By Amy DiPierro

California law enforcement is turning up the heat on illegal pot shops – and people in the legal pot business are stoked.

“I’m really, absolutely for it,” said Keyva King, CEO of Royal Highness, a pot shop on track to open in November in Palm Desert.

Royal Highness – a play on King’s last name – already has a temporary license from the state of California. But King is disappointed to see black market competitors undercutting legal cannabis companies.

“It’s hard when you have them and they’re not charging taxes and their prices are way more competitive,” she said.

So King was reassured last week, when she heard about a crackdown on an unlicensed cannabis retailer in Costa Mesa. One man had been charged with four misdemeanor counts related to cannabis already.

“I was like: ‘Good, when are they gonna do more?’” she said.

Eight months after California opened up the market for adult-use marijuana, state and local law enforcement is taking aim at businesses still operating outside the law.

On August 22, the Division of Investigation at the Department of Consumer Affairs served one of its first search warrants on an unlicensed home delivery business. The next day, a Riverside County District Attorney’s Office task force served its first search warrant on a dispensary operated out of a large trailer; on August 24, the Division of Investigation served another warrant, this one on a cannabis shop.

The series of search-and-seizures follow earlier enforcement efforts, including more than 2,500 cease-and-desist letters the Bureau of Cannabis Control has sent to unlicensed cannabis businesses to date. Agency spokesperson Alex Traverso said BCC has referred more than 500 complaints of unlicensed businesses to the Division of Investigations so far.

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