A day after recreational marijuana sales became legal in California, a top Los Angeles police official said authorities are working to ensure that soon-to-be-permitted retail establishments in the city — and marijuana users — comply with the rules.
Recreational marijuana sales became legal in the state under a voter-approved initiative in 2016, creating the nation’s largest legal cannabis market.
The city of Los Angeles plans to start accepting applications Wednesday for temporary recreational sales license from existing medical marijuana dispensaries that have obeyed city policies — the highest priority group.
“As this regulation unfolds in the days and weeks ahead, the department will work with all of city government to ensure the responsible licensing of retail establishments in areas that were designated by our elected officials for such businesses,” LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore said at a well-attended afternoon news conference at the department’s downtown headquarters.
“Those communities that have schools, those communities that have churches and other areas that have restrictions as to the establishment of a licensed cannabis retail operation can rest assured that our department as well as (the city’s new Department of Cannabis Regulation) will act aggressively to ensure compliance with these rules.”
In March, Los Angeles voters approved Measure M, which regulates and taxes marijuana in light of Prop. 64, which legalized recreational marijuana statewide in November 2016.
LAPD is working “very closely” with the city’s Department of Cannabis Regulation in understanding how that department will issue permits, regulate compliance with those permits and ensure that retail sales in the city are “done in a responsible fashion,” Moore said.
The police department is also working with Cannabis Regulation, the Los Angeles County Health Department and the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control to understand how retail sales will unfold in the coming days – as well as any consequences to public safety, Moore said.
Some operators are expected to have their temporary approvals for recreational sales early next week, said Cat Packer, executive director of the city’s Department of Cannabis Regulation.
State law has governed the adult use of marijuana including consumption, transportation and cultivation following Prop. 64’s approval. But cities still get to ban or regulate commercial cannabis operations within their borders.
“The department will pay close attention to the use of marijuana in a vehicle, to the person driving impaired, to the person selling or furnishing marijuana to a minor; those are all illegal actions and the department will take aggressive action in enforcing the law,” Moore said.
Moore noted that officials are looking at other states that have implemented recreational cannabis use and are trying to learn from their experience, particularly as it relates to driving.
Police officers will rely on field sobriety tests and training to determine if someone may be under the influence of marijuana or any other drug, Moore said, noting they will make an arrest and pursue prosecution when appropriate.
LAPD is working with the California Office of Traffic Safety in exploring sampling technology, such as a cheek swab or other type of testing, to scientifically document the level of marijuana impairment, he said.
Moore noted that purchasing marijuana for recreational use is restricted to those who are at least 21 years old. The law also allows for cultivation of up to six plants in a household, though there are some exceptions for those who have a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana use.
And while transporting marijuana is legal in the state, it generally has to be in a container and placed in the trunk of the vehicle, Moore said.
Its consumption is also restricted to private property and thus can’t be done at a park or public business, he added.
“What we ask … is that the public invest time and energy to understand the responsible use of marijuana, as well as the responsible means of acquiring marijuana for recreational use,” he said.
Staff writer Brooke Staggs and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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