermines the existing legal framework that ensures the safety of consumers in LA whenever they walk into a shop or dispensary. The approved motion requires the LA Attorney to create an ordinance that will implement the county program within the city. 

Councilman Curren Price also has something to say about the emblem program. According to him, “Establishing an Emblem Program will allow patrons to make an informed choice of where they want to shop and spend their hard-earned money. This initiative will provide a comfort level that they’re at a business that is properly regulated and inspected by the county. Furthermore, such a program will inform customers of safe locations to shop for legal cannabis.”

State-licensed businesses

The Los Angeles cannabis retailers will soon get the opportunity to display an official emblem to inform customers that their cannabis business operates legally. The emblem will go to legal storefront and delivery cannabis businesses in the city. The primary objective of The County of Los Angeles’ Emblem Program for Authorized Cannabis Stores is to reduce or even completely eliminate unlicensed cannabis stores and the products they sell.

The Los Angeles City Council approved the motion that called for the City Attorney to compose the ordinance that will implement the county program within LA. Legal retailers of cannabis products in Los Angeles expect that his program will get implemented in the latter part of 2022. Business leaders should only rely on trustworthy, in-depth analysis and industry data results. That way, they can make informed decisions and smart investments. This is very important, especially during these economic times filled with uncertainty.

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