By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
When the pot wars broke out, James O’ Sullivan, Scott McNeely and Kevin Glynn didn’t know Larsen, but 12 miles southwest of Eagle Rock, in the historic Miracle Mile neighborhood of Old World–style apartments and homes, they were watching as seven dispensaries soon grew to 18 — and a young man got shot and killed on his first day as a security guard protecting the La Brea Collective dispensary at 812 South La Brea.
Glynn was driving home from his job as a teacher at Los Angeles High School when he saw the grim crowd gathered at the scene of the murder of Noe Campos. A few days later an upset Glynn attended the Miracle Mile Residents Association regular meeting at the El Rey Theatre on Wilshire. His Miracle Mile neighbors were in an uproar, and Councilman Tom LaBonge and Wilshire Division Captain Eric David tried to explain the city’s viewpoint. “People confronted [LaBonge] and they asked, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ” says Glynn. “LaBonge said essentially he was in favor of medical marijuana and it needed more study.”
At the meeting, according to Glynn, LaBonge said that pot shops were “a problem the City Council would look into and take care of.”
That was October 2008. Nothing happened. So McNeely and O’Sullivan took matters into their own hands, with McNeely physically scouring the community to identify every pot dispensary, and the pair tracking the expansion of clinics on their neighborhood council web site. Using tactics they might have borrowed from Don Duncan, the pair used Twitter and found other ways to read the updates sent out by pot advocates about LAPD raids, media coverage and other tactical info.
“This isn’t about helping sick people,” says McNeely, who was, until recently, avidly in favor of medical pot. “This is about a very organized group of people making a lot of money a day. I got an e-mail this morning about a ‘raid’ in Woodland Hills. . They warned the pot store that [Los Angeles Times columnist] Steve Lopez was coming.”
One bulletin provides some of the flavor: “LAPD is raiding NNCC in Reseda right now. We have confirmation from very reliable sources and we need everybody in the area to go over there and protest right now! Nature’s Natural Collective Care (NNCC) 6951 Reseda Boulevard.”
O’Sullivan and McNeely direct much of their animosity at City Council members who are pushing to approve cash sales of pot in L.A. O’Sullivan notes that San Pedro Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Westside Councilman Rosendahl both announced that “maybe we can tax this — a way for the city to have an income. They just allowed it to happen.” Adds McNeely, “If this marijuana was meant to serve seriously ill patients, how terrible it would be to tax them.”
O’Sullivan was more amazed by Westside Councilman Koretz, who is pushing for what might be the most lax rules in California for protecting schools from pot dispensaries — suggesting a buffer of just 300 to 500 feet from schools. Most cities insist on at least 1,000. O’Sullivan was incredulous on hearing Koretz, whose Westside Council District 5 is jammed with pot dispensaries near easy freeway routes, publicly state that without permissive land-use rules in L.A., “we will run into a situation like the child-predator thing — if they can’t be near schools, there will be no place to live.”
Los Angeles police are approaching the problem in strategically similar ways to neighborhood groups. The city has no plan, so the LAPD, whose bureau chiefs under Bratton had wide latitude to form crime-fighting strategies for their areas, has varying approaches. Among those, the Valley has launched the most aggressive crackdowns.
The Valley saw intense pot dispensary activity earlier than many parts of the city — heavily fortified storefronts with security cages, panic buttons and inch-thick glass. With that proliferation police have seen a spike in robberies and shootings, yet not even angry Valley Councilman Greig Smith could stop Parthenia Collective Healing, a pot outlet, from opening down the street from his Greig Smith Youth Center. Now cops are tracking increases in illegal “grow” operations and related electricity theft and arrests of gang members working with the Mexican Mafia to provide pot to storefronts.
Under Valley Deputy Chief Michel Moore, the Devonshire Division was the first in Los Angeles to get the go-ahead to test an approach last January for going after illegal clinics. The first bust this year — there have been 15 in the Devonshire Division — was of a Simi Valley resident who left real estate after the market sank. Police discovered him raking in $8,000 to $10,000 a day selling weed from his Platinum Club dispensary in Chatsworth. Then, police found an illegal grow inside a Chatsworth car-painting business, and when cops searched the proprietor’s home they found a small fortune in gold ingots and gold and silver bullion.