By Emilie St. John
COMPTON — City officials gathered at the site of a shuttered illegal marijuana dispensary to provide an update on the progress the task force is making on April 20.
The task force consists of Compton City Attorney Eric Perrodin, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, city code enforcement officers, and their law partner David Welch with oversight from City Manager Thomas Thomas.
“I am pleased to report that the first six months, since the task force started, have shut down nine illegal dispensaries in the city of Compton,” Mayor Emma Sharif said. “Our task force has worked tirelessly to investigate and process these illegal operations.”
“Our task force has worked closely with the Sheriff’s Department to coordinate our efforts and ensure that we are utilizing all available resources to combat this problem,” Sharif added.
Sharif then introduced Councilwoman Deidre Duhart, who represents District 1.
“The accomplishments of the task force are a reflection of their unwavering commitment to creating a safer and more secure environment for our community,” Duhart said. “As the mayor alluded to, these illegal companies are selling more than marijuana. They sell other drugs, narcotics and weapons.”
The city displayed drugs and weapons confiscated by the task force.
“This increases crime and decreases safety in our neighborhoods and we will not stand for that,” Duhart added. “Public safety is No. 1 to us.”
District 2 Councilman Andre Spicer also gave remarks on his thoughts on the progress of the task force.
“I want to thank our task force in our community and far too long our residents have complained about the dispensaries,” Spicer said. “These businesses are attracting violence, murder, robberies, fights and are a nuisance to our neighborhoods.”
Residents voted against dispensaries in 2018 and the city is addressing the issue with the task force.
“This is what the community wants and desires,” said Spicer.
District 3 Councilman Jonathan Bowers was also on hand to discuss how the task force is improving public safety.
“I want to commend the members of the task force in achieving these results and to all the illegal businesses watching, take this as your warning to cease and desist before you are run out of town,” Bowers said.
District 4 Councilwoman Lillie Darden also thanked the task force for its hard work.
“In addition to the property we are standing in front of there is another property in my district that the task force successfully apprehended and is currently undergoing demolition,” Darden said.
“We are currently in litigation with 30 defendants of not only operators and their landlords and lenders who have provided financial support to these illegal uses,” Darden said.
The city has successfully put the two properties under a court receiver, which took away control of these properties from the landlord. The city also has submitted a request to collect more than $22 million in penalties and fees from one unlicensed operator and its landlord.
That request will be one of the largest judgments issued against an unlicensed marijuana operator in Los Angeles County history.
“We have successfully closed nine dispensaries that were operating for up to five years selling not only marijuana but other drugs and having guns on the premises,” Welch said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna was not present for the press conference. Capt. Terrence Bell, with the Compton Sheriff’s Station gave remarks in his place.
“The Sheriff’s Department is extremely proud of the model the city has crafted in regards to the approach they are taking to shut down dispensaries and we are willing to work with other cities to implement this model,” Bell said.
The task force was created under former Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
During the April 11 City Council meeting, members of the city council and attendees were given a list prepared by two residents which is alleged to identify dozens of businesses that they believe are illegal dispensaries.
The list contains the names of nearly six dozen Compton businesses that are alleged to be operating as “fronts” for illegal dispensaries. The list contains the owners’ name, value of the property, and whether they have a permit.
Some of the properties are allegedly owned by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, former Compton elected officials and a member of the Compton Chamber of Commerce.
The city has not confirmed the authenticity of the list.
Illegal marijuana dispensaries have been an ongoing issue dating back to 2017 when a former staffer to then-U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn was indicted on federal bribery charges related to accepting bribes from illegal dispensaries.
Michael Kimbrew was convicted in March 2018 for accepting $5,000 from a dispensary owner. Footage of the discussions between Kimbrew and the business owners were taken inside Hahn’s field office in Compton City Hall.
Kimbrew was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for his actions.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.