Even though recreational use of marijuana is permitted in California, operating a licensed marijuana dispensary is tougher than many would think, especially as illicit operations continue to fuel the red hot black market.
“It’s affecting our business,” said the owner of iLyfted, a Studio City dispensary.
The matter made headlines across the nation this week after six men were found dead in the Mojave Desert in what allegedly stemmed from a dispute over marijuana.
Since Proposition 64 passed in 2016, legalizing use of small amounts of marijuana in California, dispensaries have become commonplace on Los Angeles County streets, but many still operate illegally.
Cal Poly Pomona Assistant Professor of Criminology Peter Hanink says that while recreational use is legal, the highly-regulated cultivation process has allowed for the black market to continue to thrive.
“It’s the fact that you have a market, if you can’t meet demand for the market — the legal supply — you will get a black market; and that can turn violent,” Hanink said.
In San Bernardino County last year, authorities targeted illegal growers with Operation Hammer Strike, which led to the seizure of nearly 190,000 pounds of illegal cannabis and the eradication of nearly 318,000 plants, all of which is worth an estimated $313 million.
Defense Attorney Allison Margolin, who specializes in cannabis law, says that barriers to set up a legal dispensary may also push some to illegal operations.