The interior of Limitless Care Collective in Pacific Beach that was raided Tuesday. Courtesy City Attorney's Office
The interior of Limitless Care Collective in Pacific Beach that was raided Tuesday. Courtesy City Attorney’s Office

San Diego Police and the City Attorney’s Office launched a crackdown this week on illegal marijuana dispensaries that operate without city permits in competition with the city’s 14 legal providers.

Operators of two such dispensaries, in Mira Mesa and Mount Hope, were arraigned Monday on criminal charges of illegally operating a marijuana dispensary in violation of zoning regulations. The defendants face penalties of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each count.

Evidence for a third criminal prosecution was obtained Tuesday when San Diego Police executed a search warrant on Limitless Care Collective, a Pacific Beach dispensary that was ordered closed in August 2015.

The City Attorney’s Office has closed nearly 300 illegal dispensaries, including 242 that were shut down through court orders. Additionally, it has secured more than $2 million in civil penalties against the most flagrant violators.

The success of the civil enforcement effort has led illegal operators to change tactics, and the City Attorney’s Office said it has responded in kind, seeking tougher sanctions and targeting holdout dispensaries that flout the law and defy court orders.

“These last remaining illegal pot shops are being run by criminals and we’re not messing around with them,” City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said. “These outlaw dispensary operators and their landlords need to know their time is up. There will continue to be raids and arrests, and we will seek convictions and jail time for operators and landlords.”

Goldsmith noted that San Diego has 14 permitted medical marijuana dispensaries that underwent a lengthy approval process to ensure their premises are safe, their employees have clean records, and that community concerns were addressed. Legal marijuana dispensaries pay taxes, meet health and safety codes and are subject to inspection.

Illegal dispensaries lack safeguards, and past raids have discovered narcotics, weapons and employees with warrants, he said.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.