Long Beach may crack down on illegal marijuana businesses with new penalties

Long Beach may make it easier to crack down on illegal marijuana businesses by adding a few tools to its legal arsenal.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider amending a local law, based on recommendations by the city attorney’s office, that would further enable officials to penalize illegal marijuana establishments and property owners, in an effort to gain compliance and to deter such operations in the first place.

When Price suggested additional enforcement tools last month, she said it would help “limit the detrimental effects” of illegal marijuana businesses, which place a burden on city resources and negatively impact local communities.

The amended ordinance would allow:

• Disconnection of utilities, upon notice, for any property where a non-licensed marijuana business is operating. This includes gas, water and electric, though the city would have to coordinate a shut off with Southern California Edison for electric utilities.

• The city attorney to file lawsuits seeking injunctive relief. This would permit a court, in its discretion, to issue a maximum civil penalty of $5,000 per violation for each day a non-licensed marijuana business is in operation.

• To ban for one year marijuana-related business at any property that formerly housed a non-licensed marijuana operation; and to ban for five years a marijuana-related business at any commercial/industrial site that has had its business license revoked due to housing a non-licensed operation. The ordinance would require the city to provide notice and an opportunity for a public hearing prior to instituting such bans.

Proposed changes to the local law come just months after voters approved Measure MM, a citizen-backed ballot measure that repealed a local ban on medical marijuana businesses and created safeguards for their existence.

Prior to the passage of MM, Long Beach leaders cautioned that legalizing medicinal cannabis would lead to an influx of unlicensed and illegal operations throughout the city. Though the city already had an array of enforcement tools at its disposal, shutting down a business can be time consuming and costly. This should make that process a little bit easier.

Long Beach is still undergoing a process to approve dispensaries and other medical marijuana-related businesses, including prospective growers and lab testers.

The City Council meets Tuesday at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

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