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story.lead_photo.caption This undated artist rendering provided by the Bureau of Cannabis Control shows a proposed billboard urging consumers to purchase cannabis from only licensed retailers. Aiming to slow illegal pot sales that are undercutting the licensed market, California is kicking off a public information campaign, Get #weedwise, encouraging consumers to verify that the product they are about to buy is tested and legal. (Bureau of Cannabis Control, via AP)

LOS ANGELES -- Marijuana shoppers are going to be getting a message from California regulators: Go legal.

Aiming to slow illegal pot sales that are undercutting the nation's largest licensed market, California is kicking off a public information campaign -- Get #weedwise -- that encourages consumers to verify that their purchases are tested and legal.

Ads will be hitting social media sites and billboards promoting a state website where shoppers can quickly check if a shop is licensed -- CApotcheck.com.

The campaign "will directly [affect] consumer safety by clarifying that only cannabis purchased from licensed retailers has met the state's safety standards," Bureau of Cannabis Control Chief Lori Ajax said in a statement.

The ads are also intended to telegraph a warning to illicit shops and underground growers: Get licensed to operate in the legal market, or shut down.

California kicked off broad legal sales Jan. 1, 2018. But the illegal market has continued to thrive, in part because consumers can avoid steep tax rates by buying in unlicensed dispensaries.

The state has been under pressure by the legal industry to do more to stop illegal sales. By some estimates, Los Angeles has hundreds of illegal shops and cultivation sites.

SundayMonday Business on 06/23/2019

Print Headline: Anti-illegal pot campaign launched

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