Cannabis control could become costly

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More funding is needed to fight unlicensed cannabis shops, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday. Budgetary increases for illegal cannabis enforcement could go from around $3 million this year to around $30 million in the next city budget.

Earlier this month, Los Angeles passed a new law to thwart unlicensed dispensaries. Now, the Department of Water and Power can disconnect utilities at illegal businesses.

Before utilities can be cut, the Department of Cannabis Regulation will have to provide written confirmation that the address in question does not have a license, and the Los Angeles Police Department or another city agency must provide written confirmation to the LADWP that commercial cannabis activity is occurring at the address.

Nearly two dozen illegally operated cannabis shops have been shut down and more than 20 search warrants have been served in the Northeast San Fernando Valley in the last 12 months.

City Attorney Mike Feuer announced last September that his office had filed 120 criminal cases within a nine-month period against 515 defendants associated with 105 illegal commercial cannabis locations across the city.

Closing down illegal pot shops has proven to be a challenge for the city; it often involves an undercover police operation and the use of other significant law enforcement resources.

There are 178 cannabis-related businesses currently operating legally in the city, according to the Department of Cannabis Regulation.

Additionally, Garcetti said the next city budget would include funding needed to upgrade the Los Angeles Police Department’s outdated computer technology. Exact funding numbers were unavailable for that project, but Garcetti said upgrades are sorely needed.

“We are one of the most backwards departments when it comes to technology,” Garcetti said. “Some people say we need 12,000 officers. I say, ‘What would you rather have, 12,000 officers or 10,000 officers with 20 percent more time out on the streets?’ To me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s the same pay with the same number of hours instead of more pay for extra hours.”

An Information Technology Agency report discussed at the meeting said the LAPD maintains some 8,000 workstations, and about 3,000 are over seven years old. Over the years additional software has been installed that places more demands on the computers, which has resulted in reduced performance and slower response from the computers, the report said.

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