Pilot program in Fresno targets illegal cannabis sales
Fresno is the first city in California to test the new program, a partnership with the California Department of Justice.
A new pilot program will test how effectively the City of Fresno can use its code enforcement team to make it harder for retailers to sell illegal cannabis products. Officials say targeting violators through an abatement process with the use of fines and citations will be faster than taking the cases to court.
City attorney Andrew Janz appeared with California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Tuesday to sign onto the new Cannabis Administrative Prosecutor Program or CAPP.
The program will focus on eradicating unregulated cannabis products, some packaged to look like snacks and chips typically marketed to children.
“We got a call yesterday from a local principal, who has evidence that a local smoke shop is doing this. So it's happening right now and yes, it is a problem,” said Janz.
These products are prevalent on the cannabis black market, which Bonta said is flourishing in California.
“Illegal cultivation, manufacturing and retail still makes up the majority of California's cannabis activity,” Bonta said.
Instead of criminal prosecution, violators can be issued citations and ordered to shut down. Officials hope the program will protect legal cannabis operators and take dangerous products off the streets.
“This is not the criminalization of the use of marijuana, but rather it is an effort to support law-abiding business owners who have gone through the lengthy municipal cannabis permitting process,” said Janz.
The CAP program will give state-level resources to Fresno in its efforts to target retailers found selling the products. The state’s Department of Justice will provide legal support from its cannabis control section as well as training and education.
The Attorney General’s Office chose Fresno to launch the program because its existing cannabis ordinance is fully developed and strict. If successful, the program could serve as a model to use statewide.