Jul 29, 2014

New Pot Shops Keep Popping Up Despite City Ban

Despite the city attorney efforts to close them, at least three new dispensaries open in the area, and one has been disguised to look like the old yogurt shop that used to be at the same location.

New Pot Shops Keep Popping Up Despite City Ban New Pot Shops Keep Popping Up Despite City Ban New Pot Shops Keep Popping Up Despite City Ban New Pot Shops Keep Popping Up Despite City Ban New Pot Shops Keep Popping Up Despite City Ban New Pot Shops Keep Popping Up Despite City Ban

Despite a ban on any new marijuana dispensaries and efforts by the city attorney to close many that are currently open, at least three new ones have opened up recently in the North Hollywood and Studio City area.

Back in April, Patch set out to identify how many marijuana dispensaries and what their status was with the city attorney's office.

Aside from finding dozens of shops in April that were open despite the city attorney having sent them letters ordering them to close, Patch also discovered 15 shops in North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Studio City and Toluca Lake the city did not send letters to because the city did not seem to know they existed, calling into question if the city attorney's office has the power, resources and support to shut down over 200 shops, let alone prevent new ones from opening.

Some shops, new and old, choose out-of-the-way places and try to not call too much attention to themselves. Other shops are located in plain view on main boulevards with shiny green neon marijuana signs.

And then there is the third option, to hide in plain site and appear at a glance to be something family-friendly, like a yogurt shop, which is what YourTree (formerly YogurTree) has done. In early spring, the self-serve yogurt shop YogurTree closed at 11048 Ventura Blvd., and in its place in April came YourTree (aka YourTreeProviders), a shop that with just a slight change of the signage became a marijuana dispensary. The signage is so similar that anyone familiar with the store and neighborhood could drive or even walk right past it without ever noticing the change (see attached photos).

Exotic Garden, located at 12032 Vose Street in North Hollywood, opened its doors for business in June, advertising online that it was the "best new dispensary in the valley." The owner, who asked not to be identified, told Patch he had not been contacted by the city at all and currently was not afraid of being shut down.

"We have no idea because everything's alright right now. We haven't heard anything," he said.

Exotic Garden is on an industrial side street just a block off Laurel Canyon Boulevard, but the LAPD is certainly aware it is there, as dozens of LAPD officers were it is located on for hours on May 23 while looking for a grand theft auto suspect.

California Care Providers, with a shiny neon sign and another on the sidewalk at 8002 Laurel Canyon, opened in late April.

Patch also identified two potential marijuana home delivery services located in the area that have started up in the last two months.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has repeatedly said he intends to shut down unregistered pot shops.

"They have to close down,” Trutanich told Patch. “It is illegal. I do not make the law."

Meanwhile, at this point, the LAPD’s North Hollywood Division isn’t interested in getting involved.

"It's a complicated issue and we are not working on closing them down right now,” said Senior Lead Officer Mike Lewis, who oversees Studio City. “And for the most part we have had little or no crime problems with them in our area."

The City Council is trying to take a middle ground approach and passed a law that calls for a lottery that will allow only 100 pot shops to remain open. Any shop—201 citywide—that was not eligible for the lottery or that did not register for it received a letter from the city ordering it to shut down immediately. No lottery has yet been scheduled.

Since Patch's story ran in April, the city attorney that had ignored orders to close. Cancare Collective, located in North Hollywood on Burbank Boulevard, was one of them.

"We feel like we need to protect ourselves and our patients," Cancare Collective manager Marco Barrios told the City News Service after receiving the order. "We're very serious about staying open for our patients.''

But despite those statements, Cancare now appears to have closed.

Trutanich sued shops that were easier targets of legal action because they were located in areas the city attorney's office said are not zoned for pot shops. Since the seven shops were sued in early May, there hasn't been any big news out of the city attorney's office regarding any further crackdown efforts on unregistered shops, and it appears Trutanich hoped the lawsuits, which also ordered landlords to evict their lease holders, would scare the rest of the unregistered shops into closing.

"With these lawsuits, the city of Los Angeles is sending a clear message that we will no longer allow property owners to turn a blind eye to illegal activity,'' Trutanich told the City News Service.

Some shops, such as Studio City Patient Care on Whitsett Avenue, have shut down. But a quick drive around the area reveals that many of the other shops ordered to close have remained open, like Dr. Green Meds on Laurel Canyon Boulevard near Riverside Drive, which has several large, prominent signs displayed near Valley Village's busiest intersection.

Locally, two shops have been the recent victims of unsuccessful robbery attempts. On June 2, breaking into the Varieties for Life dispensary on the 10800 block of Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood, and on April 16, two men were trying to break into the shop on the 13400 block of Sherman Way.

The foiled Vapors robbery in particular highlights the extremely different attitudes that different branches of city government have when it comes to the city's marijuana laws. Vapors is on the list of shops ordered by the city attorney to shut down, yet a massive force of LAPD police officers had to be mobilized, along with an LAPD helicopter, to foil the robbery and save the shop, which is still open.

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