$18 Shattered

By Benjie Cooper

IG: @nuglifenews

YouTube: Lucid’s Vlog

On the morning of July 19, the City of Vista pulled the plug on the latest dispensary to be caught up in an ongoing string of crackdowns on unzoned medical cannabis shops. Sheriffs’ COPPS enforcement officers executed a search warrant at $18 Shatter (previously Green Star Collective) on the corner of Vista Village Drive and Hillside Terrace after receiving a number of complaints about the dispensary’s location.

The plain-looking dispensary is located across the street from Vista Magnet School and Wildwood Park and only about a block away from city hall. The shop has had incidents with law enforcement in the past but has always managed to reopen. Dispensaries are like hydras in that sometimes when one of them is shut down, two or more will open to replace it.

During the raid, police seized over 15 pounds of cannabis flower, 16 pounds of concentrates, 4 pounds of pre-rolls, edibles, and more than $3,500 in cash. Officers also took other products such as scales, pipes, bongs, vape pens, and other accessories. The Vista Fire Department was called to the location as well because of wiring that officers claimed to be an immediate fire hazard.

One unnamed employee was arrested and cited for maintaining a public nuisance and continuously violating Vista’s ban on marijuana outlets of any kind.

The shutdown of $18 Shatter marks the 15th dispensary that Vista has raided in the past twelve months and the 39th since the beginning of 2014. An average of about one raid a month. Since 2013, the city has spent more than $1 million raiding unzoned dispensaries instead of taxing and regulating them. The result is a seemingly endless parade of asset and record seizures, employee and patient arrests, and destroyed personal property.

The subject of dispensary taxation and regulation was debated at length in meetings earlier this year during which council members discussed possible solutions and heard testimony from many medical cannabis patients, some of them with severe and debilitating conditions. At a meeting on May 9, the Vista City Council commissioned a $35,000 survey to try and get a better picture of residents’ feelings on the matter.

Vistans for Safe Community Access (VSCA) is currently circulating and now close to gathering enough signatures for a citizen’s initiative that would allow for at least ten medical marijuana dispensaries to be licensed and zoned for operation within city limits. The group submitted a similar initiative with the required number of signatures earlier this year, but a clerk deemed it invalid after noticing a titling discrepancy in the document. In response to the VSCA initiative, and dovetailing with the citizen poll they’ve conducted, the Vista City Council has their own proposal which would allow two heavily regulated dispensaries of the city’s choosing to open their doors and operate in town.

The City Council has made it known that it is in favor of taxing and regulating dispensaries, but it now faces a dilemma. With the way the laws work, the city would not be able to collect taxes from their two medical marijuana shops under the terms of their own proposal. But under VSCA’s citizen initiative, a voluntary 15% tax would be paid to the city by at least ten dispensaries. The council must decide whether they want to squash outside medical marijuana shops to run their own, or license them and collect the tax money.

$18 Shatter is the latest but may not be the last casualty of Vista’s ongoing series of dispensary crackdown episodes as neither VSCA nor the council’s initiative is quite ready for a vote; so the shops still can’t be zoned for operation. Council members are on recess at the moment, and the citizen initiative still needs more signatures. Until the dispensary owners are able to obtain proper licenses, the city will likely continue to shut them down. Which may turn out to be all of them if the council’s proposal is the one that ends up being used. The council is expected to vote on the matter in early August.