Costa Mesa's Mystery Pot Shop

A year after the city got the DEA to raid legit dispensaries, one remains open—and no one knows why

At first glance, there was nothing unusual about the brief news item that appeared in the July 5 issue of the Daily Pilot: "A Costa Mesa man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs after he crashed his SUV into a medical-marijuana dispensary." The driver, a 68-year-old man behind the wheel of a 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander, smashed "into the front entrance of Newport Mesa Health Center, 524 W. 19th St., Unit B, about 3:30 p.m.," the newspaper reported. "The car went clear to the back end of the business."

While it's possible the city is too busy to deal with what appears to be the only marijuana dispensary still operating in plain sight, a closer examination suggests that nothing about Newport Mesa Health Center holds up to even the slightest scrutiny.

Because nobody was harmed in the incident, the story might have ended there. Some readers might have chuckled over the irony of a drunk driver colliding into a pot club. But to one reader, the story came as a complete shock.

Costa Mesa had banned medical-marijuana dispensaries in 2005, and seven years later, after unsuccessfully trying to force collectives to shut down, the city had called in the federal government to do the job. In January 2012, the DEA raided several clubs and sent letters threatening to file charges against operators and landlords who didn't leave town by the end of the month. So how could it be possible that while every other storefront had fled Costa Mesa, one club had managed to stay open, operating in plain sight, even surviving a collision with a drunk driver?

The reader in question happened to be the former operator of another dispensary in the city who asked to remain anonymous for this article. That collective catered to seriously ill patients, received referrals from local hospitals and took pains to strictly follow the California Attorney General's guidelines on complying with the state's medical-marijuana law; when the city told it to shut down, the collective did so voluntarily. After reading the Daily Pilot story, the owner paid a visit to the police department and demanded some answers.

First, the owner met with Lieutenant Mark Manley, the point person for enforcing the city's ban on dispensaries, as well as an attorney working with the city. "They told me I could not reopen because of federal law," the former dispensary owner told the Weekly. When asked why Newport Mesa Health Center was being allowed to operate, the owner claims another officer pointed at a stack of paperwork on his desk, all of which were unsolved cases of serious crimes such as murder. "If you open," the officer reportedly stated, "I will not have time to bother you. . . . We will ignore you also."

"I wasn't the only operator who asked questions of the city," the former owner says. "Other collective operators and attorneys did, too. But nobody wanted to answer any questions about that club."

Attorney Christopher Glew represented several dispensaries that were forced out of Costa Mesa by the city last year. He expressed shock that officials would allow a club to continue operating after being alerted to its presence. "The city of Costa Mesa spent a lot of money in legal fees and court costs and enforcement proceedings to shut down the dispensaries that were operating aboveboard and in compliance with state law," he said. "We tried proposing regulations and tax schemes, and [the city] shot down everything, so the fact that people are drawing attention to a club and the city still isn't doing anything is beyond bizarre."

The Weekly attempted to get answers about Costa Mesa's policy on cannabis clubs, but telephone calls to Manley and City Attorney Tom Duarte went unanswered. While it's certainly possible the city is too busy to deal with what appears to be the only marijuana dispensary still operating in plain sight, a closer examination by the Weekly suggests that nothing about Newport Mesa Health Center holds up to even the slightest scrutiny.

The dispensary, which filed articles of incorporation on Feb. 4, 2011, voluntarily dissolved just four months later, on June 17, claiming it had no assets. The person who signed the paperwork was Blessing Apkofure, an anesthesiologist of Nigerian descent. (Efforts to reach her at the collective were unsuccessful, although an employee acknowledged she occasionally stopped by.) In any case, the California Board of Equalization states it has no sellers' permit on file for the collective.

Also, there's the dispensary's address: 524 W. 19th St. It's unusual because a review of title searches by the Weekly shows that, while there is a 524 W. 19th St. in Santa Ana and Huntington Beach, there isn't one in Costa Mesa. The building in which Newport Mesa Health Center operates (even though it shouldn't) is part of a somewhat-dilapidated strip mall that also houses a taquería, a pool hall and a smoke shop. On three separate occasions, a Weekly reporter was able to purchase marijuana inside after providing a valid doctor's note and a California driver's license. However, at no point during the three visits was the reporter asked to sign a membership form for the cannabis collective, as required by state law. The other customers present each time personified the stereotype of the non-medical smoker, with almost all of them being young, often heavily tattooed men with no discernible ailments.

Property records show the landlord is a Costa Mesa resident named Antonio L. Caselini, whose name turns up in numerous civil lawsuits. According to a 1993 civil lawsuit, Caselini is actually an alias; his real name is Safar Bahkshi. A 1984 property record shows that "Caselini" handed over a Huntington Beach property that year to his wife, Roberta Bahkshi.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
78 comments
nebeltex
nebeltex

"Bakhshi" is likely an alias too..... if it walks like corruption and talks like corruption, it is probably costa mesa. The term "Bak sheesh"?

bak·sheeshˈbakSHēSH,bakˈSHēSH/noun

noun: baksheesh; noun: backshees

1. (in parts of Asia) a small sum of money given as alms, a tip, or a bribe.

keep digging and follow the money trail. something really stinks here.

ghostladyjames
ghostladyjames

Looks like this story worked and this "bad" dispensary who did not respect state law or city law is closed.  I still want to know it took this story for Costa Mesa to do something (if it was Costa Mesa). There are many people who need dispensaries who could run by state laws, that is what is needed in Costa Mesa.  I dont know why the city cannot respect those patients who are severely disabled and cannot grow for themselves. 

I still question those in Costa Mesa city council who find it much easier to ban dispensaries than write an ordinance.  This makes the city council look lazy and it looks as if they don't care about those constituents who are disabled. I would think twice before re-electing anyone who does not think about those who are sick and disabled, like they did when they threw away the homeless.  

Sandy Tran
Sandy Tran

see what you've done? 2 in CM down.

McShyster
McShyster

What clueless fool would want to open a Retail Dispensary, with an effective tax rate of 60%+ due to the IRS denying standard business deductions for criminal enterprises.

Return the market to the PRIVATE Individual Caregivers, Growers and Dealers that have ALWAYS supplied the vast majority of marijuana users in California for the last 40+ years.


Gabes79
Gabes79

With local government officials facing limited resources and are very busy with pressing issues like catching drunk drivers, -  they have to put some of the other workload in the back of the stack.  It is easier for us in the US to just legalize pot like the old days.  It is a natural plant that has helped a lot of people get better from certain illness that current medicines can not cure and the overwhelming benefits have been proven by medical and scientific research.  Alcohol and cigarettes are worse than pot.  We have come a long way and most of us are educated enough to know the benefits of pot.  We are not as stupid as what the government think we are.  Just because pot is available everywhere, does not mean that all of us will be smoking it.   There are lot of people who don't use it because they don't want to and millions of us that have used it and decided not to use it , some only use it on certain occasions, and millions more of us use it every day and we are all fine - millions are hard working and trusting professional people.  Everyone knows that you are not allowed to get behind the wheel while under the influence.  Most of the crimes committed are from laws that were never properly and thoroughly thought through.  Government are always behind the time on a lot of social issues.  The quicker we fully legalize pot, the quicker we will get a lot of things done.  I would trust a pot smoking person before an alcoholic.  The whole world will never wage wars against each other if every one smoke pot.

defbyjoyce1
defbyjoyce1

Can we get back on target now? Law enforcement and the city government in Costa Mesa called in the Feds and closed LEGAL marijuana Collectives, yet have left a club open that defy's every state law regarding legal Medical Marijuana. They have no documents from the State, They have not paid sales tax since they have opened, they do not require documentation of patients, there is a back door operation, and somehow the parcel # (address) has disappeared from the city plans.

There are questions to be asked and we need to start demanding answers!

JGlanton
JGlanton topcommenter

Can't believe the OCWeekly is running wild with Breaking Bad penis headlines with this story:

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) – Four people were charged with kidnapping a California marijuana dispensary owner, torturing him with a blowtorch and cutting off his penis during a robbery because they thought he was burying piles of cash in the desert, authorities said Friday.

http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2013/11/08/thieves-charged-with-cutting-off-marijuana-dispensary-owners-penis/

John.Ehrlichman
John.Ehrlichman

You can't turn your back on The California State Assembly for a minute. Look at the voting record of certain Dems (I'm a Dem, too. BTW). Sharon Quirk-Silva and Norma Torres, among others, are Dems who apparently don't give a shit that the VOTERS enacted medical use of marijuana. Follow the campaign money. It's no coincidence that those who are funded by the public safety unions are the ones trying to actively undermine Prop 215 and SB420.

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

the second amendment AND COMMON sense tells us we the people have the right to be armed


but the leftist fight that


but abortion and pot laws not even in the constitution they go ga ga over



go figure


and they claim to be the educated crowd

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

why are democrats going after medical maryjane??


looks like the power control freaks on the Left have kept their minions dazed and confused for sooo long it is true

John.Ehrlichman
John.Ehrlichman

Great article! OC cities have to realize that having to grovel for a right that was bestowed by the voters and upheld and refined by SB 420, is a violation of patient's rights. Cities, and their "It's against federal law" argument, are setting themselves up for some very expensive lawsuits. Perhaps Mr. Glew can answer this question: How can a city act outside of the state legislature? IMO California has taken a formal State's rights position on medical marijuana in SB420, the Feds have recently announced that they won't be cracking down on legally operating dispensaries, this makes Costa Mesa's position moot with regards to medical marijuana. With regards to the point of the article, who knows? We can spend time talking about what's fair or we can band together and fight for our rights. The latter is more productive. If you're interested, I had a lengthy letter to the editor published about 4-5 months ago in the OC Register entitled, "The Medical Marijuana End-Run." I feel it is a correct description of the current state of MMJ in OC and a plan to go back on the offensive. Cities should be able to regulate and zone, but they can't just say, "no" to dispensaries. Prop 215 created a new class of medical patients who have rights.

Luie Carrion
Luie Carrion

nice investigative piece. fair is fair...if everyone else had to bounce it's only right to find out why they are getting this type of treatment.

bphood
bphood

I knew the second I read the the headline that Nigerians were involved. Bas   tards

cynthia.curran8
cynthia.curran8

At first glance, there was nothing unusual about the brief news item that appeared in the July 5 issue of the Daily Pilot: "A Costa Mesa man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs after he crashed his SUV into a medical-marijuana dispensary." The driver, a 68-year-old man behind the wheel of a 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander, smashed "into the front entrance of Newport Mesa Health Center, 524 W. 19th St., Unit B, about 3:30 p.m.," the newspaper reported. "The car went clear to the back end of the business."


The guy never got over the 1960's, age 68  which means he was in his 20's then.

CaBeachNative
CaBeachNative

It looks like someone is getting a kickback or is owned by a CM govt worker. Im also wondering if the ambiguous address is not in the CM jurisdiction. I found it an interesting article. Also, I DO have a recommendation and I hate some shops are run so shady that theyre calling attention from The Man. Those shops are killing it for the shops that follow proper regulations. Im interested in seeing why CM has shielded this shop. Not that I want to see yet another club close.

thesch
thesch

on my way there anyone want to carpool?

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

Hey the DA's office just got handed an injunction against itself by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for violating the rights of people targeted by the cops and the DA's office for violating thier Constitutional RIGHTS for being gang members when they're not gang members so that means that the cops and the DA's office are WRONG. They violated US Laws.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

On Janurary 1st 1013 - 20,000 new laws went into effect in the State of California and no one single man including a criminal cop that violates the laws while ON DUTY (80 percent of them do) can know 20,000 new laws. It is impossible for even the cops to know that many new laws. Many of them are HS graduates.

sprockethead
sprockethead

If its worthy of your attention...it is called NEWS folks. Interesting piece Nick.

Nicole Sorenson
Nicole Sorenson

Jesus! Keep it a secret. Some of us still want to go there lol

Charles Leffler
Charles Leffler

Why were others Rights VILATED, is the QUESTION? The Law is supposed to apply equally (bullshit) to all.

uneedhelpdave
uneedhelpdave

We're not whiney stoners....we are Americans with the same freedoms as you and we should be free to promote well being through natural means without the risks and side effects of drugs from companies. Do some reasearch on google or yahoo or in a library and you would learn that cannibis oil heals several forms of breast cancer as well as treats an almost endless amount of other diseases and ailments. But we are just whiney stoners.

ghostladyjames
ghostladyjames

I think the point in this story is about the city of Costa Mesa.  Why is the city allowing this business to continue? Is the collective paying someone in the city to look the other way.  There are many, including the source in this story who would run a dispensary the right way and take care of those REAL patients who need medical marijuana to live a normal life. A true non-profit should have its books open to anyone who wants to see them. 

Sandy Tran
Sandy Tran

why why why would you call attention to this?? you guys are ruining it, OC Weekly!

gdcsls05
gdcsls05

I retract my previous statement in light of new evidence and yes everybody is truly missing the point of the article if that's what it is

paullucas714
paullucas714

To those who are standing up for the dispensary in question:

Whats wrong is that there are people sitting in state and Federal prisons for running dispensaries with above and beyond documentation, paying into the system via sales and payroll taxes, property occupation, enhancement, and maintanence etc etc. Additionally, these along with the above stated hazards have lost all their investment and labor along with their employees losing jobs and probably now on food stamps and or unemployment which YOU and I and AL OF US pay for. And this person goes in after the dust settles and just makes a spectacle of themselves which reflects on all others who did the above and beyond measures above. That why its wrong. No one is arguing that they are "Bad People" or doing a bad thing. They are cutting in line and climbing up the ladder on the backs of those who built the road for them at the expense of others.

gdcsls05
gdcsls05

I have two questions first my curiosity is leading me to ask what was the purpose of this article what were you hoping to do give people knowledge of a dispensary that they didn't know about or try to get someone caught up with Johnny Lawand see my big problem with this is I truly do not believe that marijuana should be legal if the pharmaceutical companies can sit there and pump out 100 of thousands of different kind of pills 1 for every kind of element humanity has and that's perfectly legal kills 100,000 people every year cigarettes kill how many people I'm not quite sure on the latest a test text but not only do cigarettes directly kill but the second hand smoke also kills those are perfectly legal and OK

amukelanimellow
amukelanimellow

@Gabes79  ... MARIJUANA is illegal for only one reason, and it also has a long story of coverup and deceipt, in the name and pursuit of money. IF you don't know this, - and I know you do not 99.99% - than that is pathetic.


the plant has 2 sexes.


One of those sexes, more than the other, ( the male one ) Poses a HUGE THREAT to 50++ Industries. THE MALE FORM PRODUCES A LITTLE THING - which you idiots have been tought is insignificant - CALLED HEMP.


By making both versions of the plant, female & male, no'one is allowed to grow hemp, to do studies with hemp, to manufacture goods with hemp.. ETC... AND NOBODY KNOWS WHY


THE REASON is just as simple as the title of this thread. "Hiding out in the open"


By making marijuana (female strain of the plant) illegal and the major titles to all of our nations debates ( and now because of us the whole worlds) regarding such things as whether or not weed should be smoked or ever be made legal is ALL JUST A GIANT PLOY..


For Money.

Don't believe me? You're an misinformed, unfortunate idiot who just became fortunate since I have arrived to enlighten and make you better.


THIS "GREAT" and deceitful countryCORPORATION not only allowed and was for marijuana and hemp, they grew them all over the nation! as did the whole world! that is... until it was made illegal again for the very reasons I've outlined



VOILA

amukelanimellow
amukelanimellow

@Gabes79  ... MARIJUANA is illegal for only one reason, and it also has a long story of coverup and deceipt, in the name and pursuit of money. IF you don't know this, - and I know you do not 99.99% - than that is pathetic.


the plant has 2 sexes.


One of those sexes, more than the other, ( the male one ) Poses a HUGE THREAT to 50++ Industries. THE MALE FORM PRODUCES A LITTLE THING - which you idiots have been tought is insignificant - CALLED HEMP.


By making both versions of the plant, female & male, no'one is allowed to grow hemp, to do studies with hemp, to manufacture goods with hemp.. ETC... AND NOBODY KNOWS WHY


THE REASON is just as simple as the title of this thread. "Hiding out in the open"


By making marijuana (female strain of the plant) illegal and the major titles to all of our nations debates ( and now because of us the whole worlds) regarding such things as whether or not weed should be smoked or ever be made legal is ALL JUST A GIANT PLOY..


For Money.

Don't believe me? You're an misinformed, unfortunate idiot who just became fortunate since I have arrived to enlighten and make you better.


THIS "GREAT" and deceitful countryCORPORATION not only allowed and was for marijuana and hemp, they grew them all over the nation! as did the whole world! that is... until it was made illegal again for the very reasons I've outlined



VOILA

nschou1
nschou1 moderator editor

@JGlanton We are. We did. Patience, patience...

paullucas714
paullucas714

@John.Ehrlichman 

Sharon quirk, Lou Correa, and Tom Daly also voted in favor of SB 313 which allows dirty cops to more easily get away with murder. She also voted against SB 439 as did Lou Correa and Tom Daly. Sharon Quirk and Tom Daly and Lou Correa also voted against Ab 721. In fact, I cannot tell Sharon Quirk apart from a hard line Republican when it comes to aiding and abetting Criminals with badges just like Lou Correa. Its shameful and unbecoming of a Democrat.

paullucas714
paullucas714

@sweetliberty17761776 

You are horribly misinformed. The Dems have been the  worst in reference to medical marijuana and they have been enabling not only the continuance of the war on MMJ but the intensifying of it.

paullucas714
paullucas714

@sweetliberty17761776 They do it because they are an easy target to help fend off any accusations of being soft on crime. Seriously. They beat the shit out of sick and vulnerable people in order to get the gravy flowing from Police unions and Police orgs that protect criminal and murderer cops. Much like the Catholic Church protected pedophile priests.

nschou1
nschou1 moderator editor

@uneedhelpdave You should do some research on google and you'll see that OC Weekly has been nothing but supportive to the cause of defending and expanding the rights and freedoms you mention, including specifically in Costa Mesa.  

paullucas714
paullucas714

@uneedhelpdave You are totally missing the point of this article. No one is calling anyone a whiner. hey are calling foul on the city of Costa Mesa for obvious collusion.

paullucas714
paullucas714

@gdcsls05 This operator is probably an informant for CMPD or they are paying off someone at the city or in the PD that's why.

John.Ehrlichman
John.Ehrlichman

It was a disappointment to see the wheels fall off of Chris Norby's campaign. He was a Republican without a lot of partisan baggage and he was sensible about MMJ.

gdcsls05
gdcsls05

hey I thought you put CD before that PD

paullucas714
paullucas714

@John.Ehrlichman I agree. With Sharons voting record on these issues, I don't really see any gain in her being a demo elected. In fact, with her voting record, it has caused a supermajority for the types like Lou Correa to engage in an al out war on the vulnerable population who should be able to look to Sharon and Lou Correa, and Tom Daly for safe harbor. In fact, these DINO's have become the abusers now.

 
Loading...