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California Cops, Tax Collectors Auction Off Property Seized in Cannabis Raids

Glass bongs, money counters, a La-Z-Boy recliner and a snow cone machine were among the goods auctioned off Friday at an auction hosted by the CHP and CDTFA to raise money for unpaid taxes on cannabis businesses.

The California Department of Taxes and Fee Administration released a notice last week about the auction, held Friday, February 16 in Los Angeles. The notice said that the property to be sold had been seized from 10 cannabis businesses in the Los Angeles area, nine of which were operating illegally according to the CDTFA. One was a legal dispensary that hadn’t paid its taxes. In total, the 10 businesses owed more than $14.4 million in unpaid taxes.

“Seizing and auctioning property from cannabis businesses that evade the law is a tool to recover the taxes owed to the state,” said CDTFA Director Nick Maduros in a statement.

Public notices of sale for the seized property to be sold Friday have been issued by the CHP and they are readily available online at the CDTFA website. The list of items to be sold can be described as varied at best and bizarre at worst, given who will be selling them.

Some notable items included multiple boxes of glass bongs, speakers, refrigerators, the aforementioned snow cone machine and La-Z-Boy recliner, cameras, televisions, sandwich boards, framed art and other miscellaneous items.

Proceeds from the auction will be put towards the unpaid liabilities owed by these ten businesses. This is the first such time that California government entities have auctioned off seized items from cannabis businesses, and it certainly marks the first time the California Highway Patrol has ever sold bongs to anybody that I’m aware of. 

That said, commercial properties seized from delinquent California cannabis businesses have been auctioned off in the past. In March of 2022 the CDTFA released a notice about the auction of a property in Whitter associated with a cannabis business, accused at the time of illegal sales, which owed over $850,000 in unpaid taxes. The CDTFA said at the time they hoped to recover at least $220,000 from the sale of this property.

“Unlicensed cannabis operators not only undercut legitimate businesses, but they also cheat California communities out of revenue for vital programs,” Director Maduros said in 2022. “These businesses are not licensed under the laws approved by California voters, and many of their products are unregulated.”

California has ramped up enforcement of illegal cannabis businesses in recent years with the introduction of the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce in late 2022. Since its creation by Governor Gavin Newsom, UCETF has seized over $317 million in unlicensed cannabis as the result of serving 218 search warrants across .

“Since its inception in late 2022, California’s Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce has hit the ground running with year-round operations that spanned from the Oregon state line all the way down to San Diego,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We’ve sent a strong message that illegal operations that harm our natural resources, threaten the safety of workers, and put consumer health at risk have no place in California. While there is more work to be done, we made progress last year and I look forward to going further alongside our county, state, and federal partners.”

Since its inception, UCETF has also seized 128 firearms during raids on cannabis businesses. They have seized and eradicated 347,321 illegal cannabis plants in their history and seized over 189,000 pounds of dried cannabis bud in 2023 alone.

“California is effectively decreasing the illegal cannabis market by leveraging the strengths and knowledge of over 20 state agencies and departments alongside our local and federal partners. The UCETF’s progress in 2023 reflects California’s ongoing commitment to disrupting  and dismantling illegal cannabis activity,” stated Director Nicole Elliott of Department of Cannabis Control (DCC). “I look forward to working with all our partners in 2024 to build on this progress.”

The CDTFA and CHP auction took place at the CHP parking lot at 777 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015 Friday, February 16. You can call 1-951-880-1990 for more information. Neither the CDTFA or CHP have yet indicated if they plan to auction off more bongs in the future.

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