LOS ANGELES — Vaughn Next Century Learning Center stretches across several blocks in Pacoima, just northwest of the 118 Freeway. On a recent weekday, throngs of children walked to classes, underneath an overpass that separates the school grounds from commercial businesses on the other side.
Until recently, one of those businesses was Paxton 25 CAP, a medical marijuana dispensary located in the Placita Paxton strip mall at the corner of Paxton Street and Herrick Avenue.
But as of Tuesday, the pot shop’s business appeared to have gone up in smoke.
Over the past few days, workers tore down framework inside the dispensary and hauled it to a pickup truck marked with the word “demolition.” On Friday, a sign could also be seen inside announcing 420 deals, for April 20, aka “Weed Day” celebrated by marijuana enthusiasts.
The dispensary’s closure came after parents of Vaughn students held at least two protests.
“You can walk in front and smell it,” Vaughn’s founding principal Yvonne Chan said last week.
According to Chan, about half of Vaughn’s 3,200 students pass the dispensary on their way to and from classes each day.
“They shouldn’t be here, period,” she said about the marijuana business. “They’re going to attract our kids into drugs.”
Vaughn, composed of a cluster of charter schools, has students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Parents were angered by the dispensary’s proximity.
It’s just too close, said parent Xitlali Castro. “We understand Prop. 64 passed, … but we don’t want it there.”
School administrators, including Chan, contacted the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, state and local representatives and the dispensary itself, demanding that it shut down.
Chan and Castro said the dispensary took down a sign announcing its hours and a banner on the side of the building after the first protest on March 31.
Efforts to reach Paxton 25 CAP through a phone number listed on its Instagram page and local dispensary mapping service Weedmaps.com weren’t successful Tuesday.
According to the Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor, Sherman Oaks businessman Michael Goodrich is listed as the owner of the strip mall property.
But efforts to reach Goodrich weren’t successful.
On Instagram, Paxton 20 CAP lists itself as “Prop 64 friendly.”
California voters passed Proposition 64 in the fall, legalizing recreational pot use. But in Los Angeles, Proposition D, passed in 2013, is still the rule, said L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer. And it will be until the L.A. City Council replaces or revises it under Measure M, passed in March, to regulate marijuana businesses.
Paxton 25 CAP did not comply with Prop D, Feuer said via email, adding that his office has closed more than 900 illegal medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
“The closing of the dispensary near the Learning Center is part of our continuing work,” Feuer said. “I want to be clear that the state’s Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use, had no impact on L.A.’s Proposition D. Prop. D is still the law in the city of Los Angeles, and we are enforcing it.”
Prop D says dispensaries can operate only if they meet a series of strict requirements, including having registered for a license before a 2007 suspension on new dispensaries. Prop D violations are misdemeanors, punishable per day by a fine of $1000 and six months jail.
Asked whether Paxton 25 CAP would face legal consequences or fines, Feuer’s spokesman Rob Wilcox said it could if it reopens a dispensary in the city of Los Angeles.
In the meantime, Chan said, what’s needed in the neighborhood are places that serve the community, such as health clinics, community gardens, even a sit-down restaurant like Denny’s. Nearly all of Vaughn’s students are Hispanic, and the majority are eligible for free meals at the school.
Chan suggested the low-income neighborhood attracts too many of what she describes as undesirable businesses.
“We have more than enough liquor stores, junk yards, motels, and we do not need another (business) that doesn’t really serve the health and the wealth of this community,” she said.
This article was first published at DailyNews.com.