It's all over for Green Cross in Torrance

November 02, 2006

Ian Hanigan , Daily Breeze

Torrance's lone medical marijuana dispensary has been officially shut down -- for good, it seems.

Two days after police revoked the business license of the Green Cross of Torrance, a city board upheld the action Thursday during a 35-minute public hearing at City Hall.

Green Cross representatives did not attend the city's License Review Board meeting, and only one woman spoke on the dispensary's behalf.

In the end, the three-member panel agreed with Assistant City Attorney Ronald Pohl that Green Cross was in violation of a Municipal Code section barring businesses that engage in unlawful practices.

"I think what happened today reflected the will of the City Council when they made it clear that businesses in Torrance have to comply with local, state and federal law," Pohl said afterward.

Though California voters passed a proposition in 1996 that permits marijuana for certain medical ailments, the drug's use, possession and distribution remains illegal under federal law.

Moreover, Pohl said a state Senate bill that allows patients and primary caregivers to grow and cultivate medicinal pot does not authorize the establishment of storefront businesses.

The Green Cross operated out of its storefront at 22926 Hawthorne Blvd. for a little more than six months.

After local officials expressed some concern, the City Council voted this summer to deny business licenses to future medical marijuana dispensaries and other commercial ventures that violate federal law.

Torrance wasn't alone. Other local cities to recently pass temporary or permanent bans on so-called co-ops include Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Lomita, Rancho Palos Verdes and Redondo Beach.

Meanwhile, Green Cross continued to take customers, as its license was valid through December. But on Oct. 19, the business was raided by Drug Enforcement Administration agents, who confiscated about 163 pounds of cannabis contraband, including some edible items.

A search warrant affidavit filed by the DEA said there was probable cause to believe that director Ubaldo Chavez -- also known as Rafael Chavez -- and his brother were selling pot to individuals with no medical need.

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