On Monday the city of Los Angeles launched a historic crackdown on illegal dispensaries. While the city has gone after unlicensed pot shops on criminal grounds before, this week they took a new tactic in the fight: a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

The city is suing Kush Club 20, an illegal dispensary in South LA, after finding that their product tested positive for the fungicide paclobutrazol, according to the LA Times.The substance, a Type II toxic chemical under the EPA, is unapproved for use in cannabis in California.                                                                                                                           

The defendants in the case include the South LA dispensary Kush Club 20, as well as the company High Spirits Enterprises, LLC, the company’s organizer James Smith, Amy Sahadi Diaz, and CEO of the company tied to the property, Michael Lerner (presumably not the Oscar-nominated actor).

In an untested court tactic, the city is asking for $20,000 for every day the shop operated illegally. After more than a year, that comes out to $7.5 million in penalties.

In the past, the city has gone after illegal weed retailers by slapping them with criminal charges. In the last year alone, the city attorney’s office has filed 217 criminal cases related to unlicensed cannabis shops and delivery services.

This marks the first time they have tried to sue a pot shop in civil court. Given the expense involved in pursuing such a lawsuit and the uncertainty of the outcome, it’s uncertain whether it will be a worthwhile method for fighting illegal cannabis in the city.

However, the maneuver has already worked as a PR stunt, attracting media coverage from the likes of the Washington Post and yours truly.

“We apparently as a community care a lot about whether our romaine lettuce is contaminated, and we should. We care a lot about whether we can safely eat at Chipotle,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said a news conference. “Marijuana buyers should at least exercise that same degree of caution.

Photo via Flickr user Dank Depot

Natalie