American Eagle Collective, one of the most popular medical marijuana dispensaries in Eagle Rock, was known for attracting a steady stream of patients and customers even during the worst days of the recession.
“AEC Is Now Closed,” reads a cryptic sign glued to the dispensary’s reflective glass door in a mini mall located on the northwest corner of Colorado Boulevard and College View Avenue.
According to the dispensary’s landlord, Penny Botsch, AEC has been closed for the past week—since Thursday, March 22—and the dispensary’s owner has not been answering phone calls.
Target of City Lawsuits
Both AEC and Botsch are among at least two-dozen medical marijuana facilities in Los Angeles that are battling lawsuits by the City Attorney’s office.
While AEC has been accused of violating zoning laws, the dispensary’s landlord has been accused of violating health and safety codes by leasing property to a business that deals in a controlled substance. (The City has sued two other Eagle Rock dispensaries on Colorado Boulevard—Organic Healing Center and Colorado Quality Pain—for violating a law that requires such facilities to be located outside a 600-foot radius of schools.)
It’s not clear whether the City’s lawsuit against AEC has anything to do with its shutting down. (Patch is waiting to hear back from Assistant City Attorney Asha Greenberg about any information she might have about the issue.) And it's not clear whether AEC's closure is connected in any way with a crackdown that the U.S. Department of Justice's launched against marijuana collectives in California in October 2011, shortly before the California Supreme Court agreed to review how cities and counties regulate marijuana.
What’s also unclear is how long AEC will remain closed—presuming it ever reopens.
For her part, AEC’s landlord is bracing for the worst. “They paid good rent,” she told Patch Thursday. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if they close—I still have to pay the mortgage.”
Asked how much AEC’s rent is, Botsch replied that it’s “in the three figures.” Asked if she could elaborate, the landlord said that the rent is between $2 and $3 per square foot for an approximately 1,000-sq-foot facility.
Botsch, who lives in La Cresenta, doesn’t just own the facility where AEC conducts business—she owns the entire mini mall. And she runs a fledgling printing store, Adams Wilshire Engraving Inc., which has been around since 1942 and is located immediately to the right of AEC.
Other stores in the mall include a Thai massage parlor located immediately to the left of AEC and Bellissimo café, which is owned by Michael Nogueira, past president of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce.
Nogueira told Patch he didn’t know why AEC had closed. He had heard a rumor, he added, that some people had driven to the mini mall in what appeared to be an unmarked law enforcement vehicle recently and had been taking photographs of the dispensary from outside.
'Huge Relief for Neighbors'
Michael Larsen, president of the , which is opposed to the illegal presence of any marijuana facilities in the neighborhood, also said he didn’t know what prompted AEC to shut down.
“It has been a huge relief for the neighbors,” Larsen said, however, of the dispensary’s closure. (Click here to read an account by one of AEC’s neighbor’s about how marijuana stores hurt Eagle Rock.)
“People don’t like it,” Botsch said, referring to AEC and the fact that many people in the community oppose the presence of as many as a dozen marijuana dispensaries in and around Eagle Rock.
“But patients need the marijuana.”
At around 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, a young woman accompanied by a young man drove into the mini mall parking lot, evidently headed to AEC (see photo). After reading the “closed” sign from a distance, they drove away.
Over the next five minutes, at least two men also drove into the mall’s parking lot and turned around and left after seeing the sign.