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Authorities raid Costa Mesa pot clinic

Some details of the medicinal marijuana advocates' accounts could not be independently verified with police.

March 08, 2012|By Lauren Williams

Three people were arrested in a Costa Mesa marijuana dispensary raid Thursday, according to medical pot advocates.

Local police and federal Department of Justice officials would confirm only that a federal search warrant was executed at about 11:30 a.m. at Bayside Patients Assn., 1799 Newport Blvd.

Some details of the advocates' accounts could not be independently verified with police.

Seized in the raid were about 10 pounds of marijuana and less than $1,000 in cash from a safe that was sawed open on the sidewalk, said Chico resident Weston Mickey, a campaign manager for collectives seeking to craft an initiative that would protect dispensaries from federal intervention.

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Mickey said about 15 Drug Enforcement Administration agents, along with about six Costa Mesa police and 12 Costa Mesa firefighters, were present when the search warrant was served.

Firefighters assisted DEA agents in opening the safe, Mickey said.

Images of the broken safe — reportedly opened by the urban search and rescue team — were posted on the Costa Mesa Firefighters Assn.'s Facebook page.

"It's a total shame they were raided," Mickey said, adding that raiding medical marijuana dispensaries undermines state medical marijuana laws, which in turns drives people to buy marijuana through illicit means that enrich cartels and the criminal drug market.

"We should not be chasing dispensaries around when our schools are underfunded," said Scott Allen, another advocate of medicinal marijuana. "There's better things to spend our money on."

Hours after the raid, customers continued to visit the dispensary, apparently unaware there had been arrests earlier that day and that the clinic had closed.

Mickey said the dispensary's owners received a code enforcement violation of $1,000 Wednesday.

In October, Costa Mesa city attorney Tom Duarte sent a letter to Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, asking that federal authorities intervene. Pot clinics are illegal in Costa Mesa and at the federal level.

"We believe that by working together with the U.S. Department of Justice, we can eradicate these illegal businesses from our city," Duarte wrote.

Earlier this year, Mayor Gary Monahan said he supported regulation, but not closure, of the city's dispensaries.

"We're looking at real closely registration and regulation, and hopefully weeding out some of the bad ones," Monahan said on the now-canceled "Cannabis Community" KOCI radio program in January. "If you're not paying workman's comp, if you're not taking care of your product, if you're putting bad things in there, that's where the police have to come in and got to get those people out of there."

Staff Writer Joseph Serna also contributed to this report.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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