San Bernardino grappling with how to deal with new marijuana laws

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Two large marijuana grows were busted in San Bernardino within the last few weeks, and its raising questions as recreational marijuana is about to become legal.

San Bernardino police said the facility raided in the 600 block of N. E St last week had nearly 25,000 plants inside the building. The facility that was raided in the 4000 block of Georgia Blvd. on Tuesday was "significantly larger," according to police.

"Those facilities did not have any permits to be doing what they're going at those locations," said San Bernardino police Chief Jarrod Burguan. "Zero permits whatsoever. They were not legally operating cultivation sites."

The owner of the property, 43-year-old Stephanie Smith, of Pacific Palisades, was not arrested. She fired back a statement after the bust.

"As a mother of 5 young children, I am disappointed that I must explain that these military style raids are the way City leaders handle zoning violation," she said, "Just as unfortunate is the situation for the tenants in my buildings who had spent tens of thousands of dollars on applications for licensure in a properly zoned facility and were ready to begin paying taxes to the State and local government on January 1, 2018."

But Burguan said the bottom line is - there were no local permits in place for the facilities. He defended the way the tactical team handled the raids.

"We were concerned the facility was fortified; we were concerned there were armed people and security assets in place," he said. "And we didn't know what we were going to encounter once we got inside."

No one was hurt during the raids. But the lack of an arrest underscores the blurry nature of the law in the aftermath of the passage of Proposition 64 last year.

The initiative allows for the sale of marijuana starting Jan. 1. But it's still up to local cities to implement how that will work, and how permits are granted. Voters in San Bernardino approved Measure O, which sets in motion a plan to replace the city's ban on marijuana businesses. But the city council is still grappling with how to grant permits.

"Measure O says we're going to allow a certain number of dispensaries or cultivation sites," Burguan said. "It doesn't necessarily outline that entire process as to how we're going to do that."

There will be further discussion at Wednesday's city council meeting.
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