News / Perspective

Rose/7th St. (2nd dist.) Area Resident Repeatedly Tells Council About Alleged Impacts Of A Collective Near Him; Collective Ass'n Advocate Kemp Denies Claims; City Mgr. Makes Memo Claim re DA Policy We Can't Confirm


(June 19, 2012) -- On several occasions over the past several months, 2nd district resident Nicolaas Chomenko has come to the Long Beach City Council and, in calmly delivered testimony during public comment periods, has described conditions he says he's experienced in and around his residence in the vicnity of 7th St./Rose Ave. He lives in the 2nd Council district, represented by recently re-elected Councilmember (and current Vice Mayor) Suja Lowenthal...and he's also very near one of the marijuana outlets comprising the "Long Beach Collective Association."

To hear Mr. Chomenko's testimony on June 12, 2012 and the colloquy that ensued (which involved Mayor Foster and Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske), click here.

On May 29, Carl Kemp, a professional government affairs advocate representing the Long Beach Collective Association, issued a release that stated in pertinent part, "To date, there have been no calls for service to any LBCA collectives."

When we asked Mr. Kemp about Mr. Chomenko's previous Council testimony, Mr. Kemp emailed in reply that he (Kemp) had been to the outlet's location, observed a "pretty immaculate perimeter" and contended Mr. Chomenko's property allegedly had overgrown weeds, trash, shrubs, said it's on an alley and that the "neighborhood had its challenges way before the collective got there."

Mr. Kemp said a robbery cited by Mr. Chomenko "had nothing to do with the collective" and said a volunteer collective member called 911 when he saw the robbery in progress. Mr. Kemp also said the LBCA has letters from neighbors attesting to the collective being a model citizen and said Mr. Chomenko's claims against Mr. Kemp's client are baseless.

When we asked about LBPD about whether there had been any calls for service to any LBCA collectives, an LBPD respondent (not a PIO) told us that LBPD had received calls for service in connection with LBCA collectives. We didn't publish this but asked for specifics...and were advised to make a Public Records Act request.

The same May 30 press release by LBCA advocate Mr. Kemp was accompanied by an email stating that some parties he didn't specify claimed that the District Attorney's office had advised them that the only way the DA will prosecute any cases is if ALL collectives are banned. Mr. Kemp said his source in the DAís office was unable to verify this and no letters from the DA to the City on this matter had been discovered.

What we didn't know then, but know now, is that a May 18 memo from City Manager West to the Mayor and Councilmembers included that claim. The City Manager's memo only became public a few weeks later, attached to the agendizing memo for tonight's (June 19) City Council item. The City Manager's memo stated in pertinent part:

While the Police Department has attempted to implement the City Councilís direction on medical marijuana dispensaries, the District Attorney has indicated they will not file felony drug charges against any dispensary operator in the City as long as the partial exemption from the ban exists. This has effectively eliminated the Police Departmentís ability to seek felony criminal filings with the District Attorney for the sale or distribution of marijuana against anyone operating a dispensary in Long Beach.† Therefore, the Police Department does not have an effective criminal enforcement tool to prevent dispensaries from operating per the City Councilís direction.

On June 18 independently asked a Sandi Gibbons, a spokesperson for the DA's office, about the statement in the city management's May 18 memo. Ms. Gibbons' reply was: "I have checked and that is not our policy and we have not made that statement that I can find."

When invited city management comment on this matter, we received a telephone call from Deputy Police Chief Bill Blair. Deputy Chief Blair explained [summary paraphrase] that due to the complexities of state laws regarding medical marijuana collectives, the DA's office basically requires law enforcement to provide evidence that any collective allegedly violating state law is in fact engaged in operation for profit (which isn't allowed under any state law). That requires obtaining financial records which (obviously) go beyond simply alleging that an entity or individual is selling marijuana.

We appreciate Deputy Police Chief Blair's clarification, but we speculate [he didn't say anything to invite this] that he's basically falling on his sword here for what the city management memo contended.

The statement in the City Manager's memo to the Mayor and Councilmembers about the DA's position can't be corroborated by us and apparently isn't accurate. How did that happen?

Perhaps we'll learn more tonight at the June 19 Council meeting. It's item 23 on the Council agenda. will carry it all live on our front page:

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