LAPD cracks down on illegal marijuana shops, arresting dozens. But there could be hundreds more

The Los Angeles Police Department has served eight search warrants, including two in the San Fernando Valley, at shops suspected of unlawful marijuana sales so far this year, the agency announced Wednesday.

While these eight locations have been shut down, there is likely between 200 and 300 more of such illegal establishments operating throughout the city, LAPD Deputy Chief John Sherman of the Operations-Valley Bureau told reporters at a news conference downtown.

Recreational marijuana sales became legal in the state on Jan. 1 under a voter-approved initiative in 2016, creating the nation’s largest legal cannabis market.

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The department is working closely with the city’s Department of Cannabis Regulation to implement relevant rules, Sherman said.

“However, we do have ongoing challenges with unauthorized establishments  — unlawful and illegal clandestine operations — that are out operating either under the guise of medical marijuana or operating as unlawful and illegal cannabis (retailers) throughout the city,” Sherman said.

The eight search warrants served were among 18 problematic marijuana retailers identified throughout the city, said Capt. Steve Carmona of LAPD’s Gangs and Narcotics Division.

The search warrant investigations have resulted in 35 arrests, he said. Eleven were for maintaining a drug house, two were for possession or sales while armed, one involved a minor selling marijuana, another for possession of controlled substances and one for possession of a firearm. Sixteen arrests were made for operating an unlicensed activity.

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They also seized nine firearms, one rifle, eight handguns and seized more than $56,000 in currency, Carmona said.

About 12 property crimes and 12 violent crimes were attributed to these eight locations, he said.

LAPD has always focused on locations with “significant criminal activity” and that has not changed, Carmona said. However, he said it “could be the case” that certain illicit establishments may be able to hide more easily because people may assume that they are now legal.

On Feb. 7, a search warrant was issued at an “illicit, clandestine” marijuana shop near Laurel Canyon and Van Nuys boulevards in Pacoima, Sherman said.

It was the third such warrant served there over several years. Previously, the individuals involved were convicted of crimes and sentenced and the shop was closed, he said. But it had reopened at its location near the St. Mary Immaculate School generating community complaints.

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Four people were arrested at the shop for various violations. Among the violations, the shop’s security guard was not licensed as a guard and was armed, Sherman said.

Three firearms were recovered from the location, including one that had been stolen within the last two months from the community of Panorama City, he said. The person who had the firearm was a convicted felon.

In addition, the shop had a 19-year-old person serving as an employee there selling cannabis. It’s unlawful for anyone under the age of 21 to possess or sell cannabis.

Another search warrant was served this morning at a location in the Van Nuys area, but had no further details, Sherman said.

“The Los Angeles Police Department is going to continue to identify these locations that we believe create or harbor criminal activity around them, and generate community complaints, relative to quality of life, the business community or residential community,” Sherman said.

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