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California Sends ‘Several Hundred’ Warning Letters to Unlicensed Cannabis Businesses

February 16, 2018
(Rich Pedroncelli/AP)
California state cannabis regulators fired a warning shot this week, sending out hundreds of warning letters to businesses suspected of engaging in commercial cannabis activity without a state license.

“These letters represent the first step in the Bureau’s efforts against unlicensed operators.”
Alex Traverso, Bureau of Cannabis Control

Most of the letters, which threaten civil and criminal penalties, have gone out to retail storefronts and delivery services believed to be operating illegally, according to Alex Traverso, communications chief for the state Bureau of Cannabis Control.

“We’ve sent out several hundred of these letters in just the past couple days,” he told Leafly on Friday. “Much like we’ve been visiting licensees and doing compliance checks focused on education, these letters represent the first step in the Bureau’s efforts against unlicensed operators.”


In LA, Legal Cannabis Stores Call for Crackdown on Illegal Pop-Ups

California has long been considered the Wild West of cannabis regulation, with virtually zero state oversight of the legal industry until the beginning of 2018. As new state licensing requirements kicked in on Jan. 1, some existing businesses decided to forego licenses, citing high fees and onerous obligations.

In Los Angeles, local authorities have arrested at least 35 people during raids at eight unlicensed retail shops, Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Stephen Carmona said at an LAPD press conference on Thursday. Officials have granted licenses to roughly 100 cannabis businesses but estimate that two to three times that number are currently operating in the city. Other cities, such as San Diego, are also cracking down on unlicensed cannabis businesses.


Will Cannabis Delivery Survive in California’s Legal Market?

Here’s the full text of letters the Bureau of Cannabis Control has sent to businesses suspected of operating illegally:

The Bureau of Cannabis Control (Bureau) has reason to believe that you may be engaging in unlicensed commercial cannabis activity. Pursuant to the provisions of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), a valid state license from a state licensing authority is required to legally operate a commercial cannabis business within the State of California. If you are in fact engaging in unlicensed commercial cannabis activity, you must cease all commercial cannabis operations until you obtain a valid state license to avoid further violations of state law. Please be aware that such violations may result in criminal and administrative penalties, as well as civil penalties totaling up to three times the amount of the license fee for each violation.

To apply for a license, please visit the Bureau’s website,, or contact the Bureau at (833) 768-5880.


Paul Tupy

Assistant Chief of Enforcement

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Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor who specializes in cannabis politics and law. He was a news editor for Leafly from 2015-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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  • Corey Jones

    Tbh Good. They finally make it legal and a bunch of assholes want to ruin it by making a quick buck. Stupidity never ceases to amaze me. People gotta understand that good things take time.

    • eric stefano

      some of those might have already been open though

    • Sonny Cole

      yeah it has taken some of us all of our lives to get this far,and some want to get greedy and fk it up,bummer

  • jon


    • GetAClueBucko

      I didn’t do anything and why are you yelling? Both people and peopel don’t like that.

  • Sativa53

    best to move to Vegas where they have their act together…

  • Auryan

    How about a letter to the 1000s of illegal growers in The Triangle???? Nip the supply in the BUD…as it were. CA will never get it together as long as the ratio of legal growers to licensed grows is sooooo large.

  • farmerlion

    All people in sales and production need to be licensed. That said, California needs to stop gouging the mom and pop growers with huge fees and building space cost per sq. foot. So far the state is catering to the very wealthy monopolies . This will always meet great resistance from the best under funded growers. The illegal growers on state park lands need to be hung out to dry publicly. They serve nobody but themselves. Leaving behind garbage and chemical waste products. An open legal place to sale where taxes are collected at time of sale. Much like a flee market would go a long way to fixing many issues. Peace

  • Jeff Hudson

    “The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) is the lead agency in developing regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis in California. BCC is responsible for licensing retailers, distributors, testing labs and microbusinesses. Applications for licenses will be available shortly after the Bureau has released their draft regulations for medicinal and adult-use cannabis, which are expected to be released in November 2017.”

    Why does the Retailers link within the violation letter lead to stale data? Compliance of the accused needs to be just as important as the information provided by the State website tasked with granting all of the cannabis licenses.

  • Rod Azar

    Was always weary of California going recreational. I knew it would be a move made by corporate entities bankrolling behind citizens in the shadows. I also knew medical (pre-2018) was as good as it was ever going to get in California. PERIOD.
    To the ppl who think the proceeds will go to making Ca infrastructure better, think again. Look up who wrote the language on the bill. Not the locals who killed themselves to get to this place..nope, just assholes who promised the prison/industrial complex an increase in drug related arrests and increased revenue for law enforcement which btw has gotten SO MUCH MORE DRACONIAN since the new year,as this law only grants cops MORE LICENSE To hand out EVEN MORE d.u.i.’s, install more checkpoints, use profiling to pull you over w out reasonable suspicion, illegal surveillance and tracking using the kobra gps trackers that they are REQUIRED to have warrants to use. (But only need type ur license plate number to activate lol)
    This is not Colorados recreational set up, this is a move BY THE PRIVATE SECTOR in a state that historically has been the marijuana Mecca of America PRECISELY because of our ability to ignore the law, to operate DESPITE those LAWS thus creating our infamous underground culture of legends like big reds farm in Eureka who have been growing since the late seventies, places like Mendocino etc that made this state what it was. This move from medical to recreational is the THE MOST REGRESSIVE/DAMAGING MOVE CALIFORNIA HAS MADE IN ITS MODERN FISCAL HISTORY. The lions share of profits will mysteriously disappear when it comes time for an audit of the profits…as the wording in the law states the “companies” (shell/proxy corporations) take in a %age profits to reinvest in their operating costs making tax payers sport the cost of these out of state corporations (includes companies like Coca Cola btw!) to operate! Which should infuriate voters but sadly, and historically California is a champion of remaining ignorant in state/local issues/politics until AFTER its the measure has PASSED & it’s far too late to advocate for any change.
    Sincerely, Prof. Zuckerman (aka “rod azar”) -Professor of sociology/poli-sci @CSUS (‘04-2012)