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Enforcement by California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control

To round out the series we rolled out three weeks ago, here’s how the BCC polices the pot market.

As you may know, the Bureau has a right of full and immediate access to enter and inspect any licensed premises, with or without prior notice. So they may come in and test your pot, test your equipment, and copy your records, among other things.

If the Bureau finds or is tipped off to some tomfoolery, it may respond in three ways.

First, it may serve you with a notice to comply. The notice will describe your violation, cite the statute or regulation, and prescribe a corrective action. You then have twenty days to sign and return it, declaring under oath that you’ve corrected each violation and describing how.

Second, the Bureau may serve you with a citation that includes fines, orders to abate a violation, or both. It can be a violation of any state law that applies to licensees, including labor laws. Each citation may include orders of abatement and fines of up to $5,000. You will have thirty days to pay the fine and a “reasonable” time to abate the violation. You can ask for more time, but you must show good cause. That means you must show that you exercised reasonable diligence to abate the violation but were thwarted by conditions beyond your control.

Beyond your own violations, you must also take reasonable steps within a reasonable time to abate “public nuisances” in or around your business. What are these? Ten things: gambling, loitering, lewd conduct, drug trafficking, prostitution, disturbing the peace, excessive loud noise, public urination, public intoxication, and public pot or alcohol consumption. You gotta call the cops or do something (safely) if you see it happening.

To challenge a citation, you can request a formal hearing, an informal conference, or both. You have 30 days to request a formal hearing and 15 days to request an informal conference. If you opt for the latter, the Bureau must meet with you within 15 days, and if you can’t work it out there, you can still proceed to a hearing.

Which brings us to the third tier of enforcement.

That’s when the Bureau moves to take disciplinary action against your license. It may seek to revoke your license, suspend it, put you on probation, or impose a fine, among other things. Generally, it does this by filing an accusation against you in the administrative courts. There, you’re entitled to a hearing, discovery, and other rights. If, however, the Bureau thinks you’re an immediate danger to public health, safety, or welfare, it can seek interim or emergency orders to restrict your license or freeze your inventory before that process plays out. It can even do it without prior notice to you, depending on the facts. But with or without prior notice, you get a hearing within two to three weeks to see if the interim or emergency order stays in place or is granted in the first place. And by then, the Bureau must file an accusation to kick-start the full administrative process. If you lose there, you can appeal to the Cannabis Control Appeals Panel or sue in the superior court. Or, sometimes, you can bypass the administrative process altogether and go straight to court.

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