UPDATE, OCT. 19, 1 P.M.: More than 100 medical marijuana patients and activists protested Lake Forest's cannabis crackdown at city hall last night, according to a story in today's Orange County Register. The protest was organized by the OC chapters of both NORML, the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, which advocates legalization, and Americans for Safe Access, which supports medical use of cannabis, two groups that haven't always seen eye to eye on public policy, although presumably there's nothing like a major escalation in the war on weed to put things in the proper perspective. The Register also reports that while six of the eight dispensaries that were located in a strip mall on Raymond Way that was seized by the federal government from owner Yousef Ibrahim, two of them remain open. More protests are planned in coming days, the Reg adds, including an as-of-yet-unscheduled 100,000-person strong march on Washington D.C. later this year.
UPDATE, OCT. 13, 12 P.M.: This didn't take long: not much more than a day since the federal government seized the Raymond Way strip mall in Lake Forest where eight marijuana dispensaries were located, the pot clubs are shutting their doors. Christopher Glew, an attorney for one of the dispensaries, Vale Tudo Cafe, said that Yousef Ibrahim, the landlord targeted by feds had no choice but to evict his tenants, although an article in yesterday's Orange County Register says that at least some of the dispensaries were voluntarily closing down. “He didn't really have a choice,” Glew said, adding that Ibrahim is likely to file for bankruptcy thanks to the federal forfeiture.
ORIGINAL POST, Oct. 10, 1 P.M.: Last Thursday, I reported that the Obama administration was about to crack down on California's medical marijuana industry by threatening to seize properties from landlords who rent to individuals engaged in cultivating or distributing marijuana.
Within 24 hours, the feds followed up on that threat by filing
forfeiture proceedings against property owners throughout the state,
including Yousef Ibrahim, who owns the strip mall at 26402 Raymond Way, where eight marijuana dispensaries are operating, according to an Oct. 7 Orange County Register story. According to the Register, the feds seized over $180,000 from Ibrahim's bank account.
The Weekly first highlighted the marijuana clubs on Raymond Way in the April 2010 feature story “The Marijuana Martyr,” about Mark Moen, who ran the 215 Agenda dispensary at that location until he was arrested during a March 5 raid of the club and charged with numerous counts of selling and transporting marijuana. (Moen has pleaded not guilty and has yet to be tried for the alleged crimes). Subsequently, the Weekly highlighted how despite Moen's high profile arrest and harsh treatment–he could spend a decade or more in prison if convicted–the Raymond Way location continued to bloom with marijuana clubs.
The city of Lake Forest has so far spent more than $500,000 in legal fees trying to evict the clubs, citing the fact that a Montessori school is located there and a new state law bans such clubs from operating within 600 feet of a school. However, attorneys for the clubs argued that because the city never bothered banning marijuana dispensaries, it had no right to shut them down, which is why they've continued to operate despite the city's best efforts.
According to the Register, the feds have also threatened to forfeit properties being rented by marijuana clubs in Rancho Santa Margarita, Dana Point, Laguna Hills and Laguna Niguel. It remains unclear how the Obama administration's new tack on medical marijuana is going to impact California's biggest cash crop and the 15-year-old right of residents to smoke cannabis for medical reasons, but if you've got a doctor's recommendation and your local club is still operating, you might want to drop by sooner rather than later.
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).