Los Angeles passes ordinance targeting illegal cannabis dispensaries

Los Angeles is stepping up in its crackdown on “black market” cannabis after city council unanimously votes to disable power and water to illegal dispensaries.

Los Angeles is cracking down on the cannabis "black market."

The City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to draft an ordinance that would shut down power and water to any illegally run marijuana dispensaries. Dispensary owners are still getting arrested on charges related to cannabis, especially as it relates to unlawful distribution. As of September 2018, Los Angeles prosecutors charged 515 people with misdemeanors for operating illegal dispensaries.

Though Los Angeles is the state's biggest legal marijuana markets, there are still a large number of dispensaries that operate illegally. This may be due to the tedious legal process of running a dispensary, as one must obtain both a state and local license to do so.

While Los Angeles is cracking down on unlicensed dispensaries, other cities are working to review past pot-related convictions as the state comes to terms with legalization. On Monday, San Francisco prosecutors announced they would work to expunge misdemeanors and downgrade felonies for nearly 9,30marijuana-related convictions.

There are over 200,000 people eligible to have their marijuana-related charges changed in Los Angeles, but the city is not doing it because it is "costly, confusing and time-consuming," Rodney Holcombe II, a lawyer for nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, told Annenberg Media.

Historically, there has been a racial disparity among those charged with marijuana-related crimes. According to the ACLU, African Americans are nearly 4 percent more likely to be arrested on pot charges than their white counterparts, despite using the substance at the same rates.

"This change will significantly impact folks of color and people with low income who were disproportionately charged. These people are less likely to have the resources to petition on their own, especially the way it was before, being a costly, tedious process," Holcombe said.

"This is a great first step," he said, but "this is just the tip of the iceberg."