By Sabrina Martinez, Osvaldo Rayas and Rie Fuerte
Illegal marijuana shops are running rampant in Spring Valley and we want them gone. All of them.
On Jan. 1, adult-use recreational marijuana became legal in the state of California. We, however, have been dealing with the problems associated with marijuana for a long time. It has infiltrated our communities, businesses, friends, neighbors and families.
Illegal dispensaries need to be stopped and the East County Youth Coalition is doing its part by educating the community about this issue.
Students from the East County Youth Coalition at Mount Miguel High School walked up and down Troy Street in Spring Valley in March, depicting what the walk to and from school is like for us. Four illegal dispensaries resided within four blocks of each other at the time.
The “Green Mile,” as some like to say, is a target for high crime, public safety issues and a drain on the San Diego Sheriff’s Rancho San Diego Station resources. We presented our photo essay to the Spring Valley Youth and Family Coalition, where most of the community outreach leaders were unaware that these pot stores are operating illegally.
That’s why we chose to do this project. The community needs more education on what is happening in its own backyard with illegal marijuana dispensaries.
It is illegal to sell marijuana in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County, including Spring Valley, La Presa, Casa de Oro and surrounding neighborhoods. It is legal to use marijuana for both recreational and medical use, however it is illegal to sell it. These illegal marijuana retailers in San Diego County seem to locate only in poorer neighborhoods like Spring Valley.
They also seem to gather next to public parks and schools, where our friends and other kids hang out. Not only that, it generates a safety concern for both students who walk to school, and people residing in neighborhoods.
Since the illegal establishment of these pot markets, crime has increased in these surrounding areas. The dispensaries are cash-only businesses, which makes them more susceptible to crime. But when it comes to crimes being committed against the dispensaries or landlords, they will not report the crime because they are involved in an illegal business. The criminals are rarely caught and more and more crime will come and stay in our community.
Since we live in a low-income neighborhood, we are concerned that efforts to remove illegal dispensaries will probably take longer than if they popped up in La Jolla, Point Loma or Coronado. Those are rich tourist areas where these would never show up. The dispensaries bring crime. Since the dispensaries do not report when they are robbed, the crime stays in our community.
Sheriff’s deputies recently raided an illegal marijuana store on Troy Street and shut it down for the second time. The owner ignored the law after being shut down the first time. The building was boarded up and surrounded by a temporary fence to make sure it doesn’t open again. If that’s what it takes to keep these businesses out of our neighborhood, then let’s support deputies and county code enforcement in their efforts.
Our fight is not with marijuana itself, but with these illegal dispensaries that bring crime and a negative impact on our community.
We do not deserve to be surrounded by crime just because we make less money.
We want change.
We want these illegal businesses out of our community now.
Sabrina Martinez, Osvaldo Rayas and Rie Fuerte are Mount Miguel High School students and members of the East County Youth Coalition.
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