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The city of Los Angeles is seeking millions in civil penalties from an unlicensed South L.A. cannabis dispensary accused of selling marijuana contaminated with pesticides, a move officials said Wednesday is intended to crack down on widespread illegal pot sales.
The dispensary, Kush Club 20, was selling cannabis tainted with paclobutrazol, a fungicide frequently used to make golf turf more dense and verdant, which is classified as a Type II toxic chemical by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is not approved for use on cannabis in California, a lawsuit filed Monday by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office said. Customers patronize illegal shops at their peril, and undermine businesses who play by the rules — and whose product is tested to protect buyers’ health,” City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement.
Only 181 dispensaries have temporary city approval to sell marijuana in Los Angeles, according to the Department of Cannabis Regulation. But hundreds of illegal dispensaries have popped up across the city as an attractive option for those looking to buy marijuana while skirting the state’s 15% tax on legal marijuana sales. Regulators, however, have warned that those shops might traffic in unsafe wares or counterfeit versions of popular marijuana brands and cultivators. We apparently as a community care a lot about whether our romaine lettuce is contaminated, and we should. We care a lot about whether we can safely eat at Chipotle,” Feuer said at a downtown news conference. “Marijuana buyers should at least exercise that same degree of caution.”
In addition to shutting down the Kush Club 20 dispensary, the lawsuit seeks a civil penalty of $20,000 for each day that illegal activity occurred at the property in the 5500 block of Central Avenue in South L.A. Feuer said the business had been operating for about a year, meaning the city could seek up to $7.5 million. The daily civil penalty has yet to be “tested in court,” Feuer said. The city has used criminal statutes to punish illegal dispensaries in the past because they often result in quicker resolutions.
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