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At about 7 a.m. on March 20, a blaze anxiety went off central a characterless barn in the 1100 block of East 17th Artery in Santa Ana, abreast the 5 freeway. It’s cryptic if addition pulled the anxiety or if article abroad triggered the device, but there was allegedly no blaze central the building.
When Orange County Blaze Authority units formed up to the location, sirens blaring, they saw no bonfire or smoke, aloof bristles men jumping into abstracted cartage and antagonism abroad from the scene. By 10:45 a.m., badge had acquired a accreditation to chase the building, which was locked–even the fire-escape doors had been anchored with 3-inch chains. “Had there been an absolute fire, cipher would accept fabricated it out,” remarked badge agent Corporal Anthony Bertagna. “Those chains were huge.”
The abstruseness of the dematerialization men was bound explained by what badge apparent central the warehouse: added than 1,600 marijuana plants disconnected into assorted apartment for altered stages of development. The adult abound operation had its own intricate lighting and irrigation systems and was still beneath construction, although, for accessible reasons, cipher had activated for burghal permits to do the work. The absolute account of the haul, according to a accompaniment marijuana-street-value blueprint cited by Bertagna, was $2.9 million.
The actionable pot abound was hardly the aboriginal one apparent aural burghal banned in contempo years. In aloof one archetype from March 2011, badge begin what they alleged one of “the bigger and best high-tech” grows they’d anytime witnessed central a 61,000-square-foot architecture able of bearing $120,000 of pot per week. And as afresh as Feb. 5, afterwards a adviser notified badge about a absolute agent in the 600 block of South Santa Fe Street, cops apparent about 2,100 marijuana plants central what Bertagna referred to as a “marijuana factory” with a dozen altered abound rooms, an operation so all-inclusive it had overdrawn its electrical supply.
“They had 10 to 13 air-conditioning units put in afterwards authoritative any change to the electrical setup,” Bertagna complained. “That’s why the transformers started blowing, and why you accept to get permits and cipher administration requires you to advancement the system.”
The actuality that no permits had been pulled for electrical assignment at the architecture is no shock. Growing marijuana has been actionable in Santa Ana beneath a burghal ban that has been in abode aback 2007. As the Weekly ahead appear (see “Santa Ana’s Abundant Pot Raid,” Aug. 14, 2014), as added cities throughout Orange County–particularly Anaheim, Lake Forest, Garden Grove and Costa Mesa–have apprenticed dispensaries out of town, Santa Ana has become article of a aftermost angle for medical marijuana. Admitting the massive arrest by burghal cops of 24 dispensaries aftermost July, which resulted in the arrest of about 70 people, almost 100 rogue dispensaries and commitment casework abide to accomplish in abuse of burghal law. Meanwhile, not a cent of the untold bags of dollars of circadian donations calm from patients goes to burghal coffers in the anatomy of tax revenue.
But all of that is about to change. On Nov. 4, 2014, an cutting majority of Santa Ana voters–65.9 percent, to be exact–approved Admeasurement BB, Orange County’s aboriginal voter-backed action acute burghal admiral to acquiesce medical-marijuana dispensaries to accessible their doors.
The admeasurement accustomed for applicants to attempt in a action that would aftereffect in the enactment of 20 dispensaries and had been put on the election by burghal admiral to attempt with a citizen-backed action alleged the “Santa Ana Medical Cannabis Restriction and Limitation Initiative,” which, admitting its title, independent no set absolute on the cardinal of dispensaries that would be accustomed to open.
On Feb. 5–the above day cops raided the abound abode that blew the above electrical transformer–the burghal captivated its lottery. From a absolute of 660 balls, anniversary one apery individuals and corporations that had paid added than $1,500 in appliance fees, admiral drew 20 balls. Action losers were automatically placed on a diffuse cat-and-mouse list; the 20 victors would abide a 60-day cat-and-mouse aeon while the Santa Ana Badge Administration conducted bent accomplishments checks. Anyone who fails to canyon aggregation loses their atom to the abutting actuality on the cat-and-mouse list.
Under Admeasurement BB, cipher beneath the age of 21 will be accustomed central the dispensaries, which charge be amid at atomic 500 anxiety abroad from one addition and at atomic 1,000 anxiety abroad from a school, esplanade or residential area. The burghal will accept a 5 percent tax on all pot sales, money that will advice pay for a law-enforcement aggregation of cops and code-enforcement agents who will adapt the dispensaries. Perhaps the best cogent mandate–and best ironic, accustomed the city’s allegedly booming actionable marijuana-cultivation industry–is that none of the dispensaries will be accustomed to abound marijuana onsite.
On a contempo backward weekday morning–so backward it’s abutting on noon, really–one of the Admeasurement BB winners is adequate on a wraparound couch central a second-story abode aural a gated association aloof a stone’s bandy from South Coast Plaza. Latino and in his mid-40s, he’s cutting a atramentous brawl cap and a red-T-shirt, from which appendage heavily active arms. He leans forward, elbows acclaim comatose on his knees, with his eyes anchored on a flat-screen TV aerial on the active allowance bank assuming CNN’s advantage of the latest ISIS news.
The man’s name is Louis Freese, but he’s bigger accepted by his date name, B-Real, the nasally accurate rapper and advance songwriter of the platinum-selling and legendarily pot-centric LA hip-hop accumulation Cypress Hill. Beneath the TV are several shelves ample with big-ticket German bottle pipes afresh aureate in from arch shops in Amsterdam. On the bottle coffee table is a assemblage of column cards featuring an analogy of Dr. Greenthumb, a man in an Afro and sunglasses, and emblazoned with the words “Thank you Santa Ana!”
If anyone in the rap apple is alike with the anniversary of all things marijuana, it’s B-Real. Cypress Hill’s first, eponymous anthology appeared in 1991, a acceptable year afore Dr. Dre’s The Chronic brought Snoop Dogg to common acclaim and anchored West Coast bandit rap’s weed-friendly reputation. The accumulation accumulated B-Real’s impish, darkly amusing rhymes and Sen Dog’s baritone advancement vocals with DJ Muggs’ blue beats. With songs such as “Light Another,” “Insane In the Brain” and “Hits From the Bong,” Cypress Hill not alone went platinum, but additionally became the aboriginal above hip-hop act to embrace marijuana culture.
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Sitting abutting to B-Real in the address is his manager, Enas Barkho, who doubles as B-Real’s accomplice in the soon-to-open Dr. Greenthumb dispensary. Behind them, built-in at a annular table in the kitchen, is their arrangement secretary, a tall, attenuate Latina who is talking on her corpuscle phone, badly blame aback B-Real’s accessories for the day.
Across the coffee table from B-Real and Barkho is their attorney, Christopher Glew, one of the best accomplished medical-marijuana attorneys in California, who is anecdotic the camp way Santa Ana has approved to authorize the state’s aboriginal voter-backed, city-supported medical-marijuana marketplace. Because the burghal put no absolute on the cardinal of applications it would accede for the lottery, deep-pocketed applicants were chargeless to actualize as abounding corporations as they capital to attempt for the accessible addresses that would authorize for the city’s marijuana ordinance.
“Effectively, they blimp the election box,” argues Glew, who is cutting a pin-striped clothing as he leans aback in a abreast lounge chair. “Meanwhile, the action said that all dispensaries had to be in operation above-mentioned to the application, but they couldn’t be operating in abuse of the Santa Ana ordinance, which doesn’t accomplish faculty because if you were operating, you were actionable the ordinance.”
The dozens of collectives that accept operated in Santa Ana for years but absent at the action are reportedly because article forth the curve of a class-action lawsuit. “A lot of bodies who are accessible in Santa Ana appropriate now anticipate if they get the authorization attempt down, that will acquiesce them to break in operation,” Glew says. “Several attorneys accept the abstraction of advancing in and saying, ‘We appetite an injunction; we appetite to stop this,’ but the botheration is cipher wants to pay for it appropriate now.”
Together, Glew and advocate Randall Longwith–director of the Orange County affiliate for Americans for Safe Access, who helped accumulate signatures for Admeasurement BB–represent the 20 action winners. Some of their audience were already operating storefronts in abuse of the city’s ban, while the rest, including B-Real’s Dr. Greenthumb, accept yet to set up shop. Glew says they are a assorted crowd. “There are some characters,” he says vaguely. “Some bodies accept very, I would say, altruistic motives, and others accept had a able attendance in the cannabis association for years, bodies like B-Real that assuredly accept an aperture to accurate themselves legally.”
As B-Real tells it, marijuana was consistently allotment of his life, able-bodied afore Cypress Hill. “It was allotment of our accustomed lives,” he says. “We grew up adulatory it, account about it in Aerial Times magazine, growing it in our aback yards, burglary it from our neighbors who were growing it.”
By the time he was a jailbait in the mid- to backward 1980s, B-Real was active in South Gate and blind out in a Bloods-affiliated artery assemblage alleged Families with his adolescence acquaintance and approaching Cypress Hill bandage acquaintance Senen Reyes, a.k.a. Sen Dog, whose brother already had a almanac deal.
“They asked me to appear address some actuality for them, and I acquainted like I had annihilation to lose, active the activity I was active at the time, so I got apathetic by the music bug,” says B-Real. “Music appealing abundant adored me. I knew I was either activity to do music or break [in the gang] and apparently end up in a penitentiary in a few years, or a grave or bedridden because those are the three scenarios.”
Cypress Hill was built-in aback Sen Dog and B-Real absorbed up with a half-Norwegian, half-Italian ambassador from Queens called Lawrence Muggerud, a.k.a. DJ Muggs, whose turntables brought a audibly awakening aggregate of wah-wah-saturated guitar riffs, bass and horns to the mix. The accumulation took its name from the artery on which Sen Dog lived in South Gate, Cypress Avenue, as able-bodied as an absolute adjacency adjoining Queens and Brooklyn that was featured in the 1983 graffiti-artist cine Wild Style.
Unlike best added LA-based rap groups who approved to challenge N.W.A, Cypress Hill advisedly acclimated amusement to get their bulletin across. The band’s aboriginal anthology opens with the song “Pigs,” which describes assorted badge admiral as corrupt, apathetic or closeted gays and which B-Real says was afflicted by his adolescence memories of actuality addled by cops. “The one affair we capital to do was not boost belletrist bottomward peoples’ throats,” he says. “We are adage some austere shit, but in a way that will accomplish you beam because we are affectionate of authoritative fun of it.”
Another clue on the album, “Light Another,” began Cypress Hill’s accessible identification with adulatory pot culture, a affect that was additionally reflected in the band’s logo, a pot blade superimposed on a skull. Whenever Cypress Hill played live, including a approved aperture on the Smokin’ Grooves Tour, they did so on a date accessory with marijuana-related props: an inflatable baron smoker a fat joint, a giant-size Buddha, an colossal pot leaf.
According to B-Real, Cypress Hill were anon scouted by pot-legalization groups such as the National Organization to Repeal Marijuana Laws (NORML). “It gave every adumbration that we were a bandage of stoners, and they approached us to see if we’d be absorbed in advancement the account and acceptable associates of NORML and educating bodies about the movement,” B-Real says. “We absolutely accepted that and did it for a acceptable connected time.”
When California voters anesthetized Proposition 215 in November 1996, authoritative it the aboriginal accompaniment to approve cannabis for alleviative purposes, the bandage acquainted vindicated in their embrace of pot, admitting the actuality they had done so at the amount of some bartering success. “At 19 actor annal awash worldwide, for any added band, this affords you some opportunities, but because our cast was associated with marijuana and the backroom of legalization, we were blackballed from a lot of things,” B-Real argues. “Like, Pepsi wasn’t activity to appear to Cypress Hill; brands such as that don’t appetite to be associated with marijuana culture. Although now that we accept 19 added states that accept legislation in place, it is added mainstream, and these accumulated entities are a little added cutting-edge and ability appetite to appear to us as ambassadors for their brand.”
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Over the accomplished decade, as Cypress Hill connected to advertise records, B-Real grew more absorbed in not aloof agitating for pot legalization, but additionally acceptable complex in the industry itself. On the band’s fourth album, Cypress Hill IV, he alien his pot-grower adapt ego, Dr. Greenthumb. “When I created that song, I started accomplishing things as that adapt ego, putting on events, throwing parties and involving myself in the culture,” B-Real says. Among added things, he created the web-based appearance B-Real TV to advice advertisement his anniversary of all things marijuana, abnormally his own indica strain, JetFuel OG, which was created from the aboriginal bulb that started the OG chic aback in the 1990s.
Despite the admeasurement of dispensaries in Los Angeles, B-Real insists he was never tempted to accessible his own shop. “What I did was body relationships with boutique owners to see what they were accomplishing and how they were accomplishing it,” he explains. “Some would absolutely run their shops bigger than others. But I didn’t appetite to jump in afterwards any protection, afterwards any applicable laws in place, because with Cypress Hill, we would accept faced so abundant analysis that we apparently would accept been shut bottomward by now.”
Lending Dr. Greenthumb’s name to an absolute berth was an abstraction that stemmed from B-Real’s accord with his manager, Barkho, who grew up in Costa Mesa and skipped academy to go into the recording industry. “Our accord formed over the adulation of marijuana,” Barkho says. “We both enjoyed smoker high-grade marijuana and became best friends, and the accustomed change was we became business partners.”
After Santa Ana voters anesthetized Admeasurement BB, Barkho and B-Real anon put calm affairs to accessible a Dr. Greenthumb dispensary. “Fortunately, we got a abundant befalling in Santa Ana to do it appropriately and accurately afterwards annoying about if we are activity to accessible up bottomward actuality and get shut bottomward in six months,” B-Real says. “We appetite to do appropriate by our fans, by our patients who ability not alike be music admirers but aloof appetite affection meds. It’s not about my name as an artist, it’s not about the Cypress Hill name; it’s about the patients who are advancing for the meds, aggravating to get the appropriate ambience that makes them adequate and accepting them the appropriate meds responsibly.”
There’s a lot that needs to appear afore Dr. Greenthumb becomes a reality, however. Afterwards the action winners were appear on Feb. 5, the burghal estimated it would booty 60 canicule to complete paperwork for the berth operators and run a badge administration accomplishments check. But according to Robert Cortez, a appropriate abettor to Santa Ana’s burghal manager, alone two of the action winners (Cortez banned to name them) accept so far submitted the paperwork, never apperception paid the anniversary $12,086 admittance fee that will acquiesce them to operate. “It looks like it’s demography best than we anticipated,” Cortez says.
On Feb. 6, the day afterwards the lottery, the burghal beatific belletrist to all the dispensaries that were operating in the burghal illegally, admonishing them they had until April 6 to shut down. Admitting the actuality that none of the acknowledged dispensaries will be accessible yet, Cortez confirms that borderline will be enforced. “Both cipher administration and badge admiral are allotment of the administration team,” he says. “So if it’s an actionable dispensary, we will accept to accomplish the ordinance.”
With the burghal absorbed on shutting bottomward absolute dispensaries abundant faster than it is able of allowing new ones appear complaints that patients who charge medication will lose out. “It’s my compassionate that the burghal alone has two individuals to analysis permits,” says advocate Longwith, who represents several of the action winners. “At this point, it’s a 12-week cat-and-mouse action afore they can alike get to review. That is activity to actualize a problem.”
Longwith ashamed off a laundry account of issues that charge to be bound afore the acknowledged dispensaries accessible for business. Although Admeasurement BB states that aegis guards should be present at the dispensaries, there is no accouterment for them to be armed. Accustomed that banks debris to actualize accounts for pot clubs, they accomplish on a cash-only basis, authoritative them accessible to blackmail robberies. And admitting the actuality that accompaniment law allows accustomed patients 18 and earlier to smoke cannabis, the city’s law will alone acquiesce adults 21 and earlier into the dispensaries. “There’s an affair appropriate now with attention to aggressive veterans who are advancing aback from war with PTSD, and they accept to accompany mommy in with them to get their medicine,” Longwith argues. “There has to be a way we can allocution about this and bright up some of these issues.”
While the burghal manager’s appointment works out those details, Longwith has organized the action winners into the Santa Ana Aggregate Association. According to Chris Eggers, business administrator with the Longwith Group, the group’s purpose is to actualize the “best practices” that will adviser the acknowledged dispensaries activity forward. “What we’re absolutely talking about is best convenance compliance,” Eggers says. “And best convenance operators tend to be bodies who do lab testing, accumulate copious annal with the state, pay taxes, adapt access. They are not a nuisance to their neighbors; they don’t accept odor issues, don’t advertise to amateur and don’t accept ties to abominable activities.”
One of Longwith’s clients, action champ Derek Worden, Eggers says, is an archetype of a “best convenance operator.” Worden operates South Coast Patients Association, which has enjoyed a connected attendance in Santa Ana admitting the city’s ban. “The best important affair to us is actuality able to accessible our doors [in our new location] the day they appetite to shut our doors,” Worden says, abacus that the majority of his collective’s associates are veterans and earlier patients with terminal illnesses. “The articles we accept for these patients don’t abide on the streets,” he says. “The alone abode you can go for it is a accurate medical-cannabis aggregate that lab tests the articles like we do.”
For his part, B-Real’s architect are already set able-bodied above the agitation over admission to medical marijuana. He predicts that California voters will approve marijuana for recreational purposes in 2016 and that abounding added cities will chase Santa Ana’s archetype in the abutting several months. “It behooves everybody to accomplish some money off this ability afore amends happens,” he says. “A lot of cities charge an beverage of revenue, and this 5 percent tax that Santa Ana will booty off the top goes beeline to the city. All these cities that don’t accept that tax are activity to appetite to get it.”
Although he has a active touring agenda with Cypress Hill, not to acknowledgment flat assignment and managing B-Real TV, the rapper insists he will be a big allotment of Dr. Greenthumb already it opens. “Most of the time, in my industry, bodies appear up to me and say, ‘I’ve got this befalling for you. We aloof appetite to use your name; we will accord you a percentage.’ It’s aloof a licensing deal,” he explains. “That’s not what this is to me because this has been a affection for me for 20-odd years, alike afore the music–passion for legalization, period. It’s absolute absolute for myself and Enas. It’s article we’ve consistently anticipation about and assuredly accept an befalling to do, and we’re absolute aflame about it.”
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @NickSchou. Chase OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!
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Award-winning analytic announcer Nick Schou is Editor of OC Weekly. He is the columnist of Kill the Messenger: How the CIA’s Crack Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Announcer Gary Webb (Nation Books 2006), which provided the base for the 2014 Focus Features absolution starring Jeremy Renner and the L.A. Times-bestseller Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love’s Quest to accompany Peace, Adulation and Acid to the World, (Thomas Dunne 2009). He is additionally the columnist of The Edger Runners (2013) and Spooked: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood (2016).
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