Los Angeles has had a contentious relationship with medical marijuana dispensaries for years that culminated last year with Proposition D, which banned all but 135 dispensaries in the city, shut down hundreds of shops.
But not all of them closed quick enough, prompting the Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer to begin filing criminal complaints with dispensary landlords and building owners – more than 120 since September of last year.
Van Nuys property owner Mark Zilberberg is one of those targeted. He tells the Los Angeles Daily News that he has been an upstanding, taxpaying citizen his whole life, but since he allowed a then-legal business to begin operating in a vacant storefont next to his auto repair shop he’s now a target.
“All of a sudden in my old age I became a criminal, Zilberberg told the Daily News.
Joseph Trenk, an attorney representing several landlords against the city, says that he’s had clients evict medical marijuana tenants only to find themselves still hit with criminal complaints. He says the city isn’t being clear about their expectations.
“There is such a confusion,” Trenk said. “These are the strangest cases I have ever seen.”
Other landlords say they never received a warning letter, only the criminal complaint. Feuer’s office denied that and said that they are treating each landlord on case-by-case basis.
While the deterioration of patient access hurts patients, some still cheer it on. One LA business owner said that the city needs to be aggressive.
“The neighborhoods don’t get improvements because the landlords don’t live in the area, and don’t care about property,” she said. “They just want their rent money.”
But that wasn’t the case with Zilberberg, who says his tenants showed him official-looking paperwork and told him they were allowed to stay in business. The city didn’t buy it, and in exchange for dropping charges against Zilberber’s wife, Zilberberg pled no contest and had to fork over thousands of dollars in fines.