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Los Angeles city prosecutor targets medical marijuana dispensaries

February 18, 2010 |  5:03 pm

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Photograph by Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Organica Collective owner Jeff Joseph  is taken into custody by LAPD undercover officers after a raid by federal agents and Los Angeles police officers at his marijuana dispensary.



The Los Angeles city attorney today escalated his bid to regain control over the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, filing suit against three and sending letters to 18 to try to force them to stop selling the drug, alleging the outlets have repeatedly violated state law.

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich had pledged to take aggressive action to shut down illegal dispensaries. Hundreds of stores have opened in Los Angeles while the City Council debated an ordinance to regulate them. The council passed the law, but it still has not taken effect.

Trutanich launched his campaign with a single lawsuit against an Eagle Rock dispensary called Hemp Factory V. He recently won an injunction to force it to stop selling marijuana in a ruling that suggests he could see a similar result in the three new lawsuits. The judge in the case agreed with Trutanich that state law does not authorize dispensaries to sell the drug.

Today’s suits were filed against Organica, a dispensary that straddles Culver City and Los Angeles, and two locations of Holistic Caregivers in South Los Angeles.

Based on allegations of illegal activity that stem from undercover police buys, the city attorney’s office also sent letters to 18 landlords to warn them that the dispensaries renting their property are violating state and local drug laws and that the landlords could face a lawsuit.

The letters give the property owners 30 days to respond.

Organica, which was raided by police and federal agents Thursday, has been raided twice before. Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley had cited the dispensary as one he was considering filing charges against, but no charges have been filed. The owner, Jeff Joseph, closed the store after the second raid, but recently reopened. He could not be reached for comment, and the city attorney’s office said he was the subject of an arrest warrant for sales of marijuana.

The city attorney’s office said people who were stopped near Organica admitted picking up large quantities of marijuana from the dispensary to deliver to other dispensaries.

The two Holistic Caregivers stores were among seven owned by Virgil Grant that were the target of a multi-agency investigation. The city attorney’s office said law enforcement officers made undercover buys and found large quantities of marijuana products. Grant was convicted last year of possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance.

-- John Hoeffel

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