Five years after California voters approved Prop. 64’s adult-use cannabis framework, the legal market is still struggling to catch fire, in part, because of a complicated regulatory structure, licensing hurdles and a heavy tax burden.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office—a nonpartisan fiscal and policy research institute for California’s Legislature—estimates that adult-use cannabis businesses operate in less than one-third of jurisdictions statewide.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
Law enforcement personnel eradicate cannabis plants from an illegal operation in Southern California.
Meanwhile, the illicit market continues to bloom. On July 7, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced the results of a 10-day sting operation that involved more than 400 law enforcement personnel, who seized $1.2 billion of illegal harvested cannabis and plants last month in Southern California, and arrested 131 Mexican, Chinese and Armenian cartel members.
Investigators said that the operation accounted for only 40% of the illegal outdoor grows in the county, where up to four harvests per year can materialize. If those illicit grows went uninterrupted by law enforcement, Los Angeles County alone would shadow the state-legal market, which brought in $4.4 billion of retail sales in 2020.
California state Assemblyman Tom Lackey, whose 36th District encompasses the bulk of identified illegal operations in