Zen Healing, a marijuana dispensary in West Hollywood, announced on its website today that “we will be closed until further notice.”
Maybe that's because cops on Tuesday raided the place as part of what authorities claim is a gang-related “criminal enterprise” that uses “violence and intimidation to expand their operations and dissuade competition:”
Beverly Hills police made the announcement: Zen and fellow WeHo dispensary Alternative Herbal Health Services were searched yesterday.
The two shops, which were raided in 2011 by the DEA, are half of West Hollywood's four dispensaries often touted as models for the cannabis retail business in Southern California.
In fact Sheriff Lee Baca himself said the city's way of regulating weed shops was a model. WeHo's shops were also touted as the way to go as the city of Los Angeles pondered how to deal with its own medical cannabis scene.
But it was Baca's own deputies that were part of the raids that also included La Brea Compassionate Caregivers in the 700 block of North La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles and Marina Caregivers in the 700 block of Washington Boulevard in Venice.
Cops said 11 search warrants and three arrest warrants were served.
The investigation here seems to have started in Beverly Hills but led to these shops. According to a BHPD statement the LAPD, the U.S. Secret Service and the DEA were also involved in what has amounted to a four-year investigation …
… into an organized criminal enterprise involving large-scale marijuana distribution, not only in the Los Angeles area, but throughout the United States. This criminal enterprise hired known gang members as enforcers. This organization was involved in the operation of multiple retail marijuana dispensaries generating massive profits, repeatedly showing their willingness to use violence and intimidation to expand their operations and dissuade competition. To date, there have been 26 documented crimes …
Zen Healing trumpeted criticism of mainstream media coverage of dispensaries in a press release last year, noting a lack of headlines regarding the good things they do, like Zen's weekly feeding of the homeless at a Hollywood church. Except that the church in question denied to us that this was taking place and said it had asked the dispensary to stop making this claim.
Anyway, three suspects were taken into custody yesterday based on 46 felony counts, cops said. A total of 20 suspects have been connected to the ring, they said.
The allegations, the Beverly Hills Police Department stated, include:
Attempted Murder, Home Invasion Robbery, Conspiracy, Arson, Extortion, Residential Burglary, Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Use of a Destructive Device.
Wow. Talk about giving back to the community.
Among those arrested? You guessed it, one L.A. resident Andrew Kramer, 38, along with Rene Johnson, 50, of Los Angeles, and Jonathan Livingston, 43 of L.A.