Marijuana: A legal business still racked by crime

Why is the cannabis industry not doing too well?

(Image credit: Tony Savino/Corbis via Getty Images)

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Six years after California legalized recreational marijuana, the cannabis business has badly failed in its promises, said Patrick McGreevy in the Los Angeles Times. California continues to expand and fine-tune its laws; last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 10 separate bills to bolster the legal cannabis market. But what was supposed to be a profitable legal business has turned into a nightmare of "organized-crime operations that run massive unlicensed farms and storefront dispensaries in plain view." Illegal operations proliferate, and legal ones are controlled by a small number of politically connected players. A legal loophole let just 10 companies acquire 1,862 growing licenses, or 22 percent of the state's total of 8,338 permits. Decisions on whether to allow local sales were left to cities and towns, and most "rejected allowing cannabis businesses in their jurisdictions." Meanwhile, in rural communities, "criminal enterprises operate with near impunity, leasing private land and rapidly building out complexes of as many as 100 greenhouses," said Paige St. John, also in the Los Angeles Times. Decriminalizing a profitable industry opened the door to "a global pool of organized criminals and opportunists." Robberies, kidnapping, "squalid" working conditions, and environmentally ruinous practices are the norm. The small growers the law was supposed to help have been pushed out. Noel Manners, a pioneering licensed grower, found men with bandanas and an assault rifle setting up an illegal operation on his land. "That was my cue to leave," Manners said.

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