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Land Use Committee Meeting Turns into Marijuana Education

Parents express concern, others offer support for local pot shops.

Some parents confessed that they knew that their kids—and their kids’ friends—have tried marijuana. Some parents even talked about smoking pot when they were in school—and now. 

And two medical marijuana distributors in Studio City gave a detailed explanation about what restrictions they face, what they do to enforce the rules, and why there are more in Studio City than all the , and in Studio City combined.

It was not your usual boring meeting. No, not in Studio City. 

“This whole thing began when I got calls over the New Year’s weekend of yet another medical marijuana shop that went up just under a group of homes,” said Lisa Sarkin, the chairman of the Land Use Committee of the Studio City Neighborhood Council.

The new shop went up at 11640 Ventura Blvd. it is only a few doors down from another at , just four doors away.

“I can see this new shop from my backyard, and sometimes I can smell marijuana,” Sarkin said. “Then, I went to up and down Ventura Boulevard and took pictures of all the ones I could still find in our area.”

Within a few miles, she found 11 existing pot shops, in a time where the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office is.

“I saw patients standing outside and smoking, I was told by police that they should not be smoking inside or outside these distribution places,” said Sarkin.

Jacob Nudel, of at 11048 Ventura Blvd., said, “Sometimes we burn some incense in our shop.”

Sarkin smirked and said, “I went to college in the ‘60s. I know what pot smells like. ... I don’t smoke pot, but I know the smell. I never did it, I was too scared.”

Sarkin said she invited representatives from all the shops—two showed up—and also from the politicians representing the area—none showed up.

“So, I wanted to hear from the community,” Sarkin said.

And she did. Denise Eliot, who has three children, the youngest in junior high, said, “My only evidence is anecdotal, but the pot smoking among children is out of control. It’s just as bad as in the ‘70s.” But the smokers are younger.

“This is a joke! We are a family community,” Eliot said. “This is wrong. It’s OK to have one or two that are very discrete, but not like this.”

Another Studio City mom, Lisa Thomas, has two elementary school children and a middle-schooler. “I’m concerned because this is not the kind of area I want them to grow up in,” she said. “It’s sad. I’m concerned. I don’t care for it.

The original plan in Los Angeles called for two marijuana distribution centers per 50,000 in population. Studio City has 38,000 residents, and about 5,000 to 6,000 workers a day coming to the (Radford Studios) where the meeting was being held, but 11 active distribution centers—at least half a dozen others have closed down or moved, and others are in nearby Toluca Lake, Universal City and North Hollywood. Only Echo Park is more concentrated within the Los Angeles City limits.

Actor and activist who is on the Land Use Committee asked, “I’m not sure I understand why there are 11. Would the demand not be satisfied with two instead of 11?”

Sam Humeid, president and CEO of the just outside the back gates of the CBS Radford lot, said his office sees about 20 to 25 people a day—many of them from the studios.

“If we have 30 people, it’s a busy day,” said Humeid, who has operated a distribution business for five years. “I could not handle more. I do not need that many customers. If there were only two [dispensaries] I would have lines out to the street.”

Humeid said that although he has no formal training, it is important to help his dispensary's members get one-on-one advice in the proper kind of cannabis for their ailments, and the members' permits are issued by doctors in advance.

John Lawler, a Studio City dad of a 4- and 9-year-old, said he is a military veteran with a neck injury. He showed his medical marijuana card and said, “I medicate.”

“There are those places that maintain their records and obey the law, and we have to trust our citizens with liberty," Lawler said. "The places should be classy. I am both for and against these dispensaries.”

Richard Adams, the newly appointed Crime & Safety Committee chairman for the Neighborhood Council, pointed out “This needs to be handled at the federal level. There are legitimate uses of medical marijuana, but they say it is illegal at a federal level.”

LAPD Senior Lead Office Mike Lewis said he has closely monitored criminal activity around the marijuana distributors and says there is no increase in crime, and in fact, there has been a decrease in reported crimes.

Humeid said his dispensary's clientele are average people. “I had an upscale clientele when my shop was in Sherman Oaks, and it is mostly 40-plus-year-old women who are looking for something different.”

Nudel, of YourTree, who said he has a medical card after suffering a motorcycle accident, said about 95 percent of his 20 to 40 customers a day come from the neighborhood.

“YourTree tries to impose the rules and regulations real hard,” Nudel said. “We make people sign a pledge to follow the rules, and if they don’t, we ban them from the location.”

Neighborhood Council member Denise Welvang, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, said it is far better to get this vetted marijuana medication than from someone on the street. “You know it is a better grade,” she said.

Humeid compares the pot growing to that of oranges. “We have multiple microscopes if you harvest too early too late, it has to be free of pesticides, free of mold and safe to put on the shelf,” he said.

The dispensaries pay taxes to the State Board of Equalization, and they also pay tax to the city.

“My store is always open to people who want to see it, I have nothing to hide,” Humeid said. “Ignorance breeds fear.”

Studio City Neighborhood Council member Rita Villa said she surprised herself by feeling supportive toward the marijuana dispensaries. “I think there are just too many in our little area in our community and I never thought I would be defending marijuana,” Villa said. “But statewide the voters have spoken on that matter and there should be some state’s rights.”

Sarkin pointed out some sign violations with the dispensaries, including temporary A-frames out in front of the stores, window signs, banners and a mural painted on the side of a wall. The Ventura Specific Corridor plan supersedes any city regulation.

Farrell said. “It seems that people have need for it. What should we as a community do?”

The committee formed an ad hoc committee led by Joann Deutch of the Land Use Committee, which will include business owners and citizens in suggesting possible actions the Neighborhood Council might take in regard to the proliferation of dispensaries.

“I hope this committee will help us get some things done,” Sarkin said. “I hope they will follow the rules they have and follow the regulations of the Ventura Specific Plan. And, that they don’t paint their businesses with that offensive green that looks so obnoxious.”

To find out more about the Land Use Committee and future meetings, click here: studiocitync.org

Clifford Schaffer January 18, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Just to keep things in perspective for any parents who may be reading this. The approximate number of people killed by drugs in the US in a typical year is as follows: Tobacco - 400,000 Cheeseburgers (obesity) - 350,000 Alcohol - 100,000 Prescription drugs - 100,000 All the illegal drugs combined, from all related causes - 20,000 Cocaine - 5,000 Meth - 5,000 Heroin - 3,000 Aspirin/Tylenol - 3,000 Water overdoses (drinking too much, not drowning) - 100 Marijuana - 0 In other words, any modern kid is at least 25 times as likely to wind up dying from the effects of alcohol than from any illegal drug. That isn't just because some drugs are illegal. The death ratios have always been in that basic proportion, no matter what the drug laws, and most of the illegal drugs have lower per user death rates than either alcohol or tobacco. So the biggest drug dangers to kids can be found right there on the shelf in your local grocery store.
Sam Humeid January 31, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Dear Michael, Perennial Holistic Wellness Center pays for the full expense of the valet parking as a courtesy to our neighbors and to improve public safety. As a not for profit business, community services like valet parking are part of our business plan and outreach programs. The free valet parking services are for use by every business and their customers of the Ventura/Colfax Plaza. The dry cleaners next door see approximately 400-600 people a day (their estimation). The two restaurants bring customers who spend considerable time enjoying their food, and the pharmacy and video store (now closed) also have customers that spend a considerable amount of time in them. Collectively our parking lot handles over 1000 cars per day. Of those less than 30 belong to our employees or patients. Before we opened, this parking lot was a source of constant trouble for the police. Almost daily cars were involved in accidents, screaming and fist fights broke out, and frustrated drivers would kamakazie in and out of the lot trying to find a parking space. Some of you may remember when someone crashed their car into Amir's Falafel a few years ago. Since Perennial Holistic Wellness Center re-opened in 2010, parking lot issues have diminished, neighboring business is up, and community morale is high. We are leading the way for other community oriented collectives to operate and find a semblance of peace between legal collectives and neighbors. Best Regards, Sam Humeid
Winghunter February 06, 2012 at 09:25 AM
Don't let idiots lie to you! A Clear Danger from Cannabis (Schizoprenia) http://bit.ly/2dyRwB MARIJUANA IS NOT MEDICINE Somebody Had Better Tell Your Doctor! http://bit.ly/ed9Acr
Winghunter February 06, 2012 at 09:27 AM
Don't let idiots lie to our faces! A Clear Danger from Cannabis (Schizoprenia) http://bit.ly/2dyRwB MARIJUANA IS NOT MEDICINE Somebody Had Better Tell Your Doctor! http://bit.ly/ed9Acr
Marcus February 08, 2012 at 03:08 PM
This market will rise regardless of store fronts, if the dispensaries go down, then the black market will be flooded with excess product, and your kids will love it. Please stop being middle aged idiots... Stop trying to regulate others lives because your fat and will most likely die of breast or lung cancer, and you'll probably be smoking this plant in a few years, or your just a yuppie, either way, screw you and smoke up.

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