Cat Packer is executive director of the City of LA's Department of Cannabis Regulation. Unofficially, she’s known as the city’s pot czar.
In her position since 2017, Packer regulates and enforces cannabis legislation in the country’s biggest market, which includes over 4 million people.
When it comes to the opening of Lowell Cafe in West Hollywood, she says that's unprecedented.
She confirms that Los Angeles plans to eventually approve and open public places where people can legally consume cannabis. “We plan on bringing on these licenses, but we need to have the laws and regulations in place to do so,” Packer says.
Weed is legal in California, but the unlicensed market is thriving. Packer says the mayor's office has assembled a task force to figure out how to fight illegal cannabis activity. That task force includes the police and fire departments, the Department of Cannabis Regulation, and the Department of Water and Power.
Packer adds, “It may no longer be appropriate or even as efficient to use criminal enforcement to address these issues. So one of the things the City of Los Angeles is using, for example, is disconnecting the utilities at these facilities. And this seems to be a much more effective route to closing these facilities, as opposed to arresting folks as we have done historically.”
Packer also doesn't want to use the term "black market" because, as she says, that equates "black" with "criminal."
"Given the history that criminal enforcement has had on black and brown communities, we’re trying to be cognizant and intentional about the vocabulary and language we are using. And so that is why we use the term unlicensed or unregulated market," she says.