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The owner was arrested, and the unlicensed shop was shuttered. But even as the illicit pot products were still being hauled out of the building, police conceded that the raids were unlikely to make a significant dent in the city's booming black market trade. "What we've experienced with marijuana dispensaries is we shut them down and they're back in business the next day," Capt. It's a billion-dollar operation." Carranza said the whack-a-mole dynamic between law enforcement and rogue pot shops is spurred by the lack of time owners spend behind bars and how easy it is for them to reopen their businesses.

Even if the water has been turned off and the power has been cut, operators have been known to bring in generators to turn the lights on and welcome customers back. Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said his office has shut down 197 illicit marijuana stores and has had success prosecuting the landlords who rent out space to the unlicensed dealers. "We are trying very hard to make it as difficult as possible for them to operate," Feuer said. "But they continue to try to find ways around the system." In the meantime, anyone looking to score marijuana products on the cheap can still find unlicensed pot dispensaries through Yelp. Located three blocks from the University of Southern California, a shop called Breaking Bud 20 Cap uses a logo modeled off the hit TV show "Breaking Bad." Its Yelp page features its address and phone number but no reviews. A trip to the store revealed a relaxed atmosphere with limited products and a man sitting on a couch rolling what appeared to be a joint.

Two female workers stood behind a glass counter politely answering questions. When asked whether they had any Dank Vapes, the workers said they were out and offered a variety of STIIIZY cartridges, a legitimate brand that is among the most commonly replicated by counterfeiters. NBC News bought a pair of STIIIZY cartridges for $30 each and later showed them to a expert in vape pen counterfeits who does work for the Los Angeles Police Department. It took the expert less than a minute to render a verdict: clear knockoffs. The selection of pot products at University 20 Cap, the illicit dispensary with a poster for a sign, was far more robust. Its glass cases were filled with several varieties of THC vape pens, as well as canisters of marijuana flower. Among the offerings were Dank Vapes cartridges, which have been found to contain dangerous amounts of pesticides, including a fungicide that can transform into hydrogen cyanide when burned. A man working behind the counter dismissed a question about whether the Dank Vapes cartridges could pose health risks. "There's no need to worry about this." The existence of shops like these comes as no surprise to Adam Bierman. Bierman, who co-founded the California dispensary chain MedMen Enterprises but recently stepped down as CEO, said he estimates that more than 500 illegal marijuana shops and delivery services surround his store in West Hollywood. "All you have to do is go on the internet," he said. Conor Ferguson is a consumer investigative producer with the NBC News Investigative Unit. Cynthia McFadden is the senior legal and investigative correspondent for NBC News. Rich Schapiro is a reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit. Weedmaps Announcement Could Provide Boost for New DTLA Dispensary. DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – Stiiizy is a new cannabis dispensary opening August 24. Stiiizy launched its first vape pen in November, 2017. Now the brand is opening its first store, a 6,500-square-foot location near the Arts District. Online cannabis advertising giant Weedmaps announced it would start requiring a state license number for all marijuana retail listings. In other words, it will stop showing advertisements for black market pot shops. For a brand new store it might help weed out the competition. “We welcome any move by the players in this industry to play by the book, to play by the rules,” said Daniel Yi, a spokesman for Stiiizy. Changing what appears on Weedmaps could have a lot of influence on the market. However, it likely won’t completely shutout competition from the black market.

“At the end of the day, it’s really enforcement. If we’re going to have regulations we need to enforce the regulations,” said Yi. This change is supposed to happen sometime this year.

Until then, Instagram influencer and pot consumer Anjela -- also known by the handle @koala.puffss -- is doing the research herself. “If it’s an unlicensed shop, they carry unlicensed product and if it’s an unlicensed product there’s probably a reason for that,” said Anjela. Everyman products are ‘Designed for Life’—the everyday and the adventure.


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