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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council today took a major step toward charging the owners of illegal pot shops and their landlords for the costs associated with shutting off utilities at the businesses.

With hundreds of illegal marijuana shops continuing to operate in the city, the council in March unanimously approved an ordinance aimed at cracking down on the businesses by shutting off their utilities.

The council's 10-0 vote on Wednesday directs the City Attorney's Office to draft an ordinance that would allow the city to seek full cost recovery after an illegal dispensary has its power cut.

“This is a very important and no nonsense enforcement tool that will be crucial in tackling the spread of illegal cannabis operators in our communities,” said Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, chair of the city's Public Safety Committee. “Property owners responsible for harboring illegal cannabis businesses must be held accountable for their role in undermining our legal system. They should be held responsible for the full costs of public safety enforcement efforts.”

Rodriguez's motion said the cost of cutting the utilities at the businesses includes “materials used to secure facilities, staff hours generated by those engaged in enforcement and other costs. The city must establish a policy that seeks full cost recovery from those that lease their property to illegal cannabis businesses.”

The city already assesses property owners and businesses for the costs of other specialized public safety enforcement efforts, such as brush fire hazard abatement. Rodriguez's motion states that illegal cannabis businesses “pose similar threats to public safety and similar policy and procedure should be established.”

Since the beginning of 2018, all businesses conducting commercial cannabis activity in Los Angeles are required to be licensed by both the state and city, but hundreds without the proper licenses are believed to be operating, according to the LAPD.

“The unlicensed cannabis market drains revenue and resources from the city of Los Angeles and the Department of Cannabis strongly supports this motion and the leadership of Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez,” said Cat Packer, executive director of the Department of Cannabis Regulation.

“We will continue to partner with city agencies in enforcement efforts against the illegal cannabis establishments,” she said. “We encourage the public to lodge complaints about any unlawful cannabis activity using the DCR's complaint portal at cannabis.lacity.org. Together with the community we can encourage consumer safety in the city of Los Angeles."

Photo: Getty Images

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