After struggling for years, Pasadena officials say they’ve shuttered the city’s last-standing unlicensed cannabis dispensary, marking a capstone on an eight-year push.
Although the endeavor began in 2012, progress was not slow and steady. It was just slow — until August 2018. That’s when the city’s tedious, expensive and ineffective process — often hamstrung by uncoordinated efforts — was transformed into an aggressive and ruthlessly efficient multidepartment force, city officials said.
For those first six years, Pasadena spent more than $1 million to close nine storefronts, Chief Assistant City Prosecutor Michael Dowd said in an interview. It was hardly the proverbial drop in the bucket.
As officials moved to close shop down, another would pop up, forcing authorities into a game of marijuana whack-a-mole. At its peak, at least 28 unlicensed dispensaries were operating simultaneously within city limits, Dowd said.
It’s not like the shops have stopped popping up today. The last one to close, Kush 20 House, had only opened three months ago, Dowd said. He expects illegal operators to continue to open shop, but the difference now is the city’s new strategy to quickly close them down.
Since August 2018, the city spent less than $200,000 to close 25 dispensaries, he said. That means the price of closing a single illegal dispensary dropped from more than $111,000 to less than $8,000. Dowd credited the success to a coordinated effort across several city departments.
Instead of the city’s zoning enforcement officials chasing down some dispensaries while the City Attorney’s Office pursued others, both departments coordinated with one another and law enforcement to move simultaneously against offenders.
“Where before we only used one or two tools, now we use the entire arsenal against them,” Dowd said.
Dowd was part of the coordinated effort, now known as the Pasadena Marijuana Dispensary Suppression