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Feature Stories

Pot Shops Rebound After Being Raided

From Issue: Volume XX - Number 26
12/28/2012


By Kirt Ramirez

Since Long Beach’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries took effect, the city faces the task of keeping the pot shops away after they’ve been raided.

For example, on Anaheim Street between Termino and Redondo Avenues, three pot shops were raided in recent weeks – but all have returned. Young people in apparent robust health can be seen entering and leaving these facilities every day.

Then there are customers who clearly have health issues who appear frail and may benefit from the medicine. However, it’s hard to know if someone is sick based on appearance.

The young, healthy-looking people could very well have an issue – or – perhaps they’re smoking dope for recreation under a pretense of “medical use,” since medical marijuana doctors provide cards for just about any reason.

In any event, vehicles pull in and out of parking spots while bouncers and armed security guards stand watch protecting the stores – where one joint can cost between $5 and $10.
What is the city to do in this chaotic situation?

“The City of Long Beach continues to enforce Long Beach Municipal Code Chapter 5.89, regulating dispensing of medical marijuana, through various actions by multiple City Departments…” said Deputy City Attorney Kendra Carney.

The Municipal Code makes it clear in 5.89.030: “No person or entity shall operate or permit to be operated a medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation site in or upon any premises or any zone in the city.”

The law says in part the purpose and intent is to promote the public health, safety and welfare by protecting citizens from the secondary impacts and effects associated with medical marijuana and related activities. These may include more traffic, loitering and sales of medical marijuana to minors.

Long Beach Police spokeswoman Marlene Arrona said arrests were made at the Anaheim Street locations during a “joint” operation Dec. 12 and 13.

All three shops closed for a short while – then re-opened.

It’s not the first time. The same locations were targeted in early and late November, when arrests were made as well as currency and marijuana being confiscated.

“The LBPD strongly urges remaining dispensaries to voluntarily cease their operations. Any dispensaries that continue to operate will be targeted for closure and the business operators arrested,” Arrona added.

California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 to allow cannabis use for medical purposes. Though state law allows it, federal law considers all marijuana illegal.
Meanwhile, some reports say smoking marijuana can help migraines, nausea from chemotherapy, depression, insomnia, inflammation, chronic pain, loss of appetite and others. There are reports that it may even cure cancer.

Diana Lejins, head of Advocates for Disability Rights, said marijuana by itself is not toxic and that many studies show it does a lot of beneficial things. She commented that there has never been a reported death from marijuana use, unlike alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs and heavier street drugs.

“The feds have hidden the whole issue under the rug saying there is no medical benefit,” Lejins said. “It’s about money. Government has a special interest in keeping the status quo, because so much money is in it that benefits them.”

Lejins asked, “Why doesn’t the city attorney and city officials put in as much energy in asking the government to provide safe access as they do in depriving patients of medicine?”
Other reports say cannabis damages the brain, has reduced dog and rat testicle size in experiments, can result in respiratory problems and can have an addictive potential.

A 2002 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology says cannabis use may increase the risk of psychotic disorders.
In June 2008, a study appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry that found abnormalities in the hippocampus and amygdala parts of the brain in heavy, long-term pot smokers. “These findings indicate that heavy daily cannabis use across protracted periods exerts harmful effects on brain tissue and mental health.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) discourages pot smoking and references research linking marijuana to mental illness at www.drugabuse.gov.

Other brain problems linked to chronic marijuana use include impaired learning, memory, distorted perceptions and lowered intelligence, according to the government website. And the heart temporarily beats faster after smoking a joint.

In Sept. 2012, NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D., cited a new study from New Zealand that showed mental decline in adults who began smoking pot heavily as young teenagers.

“We repeatedly hear the myth that marijuana is a benign drug – that it is not addictive (which it is) or that it does not pose a threat to the user’s health or brain (which it does). A major new study published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (and funded partly by NIDA and other NIH institutes) provides objective evidence that, at least for adolescents, marijuana is harmful to the brain.”

NIDA also provides a teen-version website that delivers facts on marijuana and other drugs in an easy-to-read, fun format at www.teens.drugabuse.gov.

kirt@longbeachcomber.com