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An employee wears a shirt reading ‘Shop. It’s Legal.’ while taking an order for a customer at the MedMen dispensary in West Hollywood, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

legalization | 01.01.2022

California sends 500 cease-and-desist letters to unlicensed cannabusinesses

The LAPD estimates that Los Angeles alone has up to 300 illegal dispensaries.

Two months into California’s recreational sales, state officials are having a hard time getting cannabusinesses to transition into the legal market. The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) has sent out around 500 cease-and-desist letters to unlicensed cannabis companies since mid-February, according to a report from Marijuana Business Daily.

The BCC was established to oversee the approval of retailers in the state, but has said that a staggering number of businesses are still operating without their approval. In Los Angeles alone, the LAPD estimates that the city has up to 300 illegal dispensaries. This is due to a variety of factors including the complications of applying for a license, regulatory fees, and a lack of a guarantee that a dispensary will be licensed even if they do apply.

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A license for adult-use recreational sale of marijuana is displayed on January 1, 2018 at the reception window of the Green Pearl Organics marijuana dispensary in Desert Hot Springs, California. (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

The cease-and-desist letters do not appear to be intended to reprimand these businesses but are an attempt to bring them on board with the new regulatory scheme.

“We’re going to give (the letters’ recipients) a little time to right the ship and hopefully come and seek out their license,” BCC spokesperson Alex Traverso told Marijuana Business Daily.

“If you are in fact engaging in unlicensed commercial cannabis activity,” the letters read, “you must cease all commercial cannabis operations until you obtain a valid state license to avoid further violations of state law.”

The letters go on to state that fines, greater than the initial licensing fees, could be imposed if they continue to operate without a license.

The state’s Department of Food and Agriculture, which oversees manufacturing and growth operations, has also noted a lack of licensing applications among cultivators. According to a report from the California Growers Association, the state has approved less than one percent of the growers who are currently operating.



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Justin Calvino tours a marijuana greenhouse under construction for the coming season on one of his properties in Mendocino County, California on April 19, 2017. Marijuana growers, forced to run their businesses with cash, must navigate legal and political gray areas as regulations and laws continue to change. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)


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