142 people charged in Los Angeles crackdown on illegal cannabis businesses

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Prosecutors brought the first criminal charges against 142 people as they aim to tamp down the illegal marijuana market in Los Angeles after the state legalized recreational use in January.

The charges involve employees of 32 commercial cannabis companies and a business that delivers marijuana, City Attorney Mike Feuer said.

Recreational cannabis businesses must be licensed by both the city and state. So far, only 147 city licenses have been issued to sell recreational marijuana in Los Angeles.

Since the beginning of the year, officers targeting illegal marijuana businesses have served 54 search warrants and arrested 160 people, which includes the 142 people charged by the city attorney, said Lt. Stacy Spell of the LAPD’s Gang and Narcotics Division.

Investigators have prioritized going after shops that cause crime and generate complaints from the community, he said.

“We’ve tried to be very responsible with taxpayer money, understanding that we have limited resources and are not able to necessarily address all of the locations,” Spell said.

In addition to the misdemeanor criminal charges, the city attorney’s office will send cease-and-desist letters to other illegal cannabis businesses identified by prosecutors, Feuer said. He declined to say how many letters would be sent.

Earlier this year, state regulators sent similar letters to roughly 1,000 marijuana businesses they said were operating illegally statewide.

– Associated Press