November 3rd, 2011, 2:14 pm · · posted by Andrew Galvin
Santa Ana Superior Care, a marijuana dispensary at 321 W. Seventeenth St., has been closed since sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant last month.
According to an affidavit by sheriff’s investigator Howard J. McCulloch, the dispensary on two occasions sold marijuana to an undercover officer who had a doctor’s recommendation, without telling the officer to perform any duties or to participate in cooperatively or collectively cultivating marijuana.
Distribution of marijuana to an individual who has a recommendation but no other relationship with the distributor amounts to an illegal sale of marijuana, which is not permitted under California law, McCulloch wrote.
Sheriff’s Capt. Adam Powell said deputies are continuing their investigation and will forward their findings to the District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.
Residents have complained about a proliferation of marijuana dispensaries along Seventeenth Street.
Such dispensaries are prohibited in Santa Ana by a city land-use ordinance. However, there are dozens of dispensaries operating in the city. Enforcement of the ordinance is handled by the city’s code enforcement staff. Persistent violators are referred for possible civil or criminal litigation.
“We’ve tried to be more efficient in our enforcement by first issuing administrative citations to the business owner and landlord, rather than hauling every dispensary into court, which would be costly and time consuming,” said Jay Trevino, executive director of the city’s Planning & Building Agency, which handles code enforcement. “Our approach often results in quicker compliance – one dispensary closed the same day.”
“Our experience is that landlords are often unaware of the real nature of the business who rented their building – and when they find out after getting an administrative citation from the city will frequently ask the tenants to leave,” Trevino said.
“Administrative citations begin with a firm warning, but quickly escalate into $100, then $200 and then $500 daily fines if the tenant and landlord do not comply,” Trevino said.
However, Trevino said, “Like many cities, we sometimes find dispensaries that, once we’ve closed them down, just open again in another location.”
The investigation into Santa Ana Superior Care began as “something that we came across” during work on similar investigations in Orange County, Powell said. “It happened to cross jurisdictions,” he said, because the shop is located in Santa Ana, which has its own police department.
Santa Ana police typically don’t investigate marijuana dispensaries because it is a zoning issue handled by code enforcement staff, said Santa Ana Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
According to McCulloch’s affidavit, one of the operators of Santa Ana Superior Care was Hank John Cousine, 51. Cousine is a former Los Angeles police officer, Powell said.
A Hank Cousine, a 15-year LAPD veteran, was fired for allegedly participating in a pyramid scheme in 1998, according to a 2004 article by the Los Angeles Times. In 1991, a Hank Cousine had been identified as one of the LAPD’s 44 “problem officers” by the Christopher Commission on the basis of citizen complaints, shootings, and other criteria, the Times said.
The other operator of Santa Ana Superior Care was Ryan Aparicio Mondragon, 29, according to McCulloch’s affidavit.
Attempts to reach Cousine and Mondragon for comment were unsuccessful.
In their Oct. 21 search of Santa Ana Superior Care, deputies seized marijuana, records, and $16,728 in currency, according to the warrant.
–Register intern Kjellrun Owens contributed to this report.