High-ly suspect: LA Council president wants to halt pot shop licensing; calls process “unfair”

The city has been unable to curtail illegal cannabis retail shops as it struggles to bring the industry into compliance

Council President Herb Wesson
Council President Herb Wesson

Los Angeles’ efforts to introduce cannabis retail stores through licenses has been far from pain-free, with blackmarket sellers popping up faster than law enforcement can crack down.

Now, City Council President Herb Wesson wants the city to stop processing applications for new shops, refund existing applications, and commission an independent audit of the approval process, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Critics of the current system — overseen by the Department of Cannabis Regulation — say it disadvantages applicants from neighborhoods that suffered the most from the so-called war on drugs.

The city periodically issues a limited number of licenses on a first-come basis, and it does not review all applications.

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Officials received around 800 applications for the latest round of 150 licenses. Around 300 of those were submitted within three minutes of the round opening last month.

Speed is an advantage, meaning applicants with slower internet speeds have less of a chance of getting reviewed, according to the Times report. Wesson said that in lieu of an audit, the city could process every application or come up with another solution.

The city’s effort to bring the cannabis industry into compliance has faced other hurdles. Legal operators are pressuring L.A. to clamp down on illegal dispensaries, which far outnumber legal shops.

Earlier this year, the L.A. City Attorney’s Office filed a suit against a landlord and two real estate agents who officials say helped establish and hide an illegal pot shop in South L.A.

Wesson’s call comes as he faces some scrutiny of his own. Last week, allegations surfaced that he helped developer Michael Hakim secure approval for a high-rise construction in Koreatown. In exchange, Hakim allegedly gave Wesson’s son — a tenant in one of his buildings — a break on the rent. [LAT]Dennis Lynch