Law enforcement raided four smoke shops in Fresno Thursday, seizing illegal cannabis and tobacco. They also discovered gambling operations.
A collaboration of the City Attorney’s Office Code Enforcement Division, the Fresno Police Department, and the State of California conducted the raids in central and south Fresno, according to a news release from the City Attorney’s Office.
Law enforcement searched the businesses simultaneously. Three businesses were close to schools, City Attorney Andrew Janz said. Three of the four stores did not have business licenses. At one shop, inspectors seized $30,000 worth of cannabis and tobacco hidden inside a compartment. There were no arrests, but criminal citations were issued, Janz said. Jail time for offenders is a possibility.
“If you continue to operate without permits, if you continue to target our children, and if you continue (to) violate state and local laws, we will shut you down and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” said Janz.
City Councilmembers Want to Shut Down More than 90% of Smoke Shops
In October, Fresno Council Vice President Annalisa Perea and Fresno City Councilmembers Miguel Arias and Nelson Esparza presented a plan to force smoke shops to apply for conditional use permits to remain open.
They would cap the number of smoke shops at two per district, dropping the number from several hundred in the city — according to some estimates — to only 14.
Arias said many smoke shops bring blight and crime. He also accused many of selling to minors.
The plan has to first go through the Fresno Planning Commission. Arias said he hopes to have the ordinance go before the city council this month. Some councilmembers have questioned the legality of forcing existing smoke shops to apply for permits.
City of Fresno Partnered with Attorney General to Go After Smoke Shops
California Attorney General Rob Bonta in August announced the city of Fresno would be part of a pilot program to crack down on smoke shops selling illegal cannabis products. The Attorney General’s office would provide resources for the Cannabis Administrative Prosecutor Program.
The council then approved changes to the city code allowing prosecutors to go after land and business assets of illegal operations.