As part of today's moves against 21 medical marijuana dispensaries, the owner of a pot shop near Culver City was arrested for selling weed, the City Attorney's office confirmed. Jeffrey Joseph, owner of Organica Inc. on Washington Boulevard in L.A.'s Del Rey community, was arrested this morning on suspicion of selling marijuana.
Now, you might ask, isn't that what medical marijuana dispensary owners do? Sell pot? Well, yes. But the City Attorney's office maintains as part of its efforts against the dispensaries Thursday that selling marijuana was never made legal by California's medical marijuana initiative, Prop. 215.
"It has been our position that you cannot sell marijuana," assistant City Attorney Asha Greenberg told the Weekly. In other words, the office position is that California's law was intended to allow nonprofit collectives that cultivate and distribute pot to the seriously ill.
That interpretation might even clash with the Los Angeles City Council's new dispensary ordinance, which will continue to allow over-the-counter cash transactions so long as they are on a nonprofit basis (with annual audits to keep things legit).
All 21 cases in which the City Attorney's office declared that pot shops were nuisances, she said, were essentially based on over-the-counter pot sales in which undercover Los Angeles police officers presented sellers with legitimate doctor's recommendations.
"Yes," Greenberg said, the cops "had recommendations. But they were sales of marijuana, which are illegal."
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In fact, Greenberg admitted, nearly any dispensary in the city could have been targeted just the same. But the 21 that the office focused on were the subject of Los Angeles police investigations based on community complaints.
Greenberg said further enforcement attempts would follow the same model, focusing on dispensaries that inspire complaints from residents. She added that a recent city law that will severely limit the number of dispensaries in Los Angeles was not a factor in Thursday's action -- the ordinance has not yet taken effect.
While three dispensaries, including Organica, were served with civil abatement lawuits that aim to get them to stop selling pot, 18 others were threatened with eviction because of sales to undercover officers. Landlords of the 18 shops were given 30 days to evict their tenants or face legal action themselves. Greenberg explained that the evictions were served under city and state laws that allow such for drug-related nuisances.
Asked if the moves against 21 dispensaries Thursday were only the beginning, Greenberg said, "Whatever we do is dependent on the evidence we get and the resources available to us, so I can't really predict where it will go from here. Everybody knows the city's budget situation."