The smell of marijuana was strong throughout the Topanga Community Police Station Wednesday, where a press conference took place regarding Tuesday afternoon raids at two Woodland Hills marijuana dispensaries and a residence.
Tables at the station were covered with garbage bags, packages and jars of aproximately 65 pounds of marijuana, plus bags containing about $50,000 in cash that officers with the Topanga Area Narcotics Enforcement Detail recovered during the raids.
The Los Angeles Police Department also arrested Fahar Kimhi, 37; Alexander Blinderman, 36; and Mia Shomer, 25, for possession for sale of marijuana. The three were booked at Valley Jail Section in Van Nuys. Each was being held on $20,000 bail. Additionally, investigators will be seeking arrest warrants through the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for two additional suspects who were not present when the search warrants were served, according to a police department statement.
Capt. Thomas P. Brascia of the Topanga Station and Los Angeles Councilman Dennis Zine, who represents Woodland Hills, said the dispensaries—Green Magic at 23002 Ventura Blvd. and Green Joy at 22851 Ventura Blvd.—were operating on a for-profit basis, in violation of the 1996 Compassionate Use Act, which allows only nonprofit cooperatives to dispense marijuana.
A single-family residence in the 5700 block of Wilhelmina Avenue was also raided. The three locations are owned by the same family, police said.
Search warrants were obtained after a nearly year-long investigation into the sales of marijuana and hashish at the two dispensaries, police said.
Investigators recovered approximately $40,000 in cash from a hidden floor safe at the residence, and additional cash and 30 pounds of marijuana, with an estimated street value of $90,000, from the dispensaries, police said. Also recovered from the Green Magic dispensary were more than 100 vials of hashish packaged for sale and more than 225 marijuana plants, police said.
"When you look at the Compassionate Use Act, this is a far cry from what the voters approved in 1996," Zine said. "This is a profit-making enterprise and all they're doing is making money and causing havoc in the communities."
Zine and Brascia said their offices receive complaints from neighbors of the approximately 25 to 30 dispensaries they estimated are in the Topanga station's enforcement area.
"The use is one issue, the abuse is the other," Zine said.
"The community members are upset, they're concerned," he added. "They're complaining to my office, they're complaining to the police department and they're doing appropriate actions" by reporting suspicious activity.
Brascia said neighbors are upset by people who are loitering near the dispensaries and using marijuana in nearby areas, and he asked for cooperation from owners of dispensaries.
"If you're operating a medical marijuana clinic, be a good neighbor," Brascia said, "because we're getting a lot of complaints from neighbors that people go in and buy the marijuana, then go outside the businesses and drive to residential areas, smoke the marijuana, and the residents don't like it."
Despite the abuse of the 1996 law, Zine said he continues to support the Compassionate Use Act.
"I was the one who did the motion in 2005, because we had an over-concentration, to try to bring it into some type of regulatory environment," Zine said. "... But the bottom line is we're not going to tolerate communities being destroyed by marijuana establishments within the community."
The Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to address the issue of marijuana dispensaries on Friday, although Zine said he expected a continuance.
"I want to go back to the original 1996 intent, that we have the regulatory enforcement and they comply with the Compassionate Use Act—plain and simple," Zine told Patch after the news conference. "I support the Compassionate Use Act and so does the city attorney and so does the chief of police, but it's gotten so far away from that ... it's totally out of control and that's what we're trying to emphasize: that we're going to bring them into compliance."