Cannabis to Cash: Lack of Help from City Departments Slowing LA’s New Pot Program to a Crawl

420 FILE--On Monday the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulations (DCR), Executive Director Cat Packer presented to the City Council Budget and Finance Committee made up of Council Members; Chair Paul Krekorian, Mitch Englander, Paul Koretz, Bob Blumenfield and Mike Bonin in consideration of the Mayor’s Budget for the fiscal year 2018-19.  Councilmembers focused on two areas; Enforcement and Cannabis applications. 

After listening to Cat Packer explain the collaborative strategy to enforcement needed to address LA’s unique issues, I agree that there are some challenges in managing a process across different departments that need to work as one for cannabis regulation to meet expected revenue projections. 

As a 2ndterm Budget Advocate and committee chair of department reports for the 2017 and 2018 Budget Advocate White Paper, I am familiar with departmental challenges. Last year I advocated for additional funding for the Information Technology Agency headed by Ted Ross for the implementation of software systems networked across departments. The costs and time lost associated with tracking paper or information housed in outdated computer software systems is an inefficient use of our tax dollars. I was not surprised to hear the Cat Packer ask for a centralized entity that collects cannabis complaints, tracks and is accountable to responses, as well as a New database that can share data sets across the following departments;    

  1. DCR
  2. Police
  3. Fire
  4. Building and Safety
  5. DWP
  6. City Attorney 

To date 142 Prop M temporary licenses have been issued and 60 more are on hold due to address and ownership issues. Only 142 since January 2018? LA has had marijuana collectives since 2009, but there has never been compliance enforcement. Years of owners legal and illegal operating without any checks and balances. 

Cat Packer has the huge task of creating a strong enforcement policy that will protect legal owners, communities and the city’s revenue (fees/taxes/fines) simultaneously. The department has just reached a staffing level of 5 because of city restrictions that require hires to be current city employees as well as outdated job descriptions that make filling key positions challenging.  Can the department really issue licenses any faster?  

At the beginning of the presentation, Councilmember Englander stated that Cat Packer has been transparent and doing a good job with a new department that has no road map. By the end of the presentation there was an understanding of the complexity of creating a sound and sustainable department that will meet revenue goals, enforce unlicensed commercial operators and monitor compliance of existing cannabis business. 

Cannabis is the revenue cure for our cash strapped city and since January 2018, all eyes have been on Cat Packer and the DCR to quickly close the black hole in the city budget. As a Budget Advocate, her intention is similar to our role as advocates; transparency, efficiency in collaborations and communicate inside and outside the departments. The way government should work.


(Brigette Kidd is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate from Region 9 who chairs the Cannabis Committee.)