It was a going-out-of-business sale that only a pothead could love.
Cannabis-laced brownies, chocolate bars and peanut butter cups were half-price. Sleep-inducing indica buds sold out quickly. And discounted sativa was moving well among patients whose medical needs must have called for a buzz.
I was on hand as Tampa Wellness packed up to shut down, disappointing customers who had trickled in last weekend from as far as Palmdale to get medical marijuana from this small dispensary in a Reseda strip mall.
The closure was sudden and not by choice. A note taped to the shop's blacked-out front window Sunday made that point: "Due to recent elections regarding E, D and F, Tampa Wellness has been forced to shut its doors by the city attorney. We have appreciated the support of our clients and look forward to new beginnings."
E, D and F were competing medical marijuana measures on the Los Angeles city ballot in May. Most dispensary owners supported F, which would have allowed an unlimited number of outlets but scrutinized them more tightly.
Los Angeles voters, however, approved D — which limits the city's dispensaries to the 135 or so that were in business when the council began trying to regulate them in 2007.
The key word is trying. And failing, mostly.
That's why Los Angeles seems to have a giant green cross on every block.
And why, 17 years after Californians made marijuana legal for medical use — the city still is dealing with fly-by-night dispensaries, wishy-washy politicians and feuding law enforcement officials who don't agree on what the law is, much less how to enforce it.
And why it's hard to know whether this latest crackdown will launch another battle in a war of wills, or usher in an era of peace that benefits patients and collectives.
Tampa Wellness received one of 1,700 letters sent out by the city attorney last month, warning dispensary owners and their landlords that they could go to jail if they don't shut their doors.
Assistant City Atty. Asha Greenberg called it a courtesy letter, notifying businesses that opened after 2007 that "the passage of Prop D [makes] their continued operation illegal."
Another collective owner, Frank Sheftel also got a letter, even though his cozy Toluca Lake Collective (TLC) in North Hollywood has been in business since 2006.
His shop, which has a food pantry and offers hospice care, wound up in the illegal group because of a paperwork glitch, Sheftel said. "One list says I'm [approved]; another list says I'm not."
That kind of confusion has allowed what began as "compassionate care" to turn Los Angeles into a place that some city officials believe has more storefront pot dispensaries than Starbucks coffee shops.
City lawmakers avoided the issue for years as hundreds of dispensaries cropped up, many run by owners who cared less about patients than profits. While council members dithered, local prosecutors took a hard line: Any sale of marijuana to anyone was a crime.
Dispensaries fought back in court and the city backed down. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Department and federal Drug Enforcement Administration embarked on campaigns of their own: raiding shops, confiscating proceeds and hauling customers and employees to jail.
"We've used a tremendous amount of resources to go after the pot outlets, and look where we are," Sheftel noted. "It's all to no avail."
In fact, dispensaries have grown so accustomed to the city's stops and starts that some are ignoring the recent letters warning them to shut down.