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South Bay Roundup: Chula Vista Wants To Crack Down On Illegal Pot Shops

A marijuana plant is displayed during the 2016 Cannabis Business Summit & Expo last month in Oakland, Calif.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images
A marijuana plant is displayed during the 2016 Cannabis Business Summit & Expo last month in Oakland, Calif.

South Bay Roundup: Chula Vista Wants To Crack Down On Illegal Pot Shops
South Bay Roundup: Chula Vista Wants To Crack Down On Illegal Pot Shops GUEST: Robert Moreno, reporter, The Star News

Within the next two months there's a good chance California will vote to legalize recreational marijuana. Recently, polls showed ball over 50% voting in favor of proposition 64, that's a week shift since 2010 154% voted no. At the city level, the support from medicinal use does not always appear to be so high. In Chula Vista the Council may vote tonight to slap criminal penalties on pop chops that continue to operate within city limits. Here to explain the mood in Chula Vista is Robert Marino of The Star News. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for having me. Chula Vista and medical marijuana dispensaries. What was the argument? The initial argument was simple, the Council feared there was going to be an increase in crime if there were medical marijuana dispensaries. They wanted to keep this out of the hands of children, it could be easy access and it boils down to a quality-of-life issue. Tonight, the Council will consider increasing penalties for pot shops operating illegally, how will they change? Tonight is the second reading before the adoption of the ordinance or the amending of the ordinance. The penalty will change as far as being civil penalties, now they have criminal enforcement. Fines of up to with thousand dollars a day for a legal operations and in some cases the city will file lawsuits and duke it out in court to get the dispensaries shut down. If they dispensary owner continues to disregard the law the city will have the ability to prosecute them criminally for a misdemeanor. Why are so many dispensaries able to operate illegally? Are there not enough code enforcement officers? The city is understaffed and code enforcement and these dispensary owners have no regard for the law. They just open up and they don't care about the law. It's also hard to find where they are located, the city has a hard time identifying them and which ones are operating. On several occasions the city would force a cease-and-desist letter and that was disregarded. They make enough money to pay the fines. Perhaps, that the reason they think criminal charges might make a difference. I understand the Council voted unanimously in favor of this proposal weeks ago. Is there any opposition to criminalizing dispensaries? Yes. The Council voted in favor, unanimously. They agreed on harsher penalties to shut down these dispensaries. On social media that has been a debate going on with several people, who are against criminal enforcement. They are saying this shows a lack of understanding by the city Council that city is facing at tax measure on the ballot at Chula Vista and is looking for more enforcement. Those were opposed argue medicinal marijuana has been legal since 1996, Chula Vista Council is living in the old ages. We are in 2016, it's time to get with the program. It's not keeping up with the mood of the state. What about other cities in San Diego County? Is Chula Vista more severe than any other city or other other cities? Chula Vista is using -- will be using the same reinforcement as Vista Bay. I don't know how successful that's been. The city has told me, Chula Vista has told me it has been successful for Vista Bay, no more dispensaries operate in that city. How might the passage of proposition 64, if it passes statewide, how might that affect Chula Vista's crackdown? I don't know. I think pop 64 give some control to the city. The city can still design it, whether or not and how they want to handle the dispensaries. We wanted to ask you about other news in the South Bay, there will be an opening for new police chief in Chula Vista? Yes. The chief announced his retirement last Thursday, he will retire December 30. There is no word as to who will succeed him or the process to find his replacement. The mayor did hint that she had plans -- or she would like to see an outside search. The chief had a 35 law enforcement career, he's been the chief here for seven years. When he signed on, he signed up for five years. He stayed longer than intended. Thank you, for the update Robert. Robert Marino of The Star News.

A majority of California voters might say they're in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana but leaders in the South Bay are taking the opposite approach when it comes to marijuana dispensaries.


The Chula Vista City Council tonight will vote on whether to increase penalties for medical marijuana dispensaries operating illegally in the city.

In 2011 the city banned pot shops but that hasn't prevented from about a dozen from operating.

Under the proposed changes, pot shop owners could face criminal chargers and fines in excess of $100,000.

Also in Chula Vista, the city will soon be looking to hire a new police chief. Longtime Chief David Bejarano announced his retirement last week.

Robert Moreno, reporter with The Star News, will talk about Bejarano's legacy and other issues making headlines in the South Bay Tuesday on KPBS Midday Edition.

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