Marijuana regulators struggling to control LA's underground market

Friday, June 15, 2018
Marijuana regulators struggling to control illegal market
Marijuana regulators are struggling to control the underground market for cannabis in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Six months after California voters approved marijuana, regulators and law enforcement are struggling to control the market and squelch scofflaws.

Officials call a common practice "whackamola."

"We shut them down and they pop back up the same day, the next day," L.A. County Office of Cannabis Management official Julia Orozco said.

A Cannabis advocacy group called Angeles Emerald gathered government officials on Thursday to press for solutions. The central issue is that the state and local communities have not formulated regulations so that legitimate operators can apply for licenses.

"Statewide, what we are seeing on the data right now is only 30 percent of the state is online with the regulated markets and on the county we are only at 20 percent," Angeles Emeralds Co-Founder Jonatan Cvetko said.

Regulators are navigating uncharted territory as they try to sew up loopholes.

Among the unknowns is how organized crime will try to skirt regulations.

"What creative ways are they coming up with that we haven't thought about and how are we going to be responding to that?" Orozco said.

Meanwhile, public safety officials say consumers are getting sick on cannabis loaded with THC, a compound concentrated in some edibles.

"The consumer doesn't know the dosing still, so we are getting a lot of overdoses in the EMS and medical space with edibles," L.A. County Fire Department Battalion Chief Richard Stillwagon said. "It seems that edibles is the biggest hazard right now."

On July 1, the ingredients of all products must be on a label and every product must be traceable in the state's database.

Advocates say that may push illicit operators further underground. Industry advocates say the solution is faster approval for legitimate dealers and more access to licenses.