New penalties against property owners renting or leasing to illegally operating marijuana businesses in Long Beach will be considered by the Long Beach City Council this Tuesday evening.
The agenda item, introduced by Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, will call for an ordinance to be drafted that will allow the city to apply penalties to property owners and shut off utility services to properties operating illegally.
“Long Beach needs effective tools at our disposal to limit the detrimental effects of illegal marijuana businesses to our communities, and our city resources,” Price said in a statement. “If we can shut down an illegal marijuana business faster because we have made it too difficult for them to operate illegally, then we free up city resources in Code Enforcement, in the Police Department and in the City Prosecutor’s office to be rededicated to helping Long Beach in other ways.”
The item is supported by Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce and Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga.
Price said that since the passage of Measure MM in Long Beach in November, it was made clear that the city could expect an influx of unlicensed and illegally operating marijuana businesses.
The illegal businesses create more costs to the city as it works to enforce current laws and shut them down, resulting in additional resources and staff time to inspect, enforce, penalize and prosecute, according to a release from Price’s office.
“Shutting an illegal business down can take months to achieve, and all the while the illegal business can continue operating and generating revenue,” Price’s office stated. “Which is why the City needs effective tools to stop illegal businesses from operating that include penalties to property owners and the ability to shut off utilities to businesses operating illegally.”
Price, a senior deputy district attorney for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, said she has long been cautious about how the city approaches marijuana, which remains a Schedule One narcotic under the federal government, cannot currently be tested to prove impairment, is expected to require significant increases in city resources and can make businesses susceptible to crime due to their cash-only transactions
In January, Price brought forth an agenda item that called for an outreach effort from the city’s health department to educate the city’s youth in the consequences of marijuana use.
The city is expected to see the first legally operating marijuana dispensary open as early as July, according to Marijuana Program Specialist Ajay Kolluri.
“Tools like this [proposed agenda item] can help reduce concerns and ensure businesses operating in Long Beach are doing so legally,” Price stated. “Long Beach wants all legally operating businesses to succeed, but ensuring we encourage compliance by using serious penalties is the best way to protect legal businesses, patrons, and impacted communities.”