Dispensary Raids Smoke Out Controversy
From Issue: Volume XX - Number 21
By Steve Propes
Lest there be any doubt, the Oct. 10 targeted raids and serving of search warrants by the Long Beach Police Department “with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the State of California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), the Long Beach Fire Department, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, that shut down seven marijuana dispensaries located throughout the City of Long Beach” made clear the city intends to stop such storefront operations, at least as far as these locations are concerned.
A police press release made clear that “effective, Aug. 12, 2012, any dispensary that continues conducting business in the City of Long Beach is operating illegally.”
According to the police, the targeted dispensaries “had received the highest level of complaints from the community. During the operation, over 40 individuals were taken into custody and booked for owning/operating a marijuana dispensary. Marijuana plants, processed marijuana, currency and other evidence were seized. Each of these businesses will be forwarded to the Business Licensing Section for review.”
The only locations “’red tagged’ by the Long Beach Fire Department for posing immediate life-safety hazards” were the only cultivation/dispensary sites. Natural Herbal Solutions at 2130 Cowles St. and Herbal Solutions Naples at 1581 W. Wardlow Road are reportedly associated with dispensary spokesman Mark Adams. Including a third dispensary, Long Beach Green Room at 1735 E. 7th St. these also were the only sites were on a city-propagated in May 2011 list of “collective permit lottery winners.”
In reference to these sites on the police press release announcing the raids, “anyone caught entering these locations will be arrested for trespassing.”
Once Source Discount Caregivers at 5115 Atlantic Avenue appeared on a preliminary January 2011 of “lottery winners” but was missing from the shorter May list.
Dispensaries at 2508 E. 10th St.; the Green Earth Center at 3748 Atlantic Ave. and 4th St. Natural Solutions at 745 E. 4th St. did not appear on any known official city document subsequent to the lottery.
According to the press release, “the LBPD was originally planning to serve a search warrant at an eighth location, located at 301 Atlantic Ave., however, investigators recently received information that the operators had vacated the building and relocated.”
This was the THC Clinic that was raided on June 19, 2012, which was apparently documented on a well-publicized YouTube video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG942y1Cq64) showing a large uniformed officer allegedly step on a volunteer’s neck, then kneel on his upper back as another officer cuffs him.
According to attorney Matt Pappas of Lake Forest, who represents some of these dispensaries, “the first call came in at approximately 1 p.m. The Green Room, a lottery winner that has many seriously ill patient members, was raided with the police breaking the front windows of the facility, absconding with medication, and then charging worker patients with misdemeanors.
During the multiple raids yesterday, the City essentially destroyed the Herbal Solutions patient group as well as the Green Earth Center collective. At local patient collective PRC, at least $20,000.00 of damage was done, including destruction of the video security system.
“As the raids began, there were reports the federal DEA was raiding. However, it ended up that the raids were conducted by the Long Beach Police Department. Although not yet confirmed, it appears there may have been Long Beach Police Officers wearing shirts and/or jackets with the letters ‘DEA’ printed on them. We have been unable to verify that any federal officers were involved.
Following a volley of letters sent by City Attorney Robert Shannon threatening landlords that he was calling in the federal government, it may be that Long Beach wanted to further terrorize patients and landlords of patient collectives by giving the impression that the ‘feds’ were involved.”
A Long Beach resident and dispensary associate who took photos at the Fourth Street dispensary raid also noted, “I did not see anyone who looked like feds. There no DEA markings on them. Some of them drove work, utility type trucks and wore hardhats, orange vests, and names on their shirts.
“The city has used the fire department and inspectors as an excuse to close down the least connected dispensaries,” said the associate. “It’s kind of selective. Most of them are predominately Pappas clients. It’s a war being waged against him personally. The city realizes they should go after Pappas finances.”
“The raids yesterday were atrocious,” Pappas concluded. “The behavior of the city is outrageous. There is a tendency for folks to refer to the collectives as ‘pot shops.’ However, every one of them can only be a group of patients with doctor recommendations for medical cannabis.”
The police press release advised, “the LBPD is strongly urging the remaining dispensaries to voluntarily cease their operations. Any dispensary that continues to operate will be targeted for closure and those operating the business will be arrested.
Anyone wishing to report dispensaries that continue to operate should contact the Narcotics Section at (562) 570-7221.”