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Compliance Check Uncovers Illegal Automatic Weapon, Illegal Cannabis at Smoke Shops Near Schools: Fresno Police
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By Edward Smith
Published 2 months ago on
March 2, 2024

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A compliance check at smoke shops uncovered firearms — including an automatic weapon — body armor, and illegal cannabis.

Fresno police say one store owner is wanted for a recent shooting in southeast Fresno.

Councilmembers use recent raids to justify shutting down smoke shops throughout the city.


A compliance check Wednesday on smoke shops in southeast Fresno by the Fresno City Attorney’s Office Code Enforcement Unit with the Fresno Police Department uncovered an automatic firearm, body armor, and illegal cannabis.

“The City of Fresno Attorney’s Office has confirmed what the Council has suspected this entire time — an inordinate portion of ‘smoke shops’ are acting as pseudo marijuana dispensaries without proper oversight and controls in place to ensure minors aren’t targeted.” — Fresno City Councilmember Nelson Esparza

Investigators found two handguns — one modified to be fully automatic — a ballistic vest, $2,544 in cash, and more than two pounds of marijuana at Royal T Smoke Shop at 3316 E. McKinley Ave, according to a news release from the Fresno Police Department.

Fresno police suspect store owner 27-year-old Andre Mayberry of a recent shooting in the area.

Investigators also found a firearm and ammunition at Sal’s Smoke Shop at 4729 Cesar Chavez Blvd., #108, according to a news release from Fresno City Councilmember Nelson Esparza’s office.

Illegal cannabis was also found R’s Smoke Shop at 4843 E. Butler Ave.

“I applaud the efforts of the police department and City Attorney’s office for their ongoing inspection and enforcement efforts of illegal smoke shops operating in our city,” said Mayor Jerry Dyer. “The illicit sales of marijuana at these smoke shops, along with other criminal activity makes it extremely difficult for legal cannabis dispensaries to be successful.”

Sal’s Smoke Shop is 1,094 feet from Olmos Elementary School, according to Google Maps. R’s Smoke Shop is 1,265 feet from Lane Elementary School.

“The City of Fresno Attorney’s Office has confirmed what the Council has suspected this entire time — an inordinate portion of ‘smoke shops’ are acting as pseudo marijuana dispensaries without proper oversight and controls in place to ensure minors aren’t targeted,” said Esparza.

A map shows the locations of Sal’s Smoke Shop and R’s Smoke Shop and their proximity to three elementary schools. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

Councilmembers Want to Drastically Reduce Smoke Shops

In October 2023, councilmembers Miguel Arias, Esparza, and Annalisa Perea proposed an ordinance to regulate smoke shops.

Councilmembers claimed that smoke shops were selling illegal cannabis and conducting gambling operations, including to minors. Based on those claims, they wanted the number of smoke shops reduced from the hundreds throughout the city to only 14 — two per council district.

Arias said the raids have provided evidence necessitating the action.

“Since previewing our ordinance and intention to regulate smoke shops, the raids by our city attorney and attorney general provides more evidence of the needs for a citywide ordinance that regulates this industry,” Arias said.

Fresno City Councilmembers Annalisa Perea, Miguel Arias, and Nelson Esparza proposed regulations on smoke shops. (City of Fresno)

In the 31 raids conducted by the City Attorney’s Office, investigators have found cannabis cultivation, illegal gambling, and suspected sales to minors.

Investigators raided five smoke shops within 1,000 feet of middle and elementary schools. One raid at Royal T Smoke Shop, 3316 E. McKinley Ave. uncovered more than a pound of marijuana and multiple firearms. That shop was 70 feet from Mayfair Elementary.

Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi previously raised a question about the legality of closing existing businesses should the ordinance pass.

Esparza said the smoke shop ordinance wouldn’t go before the city council anytime soon.

“But there are some fluid variables that could end up pushing it back,” Esparza said in a text message to GV Wire.

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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