Illegal Marijuana Dispensaries Hide in Plain Sight in Chula Vista

Some are getting pretty creative in their effort to keep clandestine.

Illegal marijuana dispensaries continue to pop up all over Chula Vista and the city is having a hard time keeping up and shutting them down.

Some are getting pretty creative in their effort to keep clandestine.

One example is open on Broadway in a strip mall with a giant canopy sign that says "Thrift Store." With nothing more than an address and a white-decal "You Are Here" sign over a facade of tinted glass, it's easy to miss what you're about to walk into.

"I opened the door but I didn't see anything, so I asked the girl in there if there was a thrift store and she said no, it's a dispensary," a woman told NBC 7 as she walked away from the building.

It’s one of many illegal marijuana dispensaries plaguing Chula Vista. Right now, no dispensaries are allowed within the city.

The illegal shops run untaxed. When operators are caught they are shut down and pay fines a, but then move on to the next spot.

Customers of the dispensary on Broadway told NBC 7 it has been there for about two weeks. Before that, it was down the street.

"This place is 24 hours. it's pretty much the only place I know that's 24 hours. A lot of people know about it," said customer Rob Rogers.

The extra business, brings some extra concern from people who live nearby.

An elementary school is around the corner and a high school is down the street.

"You never know who's buying for who. And then the school is around the corner there. You never know what's going to happen," said neighbor George Barr.

The city is trying to get the problem under control with Measure Q on November's ballot, where voters will decide if shops can legally open up, or none will be allowed in the city; and either way, it will be strictly enforced.

"They have spinners outside advertising. They're really being bold and aggressive. We really need to be able to reign that in and control the situation here in Chula Vista," explained Chula Vista’s Mayor, Mary Casillas Salas.

Measure Q stipulates an eight-dispensary maximum in the city, and if the maximum is reached then only four additional delivery services will be allowed.

Supporters of Measure Q say it’s a big deal because if voters don't approve it, things will stay just like they are now: Absolutely no legal marijuana manufacturing or dispensaries within city limits.

If the yes votes prevail, that means licensed shops can open up and the city can tax manufacturing, cultivation and testing sites, as well as dispensaries and delivery services anywhere from 5 to 15 percent.

Manufacturing, cultivation and testing will be limited to industrial-zoned sites only, and those establishments will have to qualify for a permit.

"We will not grant a license to anybody who has been operating illegally," Casillas Salas said.

Every applicant will have to pass a criminal background check, financial check, and have their site approved through the whole permit process. They’ll also need a plan for security and money handling.

According to City Councilmembers, some of the revenue from the tax would go toward setting up an enforcement unit focused on regulating legal pot shops and shutting down illegal ones. The rest of the revenue would go into the general fund.

Contact Us