Growing pains

County officials move on police complaints about non-compliant medical pot dispensary just outside Pasadena city limits

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 11/9/2006

The San Gabriel Valley’s only medical marijuana dispensary is under fire from LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and Pasadena police who say the operation is out of compliance with recently passed laws banning new dispensaries.

Paul Novak, planning and land use deputy for Antonovich, said the supervisor “has directed our staff, regional planning, the sheriff, and county counsel to pursue code enforcement and take action against the property.

“He has directed our attorney to investigate what legal options are available to close them down. It’s a very high priority because this clinic did not apply for any permit from the county despite being legally required to do so,” Novak said.

Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian had expressed frustration because he said the county didn’t notify local police when the dispensary first opened in the last week of October, but Assistant County Counsel Richard Weiss said it happened the other way around. The county was first made aware of it by the Pasadena police.

One patient who works near the dispensary expressed disappointment at the prospect of the club shutting down. “It’s just so convenient and the next closest dispensary is in Silver Lake. Where am I supposed to go?” said Ryan Gerlin, who declined to say what illness he treats with medical marijuana.

After clubs were closed down in nearby Monrovia and Monterey Park, advocates and patients were closely watching how authorities would handle California Compassionate Caregivers, located at 3682 E. Colorado Blvd., just outside Pasadena city limits in unincorporated East Pasadena.

In order to comply with county regulations, the owners of the dispensary were supposed to file for a business license and a conditional use permit, which is a month-long process that requires notice, a staff report, an environmental review and a public hearing, said Weiss.

Weiss also said he doesn’t think there’s anything the operators of the dispensary can do to stay open and that they may ultimately face criminal prosecution.

“It’s our position that they are subject to this requirement and they have no legal authority to operate right now,” he told the Weekly. “I don’t believe the county’s inclined to allow them to operate. If they want to apply for a CUP, they have a right to do that, but I don’t think they can bootstrap their operation by shooting first and asking questions later.”

On Wednesday, the dispensary appeared to be closed. Although it’s not within city limits, the Pasadena police have jurisdiction if it affects the quality of life of people within city limits, according to department spokeswoman Janet Pope-Givens.

“We tend to work together with surrounding agencies on a myriad of issues all the time if it’s an interest to all of us and concerns the quality of life in our communities. Chief Melekian is on record as being adamantly opposed to medical marijuana dispensaries. He has contacted the LA County Board of Supervisors who are looking into the legitimacy of this operation,” she said.

“We only found out about this late last week and we’re evaluating it,” said Weiss. “One thing’s for sure; we will be vigorously pursuing them. Somebody who violates our zoning code like this is subject to both criminal prosecution and civil court proceedings.”