There's a new way to target illegal pot shops plaguing SoCal 

The California Department of Cannabis Control says they have a new tactic to crack down on illegal cannabis businesses: Targeting landlords that rent to them.   

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The NBC4 I-Team was with an enforcement team with the California Department of Cannabis Control as they visited a location in the Lennox area of Los Angeles.  

Inside a location on South Inglewood Avenue, the DCC told the NBC4 I-Team they found what is believed to be illegal marijuana in a safe and in display cases.    

They also said they came across previous warning letters from their department to the owner of this location about “unlicensed commercial cannabis activity.”    

The DCC explained the search warrant to go into this business followed one served at this very location only six months back.  

State officials say the businesses will shut down for a little while then pop up again, so they are now going after the owners of the buildings – saying landlords should be held responsible because of who they rent to.    

“We found a lot of product that is appealing to kids, a lot of packaging that we would never allow in our legal market,” said Nicole Elliott, the California Department of Cannabis Control director.   

Elliott was part of the South Inglewood Avenue operation and explained why the department is focused on landlords.    

“Because we know these operations pop back up. That was proven after the first warrant was issued at this location. And we're really interested in finding meaningful ways to disincentivize this activity, including penalizing the people who are providing the literal square footage for this illegal activity,” she said.   

The DCC explained the idea behind this type of enforcement is to permanently close these operations by holding landlords accountable for who they rent their locations to, adding that taking civil action should make landlords more selective about their tenants.    

As law enforcement combed the business inside, one neighbor, who did not want to be identified, told the NBC4 I-Team he and his family do not feel safe because of the activity in his neighborhood.     

The DCC said their search of the business next to the neighbor we spoke to led to a firearm found inside a soap dispenser.    

“These are strictly illegal operations. They tend to attract other criminals who commit robbery and burglary,”  DCC’s head of enforcement, Bill Jones, said.   

Jones added they visited four locations on this day that had been warned about their alleged illegal activity in May. Search warrants were issued at that time.   

The DCC said they are now working to file civil cases against the four landlords because they had been previously warned.     

“We want to create safe communities, communities that have legitimate businesses that don't cause public safety issues for the neighbors that are literally adjacent and for the kids walking by to school every day. And that's what these illegal businesses can often do. So we want to see communities that provide legitimate business opportunities including to legal cannabis businesses,” Elliott said.   

There are plenty of licensed cannabis businesses in Los Angeles County alone. Currently, 382 licensed retailers with storefronts, according to DCC data reviewed by the NBC4 I-Team.     

They said these are owners who have registered with the state, have a license, and charge and collect specific taxes related to their product that is also tested to ensure consumers know what they are getting -- things that are likely not happening in illegal operations. You can search for a licensed cannabis business in California here.

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