Police raid San Diego pot dispensaries, owner's El Cajon home

San Diego police raided two dispensaries this month, in the Midway district and in North Park where two cannabis rights advocates protested and used a bullhorn to warn those inside of their rights.

A woman with the bullhorn also jeered at the officers, calling them “thieves” for having guns drawn when they entered Patient First Choice dispensary in an alley off University and Arnold avenues.

Officers on the narcotics unit served warrants at the dispensary and the owner’s El Cajon home, off Greenfield Drive, about 7 a.m. Thursday, police Lt. Matt Novak said in a statement.

Police seized 28 pounds of marijuana, more than 600 edibles and concentrates, $1,600 in cash and two firearms as a result of the warrants, Novak said.

The 55-year-old owner was jailed on charges of possessing marijuana for sale and operating a business without a license.

The narcotics unit also served a search warrant at Sacred Source Sanctuary on Midway Drive at 8 a.m. on Feb. 1. They seized seven pounds of marijuana, $1,200 in cash and a .45 caliber handgun. Five employees were cited on charges of marijuana for sale and operating a business without a permit.

Terry Best was shown on video by OnSceneTV using a bullhorn to address anyone inside the North Park dispensary, telling them to not talk to police.

“Police will lie about what you say,” Best said. “They are allowed to lie and they do it in front of judges and juries all the time… Police are not your friends. They are trying to create more trouble for you.”

The officers appeared to generally ignore her, but moved a van in front of the dispensary door, blocking her view from over a fence, and strung yellow crime-scene tape across the alley entrance.

She and Joshua Timmerman told OnSceneTV they were there to support cannabis patients, and they did not know if the dispensary was operating legally, with a city permit.

“If this is a permitting thing, then why are they sending people with guns?” Timmerman asked. “I think the city of San Diego could handle this in a much different way.”

Novak responded to their criticisms in an email to The San Diego Union-Tribune, saying that illegal dispensaries operate without safeguards for the public, sometimes with firearms and unlicensed security staff on the premises.

“There are no controls over the quality and safety of the marijuana products being sold (pesticide levels, mold, contaminates, etc.). ... These illegal dispensaries often create nuisances for the surrounding businesses and neighborhoods because they are open at all hours, attracting crime and litter, smoking in public, noise, and other disturbances. In general, we have found several illegal dispensaries operating near schools, churches, and child care facilities where young children are located, that otherwise would not be allowed.”

He said officers focus on citing or arresting owners and employees, not customers who might be detained a short time.

“In the end, there is a legal process that can be utilized to open up and operate a legal and regulated marijuana business in the City of San Diego. These illegal dispensaries have not done that and we will continue to investigate, serve search warrants, arrest, and prosecute those that are involved,” Novak wrote.

pauline.repard@sduniontribune

Twitter: @pdrepard

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