On Jan. 22, after nearly four years in operation, Garden Grove's Unit D collective finally shut its doors, less than a week after the city suspended its registration program for new marijuana collectives. Unit D was one of three marijuana dispensaries, along with two in Long Beach, that were raided in December 2009, leading to pot sales charges against owners Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine, both of whom were convicted last month in Long Beach's superior courthouse. After the raids, Unit D's manager, Paul LaFond, ran the dispensary, and in an interview with the Weekly today, he explained why he chose to close the club.
According to LaFond, after learning of the Garden Grove city council's recent decision to halt all paperwork involving new marijuana clubs, he called city attorney Tom Nixon, who told him that the federal government had informed the city that if they didn't take such an action, the city would be open to criminal prosecution. Nobody at the city attorney's office was available to speak with the Weekly, however LaFond says that Nixon told him that “he would not be surprised to see federal action”–i.e. raids–“taken in Garden Grove and the surrounding community,” by which Nixon meant the cities of Santa Ana and Anaheim.
LaFond then spoke with his attorney, who advised him that he'd be a “fool” to remain open and added that if he was arrested, his best option would be to take a plea deal and to hope for lenient treatment. Unit D has been open in Garden Grove for longer than almost any of the 50 or so collectives in town. “So if they shut us down it would send a clear message,” LaFond says, adding that he immediately called a meeting of his five full-time employees. “I told everyone I have to close my doors. I don't want to go to jail and I don't want to put any of my employees through this.”
Before shuttering the collective last Sunday, LaFond told collective members that he was considering providing a closed-loop delivery service for regular members. “There are so many people we gave free or discounted medication to, that they were literally in tears when we told them the news. These people came to depend on us and we can't be there for them anymore.”
Award-winning investigative journalist Nick Schou is Editor of OC Weekly. He is the author of Kill the Messenger: How the CIA’s Crack Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb (Nation Books 2006), which provided the basis for the 2014 Focus Features release starring Jeremy Renner and the L.A. Times-bestseller Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love’s Quest to bring Peace, Love and Acid to the World, (Thomas Dunne 2009). He is also the author of The Weed Runners (2013) and Spooked: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood (2016).