There are at least 2,835 unlicensed dispensaries operating across California and that figure dwarfs the number of legal businesses, according to a new audit.
The United Cannabis Business Association, which represents legal retailers and cultivators in the Golden State, conducted the audit by browsing controversial website Weedmaps. It helps Americans find medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries, brands, deliveries, and deals, and it has been dubbed “Yelp for pot”.
The UCBA has accused it of failing to deliver upon its pledge to remove illegal, unlicensed retailers from its advertisements in California. To prove its point, the trade body performed an audit of the Weedmaps platform this week and found that there were 3,757 active dispensaries or delivery services in California listed, of which just 922 have a potential license listed alongside them.
That leaves at least 2,835 unlicensed dispensaries, which is more than triple the 873 licensed cannabis retailers in the state.
The UCBA called upon the state to use Assembly Bill 97, legislation that passed in July and allows for $30,000 in penalties for each day a cannabis retailer operates without a license, to retroactively hit Weedmaps with millions of dollars in fines.
It believes the state could charge it up to $85 million per day based on the current amount of unlicensed operators it lists.
President Jerred Kiloh wrote to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Chief Lori Ajax of the Bureau of Cannabis Control to demand action.
He said the unlicensed operators do not pay taxes, do not follow employment laws and circumvent labour unions. “Put simply, these retailers, that are allowed easy access to the public through Weedmaps, profit without contributing to California while risking the health and safety of our state’s residents,” he added.
Earlier this year, an LA Times audit of Weedmaps found 365 dispensaries advertised inside the city limits, despite only 187 temporary licenses having been issued in LA. Fewer than 20% of cities in California permit adult-use cannabis dispensaries, and a black market continues to flourish.