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LA City Council Has Voted To Decriminalize Cannabis. But What Does It Mean?

A salesperson wearing a lavender shirt displays a glass jar containing cannabis buds to a customer
A budtender (right) shows cannabis buds to a customer at the Green Pearl Organics dispensary on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in California, Jan. 1, 2018.
(Robyn Beck
AFP/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles City Council voted on a resolution this week to decriminalize cannabis and remove it from the Schedule I controlled substance list — those drugs considered to have no acceptable medical use.

What's a resolution?

An adopted resolution is a stance with no actual power. So while the vote was 13-0, only the federal government can remove cannabis from the list of drugs Schedule 1 drugs.

So what can it do?

The state and city have power over other parts in the resolution. It includes reducing taxes for licensed operators most harmed by the war on drugs — namely from marginalized communities. And it calls for giving local authorities more power to prosecute illegal growers for water pollution and theft. It also calls for more access to traditional banking services for licensed growers.

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What it's like right now for cannabis retailers

Virgil Grant is the owner and operator of California Cannabis in Los Angeles. He says legal cannabis retailers are still paying close to 30% in taxes.

"L.A. City Council, passing resolution, it was a good thing in spirit," Grant said. "But we're just being still hammered with taxes years later. And it's not getting any better for us."

The backstory

Last year California cut taxes for growers, after leading state cannabis companies warned Gov. Gavin Newsom that the state's legal industry was on the verge of collapse. But cannabis retailers say the new tax structure does not benefit them.

Grant says in order for legal cannabis shops to thrive, the city and state need to go after illegal shops and lower taxes. He estimates there up to 800 illegal cannabis shops in L.A.

Go deeper: California cuts cannabis taxes for growers, but not retailers

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