Two weeks before the San Diego City Council is set to discuss a new medical marijuana ordinance, the Code Enforcement department, under the direction of city attorney Jan Goldsmith, remains poised to shut down and file lawsuits against dispensary owners as well as the landlords who lease space to them.
On February 7, deputy city attorney Jon Dwyer, on behalf of the city, filed a legal complaint against Hrachia Azizyan, owner of Pacific Beach Collective, and Howard F. Barton, the trustee who owns the building located at 4925-4970 Cass Street.
Since the 2011 medical marijuana ordinance was repealed, dispensary and collective owners have operated in secret. For the span of a few months, dispensary owners were given a reprieve when then-mayor Bob Filner directed Goldsmith and his office to stand down on enforcement until an ordinance could be drafted. Then came the sexual harassment allegations and later Filner's resignation from office.
Not long after, interim mayor Todd Gloria announced that Code Enforcement was back on the hunt for illegal dispensaries. Since, Goldsmith and his attorneys have filed several lawsuits. And, by including the property owner in the lawsuit, the city attorney shows he is out for bud.
Finding the shops, however, isn't as easy as it once was. Land-development investigators have been forced to log on to popular internet sites such as Yelp! for clues. That was the case in October of last year for Mari-Medic Farmacy and Medicated, both in Pacific Beach, as well as for Azizyan and his PB Collective.
According the the lawsuit, after receiving a complaint from a local resident, land-development investigator Leslie M. Sennett logged on to the internet to find evidence of an illegal dispensary at the location. Sennet and a colleague visited the property on September 12 but were unable to find any evidence of marijuana. Despite the lack of evidence, Azizyan admitted to them that he was filling medicinal marijuana prescriptions on the premises.
Sennet informed Azizyan to shut the shop down. Four months later, after finding advertisements for the shop, Sennet paid another visit to the location. Once there, she "saw an exterior electric green-cross sign and smelled the odor of marijuana from the public right of way."
"Absent the relief requested by Plaintiff, the City is unable to enforce its zoning laws and therefore unable to ensure compatibility between land uses. Irreparable harm will be suffered by Plaintiff in that the City's land use scheme and regulations under the Municipal Code become meaningless and the public is left unprotected from the direct and indirect negative effects associated with unpermitted and incompatible uses in their neighborhoods," reads the complaint.
The city is asking that the shop be closed once and for all. Until then, for each day the shop remains open for business, Azizyan and his co-defendants will be slapped with a $2500 fine.
While the city pursues the lawsuit, the city council will be discussing a new ordinance during a February 25 hearing, as first reported last week by the Reader.