By Mary O’KEEFE
An illegal marijuana dispensary was closed thanks to the efforts of the Los Angeles Police Department, the department’s narcotics unit and the city’s district attorney.
“We did get one [dispensary] closed down on Commerce Avenue,” said LAPD Officer Richard Wall.
The operator of the dispensary was renting the facility in the 10000 block of Commerce Avenue in Tujunga. Law enforcement found the dispensary was selling out of the clinic.
“They are not supposed to sell from the facility but join a co-op,” Wall said.
Although there are no marijuana distribution stores in Glendale or Crescenta Valley, that does not mean that residents from those areas don’t frequent Tujunga’s distribution centers.
During the investigation, police and narcotics detectives were positioned in the dispensary.
“[Residents] from La Crescenta, Montrose, La Cañada and Glendale were walking into the center while we were there,” Wall said.
“A large percentage of those we arrested for [suspicion of possession] of marijuana have a medical marijuana card,” said Sgt. Ray Harley, L.A. Sheriff’s Department, Crescenta Valley Station.
Wall pointed out these types of distribution centers also have a tendency to bring other types of crime, especially vandalism, to a neighborhood.
“I can vouch that our graffiti problem in that area dropped by two-thirds when we closed down [the Commerce Avenue center],” Wall said.
Investigators continue to monitor the distribution centers throughout Los Angeles.
“We continue working with the city attorney but the [distribution] centers keep popping up,” Wall said.
California’s U.S. Attorneys and federal prosecutors in L.A. held a press conference in October to discuss taking a series of actions against illegal commercial marijuana operations.
The coordinated enforcement actions address a marijuana industry in California that has swelled to include numerous drug-trafficking enterprises that operate commercial grow operations, intricate distribution systems and hundreds of marijuana stores across the state – even though the federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits the sale and distribution of marijuana, stated a prepared
release by the Department of Justice.
“It is important to note that for-profit, commercial marijuana operations are illegal not only under federal law, but also under California law,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “While California law permits collective cultivation of marijuana in limited circumstances, it does not allow commercial distribution through the store-front model we see across California.”
Wall said federal and state law enforcement often concentrate on larger distributors, using as an example information that was recently released by the DOJ concerning six defendants linked to a now-defunct North Hollywood marijuana store called NoHo Caregivers.
“The drug trafficking organization – which sold marijuana at NoHo Caregivers, sold marijuana to other stores, and sent marijuana to affiliates in New York and Pennsylvania – distributed approximately 600 to 700 pounds of marijuana per month, according to the indictment. The defendants used encrypted BlackBerry devices, but investigators were able to intercept email communications that detailed the distribution of marijuana, as well as the payments for the drugs.
“That indictment details one email exchange between the two lead defendants in which they ‘discussed the amounts of marijuana they intended to distribute monthly over the coming year and estimated that they would each receive over $194,000 in profits per month,’” stated the release.
The larger closures are important but Wall considers the Commerce Avenue closure a small victory for local residents and will continue to monitor the other eight dispensaries in the area.