Less than a week after two medical marijuana dispensaries in Whittier were raided by police, advocates plea to City Council to allow more than one legal facility. Those pleas were unanimously rejected. A new ordinance, recently approved by the council, will only allow one legal dispensary in the area, according to Wittier Daily News.
Protesters picketed the possible decision before the meeting. They were even granted the opportunity to speak with members of council and voiced their complaints regarding last week’s raids and the cap of the new ordinance. These efforts proved ineffective.
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“We’re not asking to flood this city with dispensaries,” said Laura Kaplanian, owner of GreenReleaf Healing Center, that was one of two dispensaries shut down on May 18. “We’re asking not to cap it at one. This is not for the money. It’s for the patients.”
Another common complaint from these dispensary owners is the tactics used by police officers during these chaotic raids of their business.
“Our rights were violated,” she said. “We were terrified. They broke the door and shattered the glass. They shoved two men to the floor, one with a cane. Is that how you treat your residents? We’re not animals. We’re humans,” said Kaplanian.
Council members back their law enforcement agencies. They continue to make the claims stating that they’re only doing what their country asks by shutting these shops down.
“The reality is this is illegal under federal law and (you) criticize the Whittier Police Department?” said Councilman Joe Vinatieri. “I have great respect for these police officers. We need to remember something here. One of these dispensaries was across the street from East Whittier Middle Advertisement School. The other dispensary was right next door to a church and down the street from another.”
The Police also defend themselves against the claims. Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper has said that his raids were launched because law enforcement were lead to believe that these companies were committing criminal violations, acting as for-profit organizations essentially selling drugs.
Owners of the two raided dispensaries deny these allegations and stand by their nonprofit status.
Council members react in surprise as they claim to be one of few cities that still even allow medical marijuana dispensaries.
“It kind of catches me off guard,” said Councilman Greg Nordbak. “The council in a 3-2 vote approved allowing them because of the need we feel to be compassionate.”
While many city residents remain against the one dispensary cap, the city planning staff says there is only need for one dispensary because of the limited number of residents that currently hold state-authorized medical marijuana cards in the area. Records show that there are only 22 residents that meet this criteria, but council member report that there were more than 600 residents who were members of that GreenReleaf Healing Center.
Many are worried that residents will now have to look for their product on the streets once again.
“In one of our local cities nearby, I was amazed to discover they have 16 dispensaries because they don’t regulate them at all,” said Councilman Bob Henderson. “We’re not going to allow that in our city. We’ve allowed one. If the need can be shown, they can bring it back to us.”
The councilman goes on to say that residents should be able to commute to this area for their product as the Dial-A-Ride system is available to make transportation a cinch.
With the shutdown of these medical marijuana dispensaries, residents are now forced to look elsewhere to receive products and services which creates a large inconvenience for not only the patients but for the former dispensary owners who have now been closed up for good.
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