Going Legal Remains a Fool’s Errand for Too Many Pot Businesses in L.A.

Curbed has an excellent rundown on the ongoing problems faced by marijuana businesses desperately hoping, waiting, and trying to go legit in the City of Los Angeles — and how the city continues to play favorites with the companies who can really play ball.

There are 169 legal pot shops in L.A. City today. Another 1,700 are illegal. Of those that have had the privilege to get licensed, it’s usually due to some combination of good fortune, political influence, and cash.

“Los Angeles is widely agreed to be the biggest and most important cannabis economy in the world, with a few million consumers, tens of thousands of workers, and billions of dollars each year in sales,” says Curbed. But “it is also, from a business and government standpoint, one of the most contentious, complex, and gridlocked legal-marijuana markets in the United States.”

“Most other major California cities began permitting marijuana dispensaries years ago, when only medical was legal, but Los Angeles waited—leaving LA cannabis businesses especially vulnerable to the whims of law enforcement and prosecutors. So while U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s anti-pot perspective is more likely to garner headlines, the anti-pot actions of LA’s city and district attorneys have had a much greater impact here on the ground.”

Amanda Ostrowitz, the CEO of a company which tracks local marijuana regulations in several states, calls L.A.’s regulatory process “hyperlocal.” There are so many different layers to contend with when trying to get licensed.

The city keeps promising to simplify the process. But a new program aimed at expanding cannabis business licenses in the city hasn’t even been funded. Meanwhile, many entrepreneurs have already given up and left town.

As usual, city leaders are urging more patience and time.

“Launching the nation’s largest commercial regulatory program is an extremely complex undertaking,” Cat Packer, executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, told Curbed. “We are dealing with the challenges of balancing the build-up of city infrastructure while implementing policies that are still evolving. Most importantly, we are taking the time that is needed to get this right.”