Pubdate: Sat, 6 Feb 2010
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Copyright: 2010 Daily Pilot
Authors: Joseph Serna, Mona Shadia and Brianna Bailey
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


Police Chief Says Operation, Which Addressed Local Complaints of
Marijuana Smell and Heavy Traffic, Is One of Many to Come.

Thursday's low-key police raid on a Costa Mesa marijuana dispensary
operating illegally is a sign of things to come, Police Chief Chris
Shawkey said Friday.

Police served a search warrant on West Coast Wellness, a medical
marijuana dispensary at 1260 Logan Ave. Four people were arrested on
marijuana-related charges, officials said in a news release.

"This should be a message to them that our intent is to take whatever
appropriate action we can to close them down," Shawkey said.

Thursday's raid was one of many to come, he said. Residents and local
businesses had been complaining about the smell of marijuana and heavy
customer traffic, he added.

"This is a priority within the Police Department, and we're well aware
of the other ones and we're using any means we can to put them out of
business," Shawkey said.

On its website, West Coast Wellness touts its "personable and
attractive female bud servers," who are depicted wearing short
black-and-green latex skirts, bikini tops and nurse hats. West Coast
Wellness is one of the seven to nine medical marijuana distributors
operating in Costa Mesa, city officials estimate.

The city has an ordinance against such businesses, but a Jan. 24 Daily
Pilot article revealed that several are operating in the city under
business licenses for alternative health or nutrition services,
including one with a license to answer phones for an appliance repair

Police have known about the illegal operations but were forming an
"enforcement strategy," Shawkey said.

Department officials have been consulting with the Orange County
district attorney's office and the city attorney on how to clamp down
on the illegal operations -- be it through civil proceedings or
criminal prosecution -- the chief said.

While California allows the cultivation, sales or usage of medical
marijuana for those suffering from chronic pain, cancer and other
serious ailments, Costa Mesa banned such business in 2005, arguing
that its ordinance promotes health, safety and morals. The city backed
up its anti-pot dispensary law with the Controlled Substances Act, a
federal law prohibiting marijuana distribution.

Although the marijuana dispensaries are operating in violation of city
code, medical marijuana has been legal in California since voters
approved Proposition 215 in 1996. The Obama Administration has
declared that it would no longer use federal government resources to
prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries.

In March, U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said his office would not go
after marijuana dispensers, but rather focus on bigger crimes and
offenders violating both state and federal law.

Mayor Allan Mansoor said Friday that he would like to see more of a
regional effort to deal with the issue.

"My concern is the over-concentration of them," he said. "If something
effective is going to be done, it has to be seen as a completely
legitimate operation. If someone is terminally ill, I can understand
the argument for that, but I don't believe that's what's going on, I
believe there's a lot of non-medical use and there's also a lot of
crimes and other problems associated with it."

Some cities in California lately have been addressing the issues
surrounding dispensaries within their jurisdictions. The Los Angeles
City Council in January took steps to eliminate hundreds of medical
marijuana dispensaries after voting to restrict the number of how many
of them could operate in the city to 70. Palm Springs also passed a
similar ordinance capping the number of dispensaries at two.

Costa Mesa City Atty. Kimberly Hall Barlow told the Daily Pilot in
January that the city could take legal action against local
dispensaries by hiring its own prosecutor. On Friday, Barlow declined
comment on the city's present plans for action.

"We don't comment on pending cases," she said.

Meanwhile, the Orange County district attorney first will have to
determine if there's enough evidence to press criminal charges against
the four arrested in Thursday's bust, as well as whether their alleged
activities were legal or illegal, said Susan Kang Schroeder,
spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

"They have to meet the legal definition of a marijuana dispensary,"
Schroeder said. "I can call it whatever I want and sell drugs; it
doesn't mean it's legal. Whether it's a legal marijuana dispensary is
the question." 
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