Two years after it legalized marijuana, California’s black market is going strong. Regulators say local governments can change that.
Despite its status as a marijuana legal state, California continues to seize plenty of weed. By the end of last year, authorities with the California Bureau of Cannabis Control confiscated nearly 24 tons of illicit cannabis with a street value of $133 million. Law enforcement agencies like the California Highway Patrol destroyed much more.
It’s a testament to the resilience of black market cannabis in this state. That resilience has been blamed on burdensome taxes and state regulations and the refusal by many cities and counties to allow commercial cannabis in their jurisdictions.
California’s black market threatens to undermine the entire system just over two years after it was put into place. It has also resulted in environmental damage. In response, the state and local governments have beefed up enforcement.
There were a total of five raids in Sacramento County, netting state agents more than 1,665 pounds of cannabis worth more than $4.2 million, according to bureau data provided to The Sacramento Bee.
The majority of the bureau’s enforcement activity took place in Southern California, in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
The single-largest raid came in Riverside, where agents seized 13,200 pounds of cannabis worth an estimated $22.8 million.
There were 43 raids in Los Angeles County alone, with more than half of all raids for the entire year taking place there.
Because of the environmental havoc, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was involved in a number of these raids.
But the enforcement is just one piece of the puzzle. BCC spokesman Alex Traverso says cities and counties must move to legalize and regulate commercial cannabis in order to really make a difference.
“The illegal market doesn’t dry up overnight as you legalize,” he told the Sacramento Bee. “As more cities and counties open up, the problem will start to alleviate.”
He added that “a lot of good things could come” if local governments lifted their blanket bans on cannabis and put sensible rules in place for the industry.
Will they listen?