Garden Grove has at least 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, the highest concentration among Orange County cities. The city already banned pot shops in 2008, but a Supreme Court case put the ban on hold. A new ruling allows cities to ban dispensaries due to zoning ordinances. All dispensaries must be closed by Wednesday, or they will face major fines. Hetty Chang reports from Garden Grove for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 14, 2013.
"Closed" signs were outside some medical marijuana dispensaries Wednesday morning after the city of Garden Grove ordered more than 60 businesses to close or face fines of $1,000 each day and possible criminal charges.
City officials last week had letters hand-delivered to 63 medical marijuana shops. Garden Grove, at about 18 square miles, has the highest concentration of pot clinics in all of Orange County.
Opponents of the ban packed Tuesday night's City Council meeting to protest the closures. However, no action related to medical marijuana shops was scheduled on the meeting agenda.
"I'm coming out if the closet as a medical marijuana patient," patient Mary Lochen told the council. "You see there are a whole lot of us that are invisible to you."
During public comment, resident Don Baird said the proliferation of medical marijuana shops in the city has "gotten out of hand."
Herbal Organics on Chapman Avenue had planned on closing by 11 p.m. Tuesday to have enough time to clear out by the midnight deadline, according to store owner Shannon Luce. She said customers were asking a lot of questions.
"A lot of people are like 'What are we going to do, where are we going to go, why do I have this rec from a doctor if i can't use it?'" said Luce, who had planned on continuing to sell medical marijuana to her customers through home delivery.
Luce's shop is equipped with surveillance cameras and a sophisticated camera system to ensure the safety of its customers.
"Do I want to have to go and send people the street?" Luce said.
Some medical marijuana users expressed frustration with the city, saying they'd have to find alternative sources for pot.
Terre Lowe who use the drug to treat arthritis pain and migraines, said they weren't happy about having to find other alternatives.
"Like you would go to CVS, or someone else would go to CVS," said Huntington Beach resident Terre Lowe, who uses marijana to treat pain associated with arthritis, migraines and insomnia.
"This is my pharmacy," Lowe said.
But others were pleased with the city's actions.
Robert Thill, whose office is next to both Herbal Organics and a day care, held back tears of happiness when he learned the stope would be closing.
"The kids need to be taken care of," Thill said. "They don't need to be smelling it in their playing yard. They're 52 feet away from smoking dope."
The Garden Grove City Council had voted to ban the shops in 2008, but held off on enforcing the ban until after the state Supreme Court affirmed cities' rights on the issue earlier this year.
"Up until this current ruling, we had kind of waited to see what the decision was going to be before we moved forward," said Ana Pulido, public information officer for the city.
Garden Grove police blame a 16 percent increase in crime over the last year, in part, on the marijuana dispensaries.
"We have a huge overconcentration of medical marijuana dispensaries," Garden Grove police Sgt. Ed Leiva said.