[UPDATED: City Invited Feds to Raid Clubs Last October] Bizarre Costa Mesa Pot Shenanigans Behind Tonight's City Council Protest
Update, Feb. 8 11:45 a.m: According to the Orange County Register, the city of Costa Mesa invited the DEA to raid medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city as early as last October. In a story published yesterday and updated this morning, the Register says it has obtained an Oct. 26 letter from City Attorney Tom Duarte to the U.S. Attorney's office, in which Duarte asked the feds to help eradicate the pot clubs. The Reg also talked to Mayor Gary Monahan who (see below) appeared in a pro-medical marijuana panel discussion within days of the recent raids, and who despite all contrary statements and actions by his staff and colleagues at cit hall, claims he still believes there's a future for dispensaries in Costa Mesa.
Original Post, Feb. 7 2:37 p.m.: It was just a few weeks ago when Costa Mesa Mayor Gary Monahan declared his support for regulating medical marijuana during a pro-legalization panel discussion at his restaurant/bar Skosh Monahan's. The discussion was live-broadcast on a local KOCI radio show, Cannabis Community. Not more than a few days later, something weird happened: apparently acting on a request by city officials, the DEA raided two marijuana dispensaries in town and sent threatening letters to the rest, forcing them to shut down, including one owned by Robert Martinez, who also just so happens to own the rights to the Cannabis Community radio show that Monahan had just appeared on.
Then something else weird happened: last Sunday, Feb. 5, just moments before Martinez's radio show was about to go on the air at 11 a.m., KOCI cancelled the show.
Sue Lester, who used to run Costa Mesa's Herbal Elements dispensary until she closed it down under city pressure late last year--and whose unsuccessful city council campaign for city council was the subject of this OC Weekly feature story---was scheduled to be on the show that day. She says she and Martinez were told by KOCI that city officials and Chamber of Commerce folks had threatened the station, saying they were being investigated by the FBI and that the station could lose its license if it didn't drop the popular weed-friendly show.
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Lester was shocked that the station would censor its programming so swiftly. "I was sitting there with my mouth open," she recalls. "You can't be prevented from renewing your license just because you have someone on the air they don't like. This isn't a marijuana issue, it's a freedom of speech issue." That evening, Lester went public with a press release issued by KOCI explaining that the "FBI has been investigating the radio station because of the medical marijuana radio show" and that the orders to cancel the program "was the result of requests from the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce and the Costa Mesa city council."
Monday morning, however, the Register ran a story on what happened that included strange denials from KOCI that they were being pressured by anyone. Then the Orange Juice Blog ran a story trying to make sense of what's going on, which you can read and try to figure out here.
With all this bizarre back-and-forth, it's clear the pot-friendly people of Costa Mesa want some answers from their elected officials, which is why they are gathering outside city hall tonight at 6 p.m.
"We've gone to the city several times and offered to work with them to get an ordinance that has worked in many other cities," says Marla James, a wheelchair-bound cannabis activist who happens to be a plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging that that the city as well as Lake Forest are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. "But they don't want to work with us, so we're going to let the people of Costa Mesa know what kind of a city council they have, and let the council know what the people of Costa Mesa want. The word 'recall' will be used."
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