Los Angeles: Monday afternoon Detectives served a search warrant at the last remaining medical marijuana storefront in Devonshire Area, which at one time had over 60 medical marijuana businesses operating in the area.
On January 30, 2012, around 3 p.m., LAPD Devonshire Narcotics Enforcement Detail served a search warrant at the Herbal Medicine Care facility in the 10100 block of Topanga Canyon Boulevard. An extensive investigation into criminal conduct of the storefront provided detectives with probable cause to serve the warrant and close down the business. Three suspects were arrested for Possession of Marijuana for Sale. Over 50 pounds of marijuana, including 156 Marijuana Plants, over $6000.00, and paperwork detailing the purchase and re-sale of marijuana were also confiscated.
In 1996, California Voters passed the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) sometimes referred to as Prop 215. The CUA gave a limited group of patients and their “primary caregivers” the opportunity to possess, cultivate and transport marijuana for the patient’s personal medical use. However, possession, cultivation, transportation, distribution and sales of marijuana are still illegal under both Federal and California Law.
In 2003, the California Legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP), sometimes referred to as SB420. The MMP gave patients and their primary caregivers a chance to get a Medical Marijuana ID Card issued by the State of California, and the chance to come together in groups (Cooperatives or Collectives) to cultivate marijuana.
In recent years, many persons have set up marijuana storefront distribution centers claiming to be medical marijuana clinics, dispensaries, cooperatives and clubs. These businesses have set up next to legitimate businesses, schools, and even day care centers. Many of these businesses are supported by the same criminal element that would be selling drugs even if they could not hide behind the laws written to help people with serious illnesses. There is no provision in the CUA or MMP for the sale of marijuana.
The stated purpose of the CUA and the MMP was to help people with serious illnesses get safe access to marijuana. The CUA and MMP did not legalize marijuana or allow anyone to profit from cultivation, distribution, or sales of marijuana. Because of the exploitation of these laws and the strength of marijuana, marijuana is now the number one drug for self-admission to drug rehabilitation centers in LA County.
With these laws in mind, starting in December 2008 the Los Angeles Police Department, Devonshire Narcotics Enforcement Detail in conjunction with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and with the support of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office and Council District 12, established investigative protocols to determine if these storefront businesses were operating within the protections afforded by the CUA and MMP. At that time, there were over 600 of these businesses operating throughout the City of Los Angeles with more opening daily.
They quickly became the center of various crimes including the sale of marijuana to nonmembers and juveniles in the surrounding neighborhoods, the burglary of adjoining businesses in order to gain access to the marijuana facilities, armed robberies with shots fired and ultimately the attempted murder and murder of the owners and workers at these locations.
Starting in December of 2008, LAPD, Devonshire Narcotics Enforcement Detail has investigated thirty seven of these locations resulting in seventy-one related search warrants (storage facilities, owner’s residences, etc.) and in each case these storefront marijuana sales locations were found to be in violation of State Law. All of these storefronts operated on a retail sales basis of cash and carry.
Several of the locations had armed security in plain clothes and others in uniforms, several had firearms concealed for easy access and in two instances they contained assault weapons including an AK-47 and a collapsible stock Mini-14. Some of these locations had other narcotics in them, including one with 9 kilos of cocaine. Some contained sophisticated hydroponic marijuana growing operations others had a few plants growing in pots under a single light. Owners of these businesses also engaged in tax evasion, money laundering, witness intimidation, threatening of nearby business owners and theft of utilities. All contained various amounts of cash ranging from a few hundred dollars to over half a million.
All of these arrests have resulted in felony filings in Superior Court with the vast majority of defendants pleading out and several cases are still pending.
Since 2008 there have been 74 arrests, over 2 Million in cash seized, the recovery of 30 guns including an AK-47 and a Mini 14, over 1 ton of marijuana, and other dangerous drugs including nine kilos of Cocaine, LSD, Hashish, and Anabolic Steroids.
Anyone with further information on this investigation, or questions may contact Devonshire Narcotics Enforcement Detail, Detective Robert Holcombe at 818-832-1164. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.