When California’s recreational marijuana law took effect in January, Los Angeles became one of the country’s largest cannabis markets. Cat Packer, head of the city’s department of cannabis regulation, is guiding a booming business—which includes hundreds of eager entrepreneurs as well as still-thriving unlicensed operators—through an unprecedented transition. Here’s how Packer, a former advocate with the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit aimed at ending the war on drugs, is addressing the issues facing the industry.


The city is granting licenses in phases, beginning with existing medical dispensaries, then commercial vendors who were operating before the law was passed, and, finally, new entrants. Although the delay in approvals has bolstered the illicit market, Packer isn’t in a hurry. She’s focused on helping consumers discern legal merchants from illegal ones. “We’re bringing on good operators,” she says. “We’re still talking about cannabis—we’re not selling bikes.”

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