CALIFORNIA: Graffiti-tagged buildings, barricaded doors and iron-barred windows mark nearly every block of Avalon Boulevard as it cuts through the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Wilmington, 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.
The streets are lined with small mom-and-pop shops – clothing stores, a piñata shop, garages and small, family-owned restaurants – and a clutch of illegal medical marijuana dispensaries, some located within feet of each other.
Other nearby dispensaries are shuttered with signs announcing ‘closed,’ ‘for lease’ and ‘for rent’ – the result of the city’s most recent attempts to close the door on L.A.’s robust illegal medical marijuana industry. But when one dispensary closes, it usually opens somewhere else, police say.
Passed by California voters nearly two decades ago, but absent statewide regulation, the legalization of medical marijuana has spawned a vast network of illegal dispensaries and wide disparities over how businesses are monitored across the state- if they are at all.