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Dispensary Robberies a Problematic Trend for LAPD

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, April 22, 2010, at 10:35AM
Composite Sketch for Dispensary Robbery, 2010/04/19 LAPD

Composite sketch of armed suspect in Monday's dispensary robbery.

A pair of armed men robbed medical marijuana clinic on the border between Skid Row and Little Tokyo on Monday, getting away with $1,200 in cash, $7,000 in weed and a laptop computer. It's the latest in a trend that police find troubling.

“I know of 14 clinics just in downtown Los Angeles and five were robbed in the last 18 months," said Lt. Paul Vernon, head of Central Division detectives.

The city recently passed a new ordinance governing the density and location of dispensaries, but it won't take effect until June 4. Advocates have said that they intend to challenge the legislation in court.

While the city was debating the ordinance, hundreds of new dispensaries opened, trying to take advantage of a perceived loophole in the rules. Those locations must now close once the new rules go into place, but the 187 dispensaries that legally registered with the city before 2007 are allowed to remain if they comply with the new rules.

The robbery took place at City Compassionate Caregivers, located at 606 E. 4th street. The facility is one of those properly registered, but the location at 4th and Towne appears to run afoul of a new requirement that dispensaries be at least 1000 feet from such sensitive uses as schools, libraries and substance abuse rehabilitation centers. The site is approximately 600 feet from the Fred Jordan Mission and roughly 700 feet from Centenary United Methodist Church.

The dispensary will have 180 days to find a compliant location once the ordinance is made law.

Vernon will be glad to see the collectives zoned out of Skid Row. “It’s ironic and a bit perplexing that two medical marijuana clinics can operate one block apart in the largest drug recovery area in Southern California,” he said.

The two suspects are described as hispanic, 25 to 30 years old and approximately 5'8". The arm who pulled a gun is said to be "a pretty boy with good teeth."

While no shots were fired in Monday's robbery, Vernon listed two other recent dispensary robberies where gunfire did take place, including one last September on 17th street. “We did not even know that clinic existed until the shooting occurred,” Vernon said. “Clinic workers wrote off the event as upset rival sellers trying to intimidate them, rather than an attempted robbery.”

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