LA County has devised a brand new strategy authorities hope will destroy the street market: stickers. These county-approved window decals are intended to communicate good legal standing while also signifying which storefronts are legal operations. By placing a sticker on the window, authorities hope that legal cannabis outfits will stick out and that consumers will be able to determine illicit vs. approved businesses.
Cannabis businesses are eligible to apply for an emblem through the County of Los Angeles’ Emblem Program for Authorized Cannabis Stores, get the necessary inspections, and display the emblem on their property where it can be seen from the outside.
The Emblem Program
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, City Council members adopted the “Emblem Program for Authorized Cannabis Stores” on June 7, allowing registered merchants to apply for an emblem that can be displayed on their storefronts to assist in distinguishing between legal and illegal dispensaries.
Licensed cannabis dispensaries and delivery services can apply for the symbol, and after passing the necessary inspections, the companies can install it where it can be seen from the outside of the facility, according to the news source.
“The item we have before us today is an important step towards making it easier to differentiate between legal and illegal dispensaries, but there’s a lot more to it than that because the conversation is often couched in terms of dispensaries simply operating as unpermitted or illegal without considerations of the larger issues, which are health and safety impacts that come from these illegal operations,” Councilman Paul Koretz, who co-introduced the motion with Councilman Curren Price, said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
LA County’s Murky Legal Landscape
But how many illegal cannabis dispensaries are really operating in LA county? The short answer is a lot – but the long answer is far more complicated than that. Due to the murky nature of cannabis legalization, dozens of tax-paying, fully-operational enterprises are actually considered illegal operations by state and municipal authorities.
Californians had long been able to consume medical marijuana legally. Still, retailers were not authorized to sell it, and the entire supply chain that brought it to them was considered criminal. Most dispensaries in LA county are actually semi or completely illegal: In the whole city, only 184 pot shops, less 20%, are licensed.
Unsurprisingly Racist Actions Against Business Owners
Los Angeles still struggles with its history of conflicting laws and selective enforcement, despite the city and the state now licensing cannabis businesses. Without a valid operating license, companies might appear respectable and even last for years. Numerous illicit businesses are located in Black and Latino communities, where employees are subject to arrest while front firms protect owners.
The new city requirements for emblems will invariably increase police raids in Black and Latino communities across LA County – despite having full legal authority to do so, it’s pretty clear to anyone with two brain cells that raiding fully operational businesses (run by oppressed minorities) is probably a terrible idea.
This news also comes alongside recent updates to the US Border Enforcement Zone: ICE can now raid private property within 100 miles of a border (or airport) without just cause. If the police can raid operational businesses at will, what’s to stop ICE from detaining people at work? These laws are dangerous, especially when passed under the guise of public health or safety concerns. In fact, these police raids will likely result in numerous arrests and deportations of minorities in LA county, and lawmakers are more than aware of this.
For decades, Los Angeles County routinely failed to provide the legal framework to create a functional, fully-legitimized supply chain. They have allowed businesses to operate under semi-legal standing, taken their tax money, and are now trying to edge them out of business, no doubt to favor white-owned cannabis operations.
The efficacy of these stickers should also be called into question – anyone with a printer can replicate them. Counterfeiting is a time-honored tradition, and if a business isn’t above semi-legal operation, who’s to say they won’t be above printing their own emblems?
Overall, this idea is ridiculous, costly, and will do more harm than good to the people of Los Angeles County. Lawmakers clearly don’t want a thriving legal cannabis economy – they want to control the supply chain, push minorities out of business, and make extra cash off the backs of hard-working budtenders.
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