A marijuana bust at a Laguna Beach church—yes, church—allowed the poster to the city police department’s Facebook page to break out one liners worthy of an Irvine Improv open mic night.
The setup: The Laguna Beach Police Department was alerted Jan. 12 by a resident who smelled pot coming from the Divine Church of Gardens, 910 Glenneyre St., where several people were also seen leaving with white bags. Officers arrived at the storefront around 4:40 p.m. to find two volunteers of what they said was a church selling “sacraments” that included cannabis. Police say it was an illegal dispensary illegally selling weed.
While medical marijuana has been legal in California for years and, thanks to an overwhelming majority of voters, recreational cannabis became permitted under state law on Jan. 1, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act allows cities to ban pot-related businesses. The Laguna Beach City Council voted to do just that last April, and a voter referendum to overturn that decision was defeated by voters in November.
And so, drug paraphernalia and 20 pounds of Divine Church of Gardens cannabis was seized, $3,000 was pulled out of the cash register and Lucas Dichiara was taken into custody for alleged possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sales, selling and furnishing marijuana and violating Laguna Beach Municipal Code. The 31-year-old Irvine resident told cops he had only been volunteering there for three days.
The landlord’s agent later kicked out the Divine Church of Gardens for allegedly violating the lease agreement.
In this era of fake news, mainstream outlets provided mostly dry coverage of the shutdown, while the official coverage from the Laguna Beach Police Department, as posted on Facebook, was worthy of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
To think, a church–selling the devil’s lettuce. I don’t know if they had t-shirts or bumper stickers, but personally, I think something along the lines of “Divine Church of Gardens–where there’s more weed in the store than the flower beds” would be a good seller. I also imagine the background music in store was a constant loop of Phish songs. Conveniently, the “church” was open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., so services weren’t limited to the 4:20 time slot. As I reviewed this story, I couldn’t help but feel I was reading the premise for a Cheech and Chong movie.
As a result of the investigation, LBPD officers seized enough marijuana to cover a Cypress Hill concert, as well as cash proceedings from the sale of their “religious sacraments.” Thanks to the initial caller’s observations and a thorough investigation, LBPD put the dispensary up in smoke.
While I previously pointed out the dryness of the mainstream coverage, Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Jim Cota did peel off a good line in the Orange County Register story: “This is the first time in Laguna someone has tried to use a church to cover up a drug operation. If you’re a church, why would you be listed on Weed Maps?” (Makes me wonder if Cota had something to do with the Facebook riffs.)
Some of the reaction to the Laguna Beach PD Facebook post were attaboys, like this from Connie Key Henson: “Good job LBPD! I don’t think God would be pleased they are using the Garden of Eden as their front.”
Others were along the lines of what Joel Seeb contributed: “Always glad to see that LBPD officers are the real crime fighters in town. Glad you all take so much pride in such a seizure. What’s next a crack down on over sized umbrellas on the beach? Maybe a task force on gas powered leaf blowers. I see them everywhere. Good grief.”
Then there is this from Peter Freeman: “That’s not nearly enough weed to cover a Cypress Hill concert.”
Word to your dealer. And minister.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.