Los Angeles sues to close illegal marijuana shop accused of selling pesticide-laden pot

April 18, 2019

The city of Los Angeles has sued an unlicensed marijuana dispensary accused of illegally selling pot containing a dangerous pesticide typically used to treat golf-course turf, the city’s top prosecutor announced Wednesday.

Mike Feuer, the L.A. city attorney, said that prosecutors are seeking an injunction against the dispensary, Kush Club 20, for selling marijuana without a permit that tested positive for paclobutrazol, a plant growth regulator and fungicide.

“We care if the romaine lettuce we’re eating is contaminated. We care about whether we can safely eat at Chipotle. Marijuana buyers should exercise the same degree of caution. And his means only buying from licensed locations,” Mr. Feuer said during a press conference.

The lawsuit is the first to be brought against an unlicensed dispensary accused of selling pesticide-laden pot since California began allowing regulated marijuana shops to operate more than a year earlier, the city’s attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors are seeking an injunction to evict the dispensary from its location in South L.A. and penalties of up to $20,000 for each day it remains open.

A message seeking comment from the dispensary was not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

Californians voted to legalize and tax and sell recreational marijuana in November 2016, and laws allowing licensed and regulated dispensaries to operate took effect in January 2018.

A total of 33 states have legalized marijuana to varying degrees in the face of federal prohibition. California is among seven in the country where it can be purchased by adults from authorized retailers, along with Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state.

Marijuana dispensaries within L.A. are required to be licensed under both state and city law. City regulations require businesses to follow state testing requirements to make sure their products are free from certain chemicals, including paclobutrazol.

“While banned on cannabis and not registered for use on other food crops in California, the chemical is used extensively in golf turf management in order to increase density and color in the grass,” the city attorney’s office said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Use of the chemical is also typical as a tool of unethical and illegal cannabis growers and sellers as a way to manipulate their marijuana product.”

Los Angeles has filed 217 criminal cases against illegal marijuana businesses and successfully shuttered at least 113, the L.A. Times reported Wednesday. Only 181 dispensaries are actually licensed to sell recreational marijuana at the moment, the report said.

Several laws being considered by Congress would effectively abolish federal marijuana prohibition if passed, and multiple candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have endorsed legalizing pot from the campaign trail.

California earned a total of $345.2 million in revenue in 2018 of excise, sales and cultivation taxes imposed recreational marijuana sales, the state Department of Tax and Fee Administration said previously.