Increased efforts to curb illegal marijuana sales lead San Diego Police Department narcotics officers to a so-called “marijuana farmer’s market” in North Park Thursday where they detained and cited several vendors.
Queen Bee's Art and Cultural Center on Ohio Street in North Park is a popular place for just about everything from Zumba lessons to open mic nights and concerts.
On Thursday it was the gathering place for marijuana vendors, including some who don’t play by the rules.
SDPD officers raided the center at around 4:20 p.m. and arrested two men identified as the event organizers. More than 10 others were cited for illegal marijuana sales and business permit infractions.
SDPD said Friday that Narcotics Unit investigators have been looking into complaints about markets like the one at Queen Bee's at temporary locations across the county for months.
During their investigation, SDPD found 24-year-old Ramin Moghadam was organizing events for Ganja Galaxy at Queen Bee's and another venue in Ocean Beach.
Investigators are calling the events farmer’s markets because they host multiple vendors in booths, selling marijuana.
Police say the vendors sell marijuana and marijuana products -- in violation with local and state laws -- to hundreds of customers who attended the events.
SDPD did not say what exact laws were being violated.
According to SDPD, officers raided Queen Bee's before the event started so that only vendors and organizers, not customers, would be inside.
While SDPD says people are there to buy and sell, long-time event guest Brittany Hobson says marijuana samples are provided to guests, not bought and sold, and that there is no consumption allowed on the premises.
“I can speak to someone who knows about the brand, I can get samples so I can know something about these products,” Hobson said.
She says she feels safer getting cannabis from people she knows and trusts.
“If my friend says ‘Here, try this,’ and they are not demanding money from me, not expecting something, why not?” she said.
During the raid, SDPD said it found marijuana, marijuana edibles and marijuana concentrate, all for sale. Officers also found three concealed firearms in the venue and two more in vehicles outside.
Police also raided Moghadam's home in Carlsbad and found four more firearms and cash.
From both locations, SDPD seized around 90 pounds of "high-grade" marijuana, 6,000 edibles and concentrates, nine firearms and $100,000 in cash.
Police told NBC 7 Thursday the market at Queen Bee's has been operating for at least two months but guests say it's been operating for two years.
Guests pay a cover charge to get inside and gain access to the pot vendors.