AP Radio AP Radio News:

Feb 14, 8:08 PM EST

Police say hundreds of illegal marijuana shops operate in LA


AP Photo
AP Photo/Mike Balsamo

Latest News
Oregon officials struggle to ID which pot sites are legal

Recreational marijuana legalization delayed in Canada

APNewsBreak: Senator to stop blocking some DOJ jobs over pot

The Latest: Senate confirms head of Justice Department unit

Denver moves closer to sparking up at legal marijuana club

Multimedia
A district summary of the Beige Book
Measuring economic stress by county nationwide
Mall malaise: shoppers browse, but don't buy
Unemployment by the numbers
Family struggles with father's unemployment
Saying an affordable goodbye
Hard times hit small car dealer
Latest Economic News
Italian campaign promises gloss over grim economic realities

Germany books record surplus as economy keeps growing

The Brexit effect: UK economy grows at 5-year low in 2017

European Central Bank hints at revising stimulus outlook

German business confidence drops amid global, local concerns

White House says US could reach 3 percent growth rate

Bank of England's Carney predicts UK living standards boost

Eurozone economy cools amid stock market turmoil

Greece: Fitch upgrades country's sovereign rating

US inflation pressures raising expectations for rate hikes

Multimedia
Interactive medical marijuana map, poll and video gallery.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Los Angeles has issued licenses to nearly 100 marijuana retailers but police estimate there are at least two times that number operating illegally in the city and undercutting those who are playing by the rules.

Police have shut down eight illegal marijuana shops since Jan. 1, a pace that is unlikely to intensify as the department is focused on curbing violent crimes.

At least 35 people were arrested during the eight raids, including four people who were taken into custody last week, said Capt. Stephen Carmona. Most of the illegal shops were operating in plain sight - out of storefronts in busy neighborhoods, he said.

"We do have ongoing challenges with unauthorized establishments -unlawful and illegal clandestine operations - that are out operating either under the guise of medical marijuana or operating as unlawful and illegal cannabis sales (shops) throughout the city," Deputy Chief John Sherman said.

So far, only 99 businesses have been issued licenses to sell adult-use, recreational cannabis in Los Angeles. But police estimate between 200 and 300 illegal cannabis shops are operating within the city, Sherman said.

A report from the city's controller in June estimated there were more than 1,700 legal and illegal dispensaries.

Four people were arrested last Wednesday when officers raided a pot shop in Pacomia. The store initially had a sign outside advertising that it sold medical marijuana. It was later removed and customers were told to come in through a back door, Sherman said.

When police raided the shop, an unlicensed, armed security guard was standing watch inside and officers seized three guns, including one that was stolen within the past two months, he said.

Police will continue to identify such locations, Sherman said at a news conference Wednesday.

"The tracking of these establishments is very difficult because No. 1, we don't know where they all are all the time, they move frequently, if they can get rent somewhere and move in somewhere, they can pop up somewhere else the next day," he said.

Because investigations can often be lengthy, police are prioritizing the targeting of shops that are causing crime in an area and generating complaints from the community.

"The nature of serving a search warrant on one of these establishments is just very lengthy," Sherman said. "Keep in mind this is not the only problem that the police stations or the area captains are working on."

---

Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 .

© 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.