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California

Man fatally shot in unlicensed South L.A. marijuana dispensary after officials vow crackdown in area

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Police investigate a shooting at an unlicensed marijuana dispensary in South Los Angeles early Thursday.
(OnScene.TV)

Police are searching for two men suspected of fatally shooting a man in an unlicensed marijuana dispensary in South Los Angeles early Thursday.

Officers responded to reports of a shooting at the business in the 8100 block of South Broadway near 81st Street about 1 a.m., the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Witnesses told police that one or both of the men opened fire inside the business, striking the victim several times. The man, who was in his 20s, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Video from the scene shows two men being handcuffed by officers and placed in patrol cars. Their connection to the incident is not clear. However, police say the suspects are still at large. A description of the two men being sought was not immediately available.

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The violence broke out a day after authorities shut down a separate unlicensed cannabis dispensary on the same street, a crackdown that city officials say is aimed at deterring other illegal operators.

The dispensary where Thursday’s shooting occurred is not on a list of authorized cannabis retailers, city records show.

Earlier this year, a Times report found there were at least 220 illegal cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles, more than the number of licensed operators in California’s largest marijuana market. Though the state’s above-board weed businesses are on track to record more than $3 billion in sales this year, a rebound after 2018 revenues fell well below projections, that figure still lags far behind the $8.7 billion expected to be spent on unregulated cannabis in California this year.

City Councilman Marqueece Harris- Dawson, who represents South Los Angeles, said his district has more than 70 illegal dispensaries, a number he says is far too high.

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“Incidents like the one last night are extremely disheartening but punctuate the fact that illegal dispensaries are dangerous and harming South L.A. neighborhoods,” he said Thursday.

Illegal dispensaries make it difficult for licensed shops to operate successfully, owners say. High taxes and a refusal by most cities to allow licensed retailers make it less expensive and easier for people to buy from unlicensed dealers.

Last week, legal operators got a bit of a boost when Weedmaps — a Yelp-like platform for dispensaries and marijuana delivery services — announced that it would stop listing unlicensed cannabis businesses on its website. Licensed owners have long expressed frustration that the website amplifies the presence of unlicensed cannabis sellers, whose skirting of state and local taxes lets them undercut legal operators.

“Shutting down these persistent offenders will help to create more opportunities for legal cannabis businesses to contribute to their communities and the city while draining resources from the illegal market,” Cat Packer, executive director of the city’s Department of Cannabis Regulations, said Wednesday.

Los Angeles Times staff writer James Queally and City News Service contributed to this report


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