LA Sheriff’s Department Gets $5 Million to Investigate and Shut Down Illegal Dispensaries


Sohana Sahni, Staff Writer

Los Angeles (LA) County officials decided to begin tackling the illegal marijuana cultivation centers prominent in Antelope Valley and other dispensaries in the LA County area on Oct. 5. Representatives agreed to use $5 million to begin this task as a chunk of their $39.3 billion financial budget for the 2021-2022 year. 

Half of this $5 million budget will be allocated towards investigating operations within the county that steal water and harm the environment. Another unit will use these funds to attack illegal cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated areas. In addition to the $5 million budget, these operations will also be funded by a $500,000 grant the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) received. 

Despite the legalization of cannabis in 2016 and the legalization of recreational sales in January 2018, LA County’s ban against marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas has been in effect since 2010. In fact, this prohibition was even expanded to include manufacturing, testing, distribution, and growing cannabis in 2017. Despite this, the number of these dispensaries continues to rise. 

In an operation last summer, the LASD worked with varying branches of local law enforcement to seize 16 tons of illegal cannabis plants, totalling up to about $1.19 billion in Antelope Valley. Despite the contraband discovered in this bust, officials remained unable to garner the adequate support within the state government to create stricter regulations regarding hemp cultivation and distribution. 

These illegal cannabis operations often terrorize the communities they are located in and are known to use dangerous pesticides, steal water from fire hydrants, and threaten residents

“This is not the Wild West. Our tax paying citizens should be safe in the Fifth District and not be intimidated by cartel thugs. Our groundwater is being contaminated by grow chemicals, our water systems are being compromised by theft, our land is being decimated along with the protected Joshua trees. This is an unfolding disaster,” said Green Valley Town Councilmember Joe Randles. 

While some desire stricter laws regarding cannabis, even banning it all together, others support cannabis regulation instead. Residents in towns like Green Valley and Pearlblossom harassed by these dispensaries argue that by regulating the industry, the government would gain more funds to track and stop these illegal operations and would be able to solve the problem more efficiently.

Despite the widespread nature of this problem, these steps taken by local governments show the initiative to enforce change, ensuring a better future for the citizens of LA County.

“Illegal cannabis operations continue to threaten the well-being of our residents, water supply and environment,” said LA County’s 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger. 

“By empowering and equipping our law enforcement partners with the resources they need, we can better protect our communities,” she said.