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Medical Marijuana Site Closed By Police


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Police busted an unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary last week, confiscating "Reefer's" peanut butter cups, pot brownies and marijuana-tinged barbecue sauce.

West Covina police estimated that they confiscated more than 150 pounds of marijuana and more than $10,000 when they closed the dispensary on Friday.

The dispensary was run by the same people who ran a similar facility in Hacienda Heights that was recently closed by the Los Angeles County, according to a medical marijuana advocacy group.

Police Chief Frank Wills on Monday called it "the largest seizure I've ever seen" in West Covina.

On Friday - less than a week after the Hacienda Heights collective reopened in West Covina - police arrested David Ki Nam, who they identified as the owner. Nam, 26, of Rowland Heights, was released on $50,000 bail.

Although medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed in some cities and in Los Angeles County because of state laws legalizing the facilities, they continue to be illegal under federal law. Many cities, including West Covina, ban the dispensaries.

"This legislation was meant \ a person dying of cancer," Wills said. "But to have a dozen 18-19 year olds when we went in there, all in perfect health, complaining of migraines - any reasonable person should have foreseen what this legislation would do."

Workers in an office near the dispensary complained that they had been overpowered by the smell of marijuana and that aggressive marijuana patients wandered through their offices. They declined to give their names because of safety concerns.

The city overreacted to what was essentially a zoning violation, said Chris Fusco, the Los Angeles County field coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group which has supported the Hacienda Heights/West Covina cooperative. The facility simply lacked a business license, Fusco said.

"Usually when there's a zoning infraction, they send in a zoning inspector," he said. "The city should be more willing to work with collectives and show them how they can operate in the city, instead of sending in the police."

Fusco said the dispensary was opened in West Covina because it was important to open in underserved areas.

"Patients having to take public transportation or sit in long traffic rides from San Gabriel Valley to Los Angeles is not acceptable," he said. "Opening in an area where there are already too many collectives doesn't serve anybody, and going to the areas where there aren't any is both brave and important."

Police on Monday displayed the confiscated marijuana out on folding tables, from small vials of hashish and large bags of marijuana to pre-rolled "bubba bomb" cigarettes.

The pungent smell of crushed plants permeated the room - strong enough to give some officers headaches, the chief said.

The tables were also covered in a wide variety of pot-laced food, such as lollipops, brownies with multi-colored sprinkles, beribboned bon bons, peanut butter, jelly, sodas, hot sauce, chocolate syrup, peppermint patties and bottles of "Mother's Finest Medicinal Cannabis" and "That Time of the Month Potion." Mint patties, lollipops and "Reefer's" peanut butter cups appeared to be the cheapest items at $10 each, while some of the larger bags of marijuana were priced at $540.

A sign stated "happy hour; daily 2 p.m.; until all of the supplies are gone."

"All this has been set up to focus on young kids," said Detective Travis Tibbetts. "This dispensary was operating way outside the scope of state legislation."

A hand-written sign on the door of the dispensary Monday read "Closed for Good." A 20-year-old who said he had a prescription for arthritis stood at the door after reading the sign. He had followed the collective from Hacienda Heights.

"Are you sure they're closed?" he asked. "Do you know where I can find another one?"

Fusco said he couldn't say for sure if the group would re-open.

"If I know these guys, they'll be open somewhere soon," he said. "They're a very determined group of individuals who want to see medicine get to their patients."

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune (CA)
Author: Alison Hewitt
Contact: alison.hewitt@sgvn.com
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Website: SGVTribune.com - Home
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