Legal Weed, Broken Promises: A Times series on the fallout of legal pot in California

Cannabis plants grow on an illegal farm. (Brain van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A logo for the Legal Weed, Broken Promises series

California’s legalization of recreational cannabis in 2016 ushered in a multibillion-dollar industry estimated to be the largest legal weed market in the world. But many of the promises of legalization have proved elusive.


Worker exploitation

The murdered pair were among 44 cannabis farm-related deaths identified by a Times investigation. All but five of the deceased were immigrants.

Nov. 9, 2023


The murdered pair were among 44 cannabis farm-related deaths identified by a Times investigation. All but five of the deceased were immigrants.

Workers must wait years to have wage theft claims heard. A state senator wants an investigation, but labor unions say they have their own plan.

California has largely ignored the immigrant workers who harvest America’s weed. Their exploitation is one of the most overlooked narratives of the era of legal cannabis.


Series impact

California regulators have quietly assembled a team to pursue labor exploitation in the state’s burgeoning weed industry.

State officials will audit corruption in cannabis licensing after a Times investigation uncovered allegations of bribery, conflicts of interest and other misdeeds.


A Times series exposing labor exploitation, corruption and other problems in California’s cannabis industry spurs calls for action.

The revelations mirror a Times investigation on corruption in marijuana licensing. Citing The Times’ story, a California lawmaker wants a statewide task force to investigate.

Despite a 2018 law that required the state to clear cannabis convictions, many counties have moved at glacial speeds. Some superior courts haven’t fully processed a single case, The Times found.


A surge in illegal cannabis

Illegal cannabis farms are engulfing parts of California and exploiting farmworkers who labor in squalid, deadly conditions, a Times investigation finds.

A Times analysis of satellite imagery suggests California’s efforts to encourage cannabis growers into the legal market are foundering.


Corruption and conflicts

Commercial cannabis resulted in corruption and questionable conduct that has rocked local governments across California, a Times investigation found.


Funding from Big Cannabis

The industry support underscores potential conflicts of interest as marijuana goes mainstream and researchers try to assess health and other impacts of cannabis.


A legal pathway to clear convictions falls short

More than 30,000 Californians are stuck with felonies, misdemeanors and other convictions on their records that should have been wiped ‘automatically.’


The impact on legal farms

Small operators across California’s legal cannabis market say government taxes, fees and regulations are threatening their survival.


Illegal dispensaries

The success of illegal cannabis shops and the struggles of legal ones in the heart of L.A.’s Eastside offer a stark illustration of how California’s legalization of marijuana has gone wrong.


California’s legalization failures

Years after California legalized cannabis with Proposition 64, some supporters say it has not met expectations, while those who opposed the initiative say it has proved worse than they feared.

In Trinity County, boom-and-bust cycles are part of history. Legal weed promised to be an economic shot in the arm. But that expectation quickly collapsed.


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California’s social equity promise

The promise of ‘social equity’ has been a key narrative tied to California’s legalized pot industry. So far, efforts have been mired by costly delays.