City attorney battles large number of pot shops

Posted at 7:03 PM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 22:03:24-05

The city attorney, Richard Iger, told 23ABC news Monday he is working as fast as he can to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries in Bakersfield, but said for each one he shuts down, another one opens up.

"We're after it, it's just I close one down and another one opens, it's just a wack-a-mole is what I think is the best word for it," said Iger. 

Marijuana dispensaries are illegal in Bakersfield, but police cannot go in an arrest the workers and shut down the shop.

"The police department can't just take officers in and shut the stores down. That's just not the right legal channel and we want to ensure that it's all done properly so that they can't reopen," said Sergeant Gary Carruesco of the Bakersfield Police Department.

Iger said when state law 420 and prop 215 passed, it created immunities from prosecution for operating dispensaries which means shops have to be sued in order to get them to close their doors. Therefore, BPD cannot simply walk in and arrest the works and shut down the operation. 

Since 2013, Iger said they have shut down 33 locations with cease and desist letters or lawsuits. Right now, Iger said he has eight active lawsuits to shut down dispensaries including one against the dispensary targeted Sunday. 

Iger said seeing the crime happen at the dispensaries gives him more reason to continue to try to shut them down.

"This happens and so it shows that it's kind of important to keep going after them," said Iger. 

Iger said each time he sues a dispensary the entire process from start to finish takes on average 18 months. He said the best way to get a dispensary shut down quickly is to call and complain to him directly or call BPD. Iger starts lawsuits against the dispensaries with the most complaints first.