California weighs steep new fines to combat illegal cannabis sellers


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  texan1211  •  3 weeks ago  •  15 comments

By:   MSN

California weighs steep new fines to combat illegal cannabis sellers
Those who provide assistance to illegal pot sellers would face civil fines of up to $30,000 per day under legislation approved unanimously by the state Assembly that is now pending in the Senate. A final vote on the proposal is expected sometime after lawmakers return to Sacramento this month.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

California weighs steep new fines to combat illegal cannabis sellers

Alarmed that unlicensed cannabis sellers continue to dominate California's pot market, state lawmakers are moving toward imposing steep new fines on businesses that provide building space, advertising platforms and other aid to illicit operations.

© Provided by The LA Times A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy loads evidence bags into a van after raiding an illegal cannabis dispensary in Compton in 2018. State lawmakers are considering new fines for landlords and advertisers that aid illegal pot shops. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Those who provide assistance to illegal pot sellers would face civil fines of up to $30,000 per day under legislation approved unanimously by the state Assembly that is now pending in the Senate. A final vote on the proposal is expected sometime after lawmakers return to Sacramento this month.

Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) said she introduced the bill out of concern that as much as 80% of the cannabis sold in California comes from the illicit market, despite voters approving legal and licensed sales that began in 2018.

"Despite some success during the first two years of legalized cannabis sales, the illicit market has flourished," Rubio said. "In addition to dwindling tax revenues, the underground market presents public safety and health threats to California."

But the proposal has divided advocates for legal marijuana. The United Cannabis Business Assn., which represents licensed firms, asked Rubio to introduce Assembly Bill 2122, saying it "brings much-needed support in enforcement."

Licensed retailers have struggled as many Californians continue to buy from the illicit market sellers, who charge lower prices because they do not pay state taxes or abide by costly state regulations, including testing and security requirements.

"The illicit cannabis market must be shut down to ensure that legal operators can see an increase of patients and consumers which creates union jobs while we contribute to local and the State of California's tax revenues," the UCBA said in a letter to legislators.

However, the measure is opposed by the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also known as NORML, which argues the bill is overbroad and heavy-handed.

"In general we would rather see 'carrots' to assist people in securing commercial licenses by lowering the barriers to entry, rather than 'sticks,' be they criminal or civil," said Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML.

The group supports an existing law requiring advertising for cannabis businesses to include a state license number. NORML officials said many illicit operators display fake licenses to fool those they do business with, so it is not always easy to ascertain whether a cannabis business has a license.

Komp suggested the state can help licensed businesses by addressing the fact that two-thirds of the cities in California do not allow licensing of cannabis businesses.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, the leading supporter of the legalization initiative Proposition 64 in 2016, has said enforcement is an important part of building a legal industry.

But the state Bureau of Cannabis Control has previously run into roadblocks in attempting to enforce laws requiring cannabis businesses to be licensed.

In 2018, the bureau sent a letter to Weedmaps, the internet site that provides consumers with information on cannabis firms, directing it to cease and desist from displaying listings of unlicensed sellers.

Weedmaps said it was protected from such an order by the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which gave platforms such as Facebook and YouTube safe harbor from being held liable for the content of their users' posts.

However, last August, the firm announced it would end the practice of listing unlicensed cannabis businesses on its Yelp-like platform.

Still, state officials say ads for illegal operators can be found elsewhere on the internet and said sharper teeth are needed in state law to give enforcement real bite.

A Weedmaps spokesman said the firm is neutral on the Rubio bill, but the company warned lawmakers that the measure "has the potential to capture non-nefarious actors across multiple media platforms who are not intentionally supporting the illicit cannabis market."

To address concerns from the newspaper industry, Rubio's bill provides fines for "aiding and abetting," which require knowledge that a cannabis business is illegal and intent to help it.

A publisher would not likely be fined if it put up an ad of a licensed business that later had its license expire or taken away, according to Taylor Woolfork, a spokesman for Rubio.

But there have been allegations by state officials that some websites have used false license numbers on ads. That could be taken as evidence that the advertiser knew the ads were for unlicensed firms, and therefore was aiding and abetting, Woolfork said.

"We are not looking to fine folks who make honest mistakes," he said.

The measure would also give the bureau more enforcement power when building owners are found to have knowingly leased storefronts to unlicensed marijuana retailers.

Cannabis sold in those stores "does not meet established standards, evades state testing and puts people at risk," Rubio said.

In December, state regulators served search warrants at 24 unlicensed shops in Los Angeles, seizing $8.8 million in cannabis products, and confiscated nearly 10,000 illegal vape pens and $129,000 in cash.

Rubio's bill would also allow fines against landlords who rent space to shops they know are unlicensed.

The legislation is one of the few cannabis-related bills left to be considered this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced legislators meeting in a truncated session to pare back the number of measures not related to the health crisis.

The industry had also hoped this year might see success for a measure by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) that would have cut the state excise tax on marijuana sales from 15% to 11% for three years while eliminating a cultivation tax for that period.

Bonta said that while the tax cut bill "will not be moving forward this year, I remain committed to supporting our legal operators, ending the illicit market, and fulfilling California's promise to the voters under Prop. 215 and Prop. 64 to provide legal, safe, and regulated adult-use and medical cannabis."


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1  seeder  Texan1211    3 weeks ago

California seems to have quite the problem.

Maybe they can extend the fines on landlords who rent to illegal shopkeepers to those landlords who rent to illegal aliens?

Just Jim NC TttH
1.1  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  Texan1211 @1    3 weeks ago



1.1.1  seeder  Texan1211  replied to  Just Jim NC TttH @1.1    3 weeks ago

Seems legalizing weed in Cali has backfired on them. It didn't do what proponents claimed it would.

Love the straw pic--funny!

pat wilson
1.1.2  pat wilson  replied to  Texan1211 @1.1.1    3 weeks ago

It backfired because of the usury sums of taxes leveled on the purchase of weed. You save at least 30% buying from the "illicet market".

1.1.3  seeder  Texan1211  replied to  pat wilson @1.1.2    3 weeks ago

That's the California way!

Tax 'em to death and beyond!

Release The Kraken
2  Release The Kraken    3 weeks ago

There is this hypothetical person I might know that has a legal grow in the Emerald Triangle. They may also have an illegal grow too and it might just generate significantly more money even though the weed is cheaper out of state.

California punishes the farmer and taxes the hell out of them. Government is creating the black market once again.

Why would you pay legal weed prices in the dispensary? LOL you are being ripped off, support your illegal farmer, they have to eat too!

pat wilson
2.1  pat wilson  replied to  Release The Kraken @2    3 weeks ago


Vic Eldred
3  Vic Eldred    3 weeks ago


What do we do now Mr White?

Sparty On
3.1  Sparty On  replied to  Vic Eldred @3    3 weeks ago

Sic Heisenberg on em .....

Vic Eldred
3.1.1  Vic Eldred  replied to  Sparty On @3.1    3 weeks ago


I'll take it from here

Sparty On
3.1.2  Sparty On  replied to  Vic Eldred @3.1.1    3 weeks ago

What great character, what great show!

Vic Eldred
3.1.3  Vic Eldred  replied to  Sparty On @3.1.2    3 weeks ago

It had it all!  

Sparty On
4  Sparty On    3 weeks ago

Drug dealers attempting to fool/cheat the government?

Say it ain't so Joe!

4.1  loki12  replied to  Sparty On @4    3 weeks ago
Drug dealers attempting to fool/cheat the government?

So the California solution is to punish the building owners instead of the actual criminals...........Awesome! 

Sparty On
4.1.1  Sparty On  replied to  loki12 @4.1    3 weeks ago

Sounds about right for Calikakistan .....


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