California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control is looking to beef up its law enforcement presence.
The bureau in a new state budget request is asking lawmakers to let it build an 87-member police force that would enforce the 2016 law voters passed legalizing recreational cannabis. It’d create the law enforcement branch by absorbing 58 positions from another department, and hiring 29 more cannabis cops.
The department is trying to contain a black market that pervades the state three years after California’s first recreational marijuana stores opened.
In 2019, the bureau seized nearly 24 tons of illicit cannabis, while the California Highway Patrol in 2018 seized more than 80 tons.
Black market cannabis operators made an estimated $8.3 billion in sales in 2019, compared to the $3.1 billion the legal market made, according to projections from BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research.
“Investigators have seized millions in untested products, including cannabis flower, edibles, tinctures, concentrates — all bypassing the state’s testing and labeling requirements,” said George Tiongson, president of the California Association of Criminal Investigators, an affiliate of the union that represents employees the bureau’s employees.
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