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By Miriam Raftery and Rick Nothano

Photos by Rick Nothano

March 12, 2021 (Spring Valley) – Two shooting victims have been hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries resulting from gunfire outside of an illegal marijuana dispensary in Spring Valley Wednesday night.

Sheriff’s detectives from the Rancho San Diego station responded to multiple calls of gunshots at 8:33 p.m. near Dolores Street and South Barcelona in the Casa de Oro neighborhood, an area where numerous illegal dispensaries have previously been raided and shut down.

Deputies found a 22-year-old shooting victim along with evidence of a shooting outside a dispensary at 9966 Dolores Street, unit 107, as well as a firearm, says Sergeant Karen Bloch.

Around 9 p.m. a caller reported a second shooting victim believed to be related to the first shooting. Deputies found the second victim, also a 22-year-old man, at a residence in Spring Valley. 

Sheriff’s deputies remained at the shooting scene all night, where many bullet casings and blood trails on the property led off of the property.  Around 5 a.m. the next morning, Sheriff’s deputies along with narcotics detectives and the Sheriff’s Special Enforcement detail, or SWAT team, served a search warrant at the illegal dispensary, where four people were inside. Authorities seized marijuana, marijuana products, cash and an additional firearm.

The Sheriff asks anyone with information on these crimes to contact Detective Ventura at (619)660-7087 or call Crime Stoppers at (888)580-8477 for anonymous tips. You can also download the P3 anonymous tip app at Tipsters may be eligible for up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to arrest for these shootings.

According to a witness, later yesterday, two Black men kicked in the unsecured door and absconded with items not immediately seized by deputies, including vaping devices, THC products and more. 

The dispensary was not marked and was operating discretely to avoid disturbing neighbors, unlike other illegal dispensaries in the area that have brazenly advertised with glowing green signage.

A dispensary representative has said that the assailants were not his employees; all four workers were safe inside the dispensary, he indicated. 

Illegal dispensaries in the Spring Valley area have been magnets for crime, with numerous robberies and several past shootings.  The process of shutting them down is complex and time-consuming, creating a “whack-a-mole” situation in which new dispensaries pop up and reap windfall profits before being shut down, sometimes at the same locations previously raided and closed.

In some cases, cannabis entities are even claiming religious status in an effort to skirt regulations, claiming Constitutional protections under the Trump administration’s  Religious Freedom Restoration Act, though thus far California has not recognized any such rights.

Crime issues related to illegal dispensaries have led some jurisdictions to legalize cannabis sales, including  neighboring cities of La Mesa, Lemon Grove and San Diego.   

San Diego County Supervisors earlier this year voted to ask staff to draft up an ordinance to legalize cannabis sales, manufacturing and growing in unincorporated areas, an action that Supervisors hope will largely take away the incentive for illegal operators and provide consumers with safe access to products regulated for quality and purity. Legal dispensaries can be required to maintain security cameras, metal detectors and other crime deterrents.

Democratic Senators have announced plans to introduce a federal measure to decriminalize marijuana, which is already legal in a majority of states, CNBC reports, though at the state level, many cannabis legalization bills have been championed by Republicans, showing bipartisan support. 

A Gallup poll in Nov. 2020 found strong public support for legalization, with 68 percent of those polled in favor of legal marijuana – including 82% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans. 

Miriam Raftery, Editor of East County Magazine, has won over 350 major journalism awards including national and regional honors.

Rick Nothano is an investigative journalist and photographer.  


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