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The complicated world of weed in LA

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Oct 26, 2018

Amanda Chicago Lewis is the best weed reporter.

Los Angeles is widely agreed to be the biggest and most important cannabis economy in the world, with a few million consumers, tens of thousands of workers, and billions of dollars each year in sales. It is also, from a business and government standpoint, one of the most contentious, complex, and gridlocked legal-marijuana markets in the United States.

It’s both astounding but also completely makes sense that there are 1,700 illicit dispensaries in Los Angeles on top of the 169 licensed establishments. It’s the wild west for weed right now. And the way authorities are handling the explosive growth is less than ideal.

Meanwhile, the DEA sent out threatening letters, and the city and the feds raided dispensaries indiscriminately, regardless of who had registered. Several shop owners went to prison—especially people of color. Even though most early weed entrepreneurs had worked on the illicit market, white dispensary owners who had previously been drug dealers were significantly less likely to have been arrested, and law enforcement was looking for people with criminal records. As time went on, the gray area of medical marijuana’s legality only deepened the racial divide.