With the City Council poised to vote on a medical marijuana ordinance, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck has drastically changed his line on how much crime medical marijuana shops causing crime in L.A. Why? We don't know. But in an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News over the weekend, Beck says crime statistics don't show that crime has increased around medical weed shops -- a complete reversal of past statements he's made on the issue. "I have tried to verify that because that, of course, is the mantra," Beck told the Daily News. "It doesn't really bear out."
Later in the interview, Beck says he's fully behind the City Council's effort to pass a medical marijuana ordinance. "The bottom line is that this all speaks to the fact (dispensaries) need to be regulated," the chief told the Daily News. "That's why I support the (city) council coming up with their regulations."
Did someone at City Hall successfully tell the chief of police to stand down? Nearly a year ago, Beck was very publicly leading the "the mantra" that medical pot shops were causing crime in L.A.
At a Jan. 27 Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) meeting, Beck, then a deputy chief, said: "There are over 400 current storefronts in the city of Los Angeles in their unregulated state. They are the hub of crime. We've had several homicides occur. A lot of night-time break-ins and robberies. A lot of money involved. And that's the issue. The issue is money."
PLUM chair and city Councilman Ed Reyes then asked Beck if the "commercialization" of medical pot shops is causing the crime problem.
Beck replied: "Absolutely. The use of what is a compassionate act, not only by definition but by its nature, for commercial purposes. And that is the issue. And that is what has caused crimes to occur in all of your neighborhoods. That is what has caused blight and also contributes to disorder."
Beck later told Reyes: "The current state, where there is so much for-profit, and there is so much money involved, there is nothing but problems for the city, including your (city council) districts."
At the same meeting, after a public comment period, Beck was asked to speak again by Reyes. Beck told the PLUM committee: "In my opinion, and based on my experience, it is the transaction that causes the (crime) issue for law enforcement and for the community. It is the sale, for-profit, of the product, and that is what brings in not only people that use the provisions of this act as a sham in order to engage in the recreational use of marijuana, but also it is the act that causes the large quantities of cash, attractive of which causes robbery, burglary, and a couple cases this year of homicide."
So what's going on here?
Was Beck completely misinformed when he said medical weed shops were the "hub of crime" at the PLUM meeting in January, 2009? Or was he ill-formed when he spoke with the Daily News this year?
Either way, Beck has some explaining to do about whether or not medical weed shops cause crime in LA and why he's backing down from statements he made only a year ago. Of course, being softer on pot shops would be in-line with the city council's own proposal, which would allow at least 137 of 535 pot shops in the city to continue operating: Some council members have expressed support of keeping shops open in their districts.