Prosecutors revealed Tuesday that more than marijuana was found at a dispensary operating illegally in Southern California.
The investigation into Market Greens at 4255 Market Avenue in Mt. Hope started when undercover San Diego police officers bought cocaine from dealers at the dispensary, according to SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman.
The buy gave investigators enough evidence to obtain a search warrant, which they served to the business on Oct. 14. Officers immediately zoned in on a locked door where the product was kept.
When an employee refused to let them in, they forced entry, only to be confronted by an armed man inside. The man reached for his gun in his waistband but soon stood down when police identified themselves, Zimmerman said.
Officers discovered cocaine, marijuana edibles and four handguns — one of which was reported stolen — in the product room.
Five people have since been arrested.
"Illegal dispensaries can be dangerous places, as evident by the fact that a convicted felon was found on the premises of Market Greens in possession of a weapon,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.
That felon will be prosecuted by the U.S. attorney’s office, while another will be prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office for possession of cocaine for sale, according to Goldsmith.
After identifying the illicit operation, it took a few months for investigators to discover who was operating it. In the meantime, prosecutors went after the property owners, as they do with any illegal marijuana dispensary — whether the owner was involved or not.
"It's a clear message,” said Goldsmith. “Don't rent to them, don't frequent them. Report them to law enforcement."
When investigators identified the operator as Nathan Schuh, they expanded the court order to include him as well as the property owners. Market Greens was shut down on Oct. 22.
Zimmerman said the SDPD is ramping up its efforts to identify and shut down illegal dispensaries, and they know of at least 40 others still operating in the city.
However, Goldsmith wanted to make one thing clear: his office is not attacking medical marijuana itself.
“Our office is focused only on zoning violations. That’s it. We’re not after shutting down marijuana, as far as medical marijuana is concerned,” he said.
The city now has a process to approve legally zoned operations, which must provide conditions like security guards, surveillance cameras and alarms, posting the name and number of an operator, employee background checks and fingerprinting.
Goldsmith said he hopes future dispensaries go through the proper channels to avoid prosecution and potential violence, since the cash-based businesses are targets for robberies.
In April, one person was killed when two suspects tried to hold up an illegal dispensary in North Park.