Former La Espiga bakery Echo Park

Artificial grass covers the walls of the former La Espiga bakery that police said was turned into an illegal pot shop 

Echo Park -- For years the sweet smell of freshly baked pan dulce wafted from the panaderia La Espiga at the corner of Glendale Boulevard and Scott Avenue. But a few months ago passersby at the same corner may have caught a whiff of something else: pot.

While a new banner on the building’s storefront reads “Panaderia La Espiga Bakery, Fresh Pastry Coffee & Cake, ” the business operating inside was not churning out Mexican sweet breads as the banner suggested. Instead, the new owners were selling cannabis products illegally under the name Happy Nugs Collective, according to the LAPD.

The closure of La Espiga -- which had been one of Echo Park's last remaining panaderias after the closure of Celaya Bakery -- coincided with the sale of the building at the end of last year. Happy Nugs Collective was up and running by January 2019, lining glass jars of marijuana and brightly packaged edibles along the walls. Outside, the exterior of the building was covered in sheets of artificial grass. A quick Google search will only pull up broken links to the former pot shop.

On June 17, the building was raided by LAPD narcotics officers who seized an undisclosed amount of cash and marijuana while utility workers shut off the building’s power in an effort to stop the illegal sales, according to police.

The raid in Echo Park is part of a larger crackdown by the city on unpermitted marijuana dispensaries that continue to undercut legal retailers with cheaper prices.

Happy Nugs Collective was one of approximately 44 Eastside dispensaries listed on Weedmaps. According to the City of Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, less than 20 dispensaries are legally permitted to sell on the Eastside.

The city attorney is working with the building’s landlord to identify the owner or owners of Happy Nugs Collective.

Many of the illegal dispensaries that are shut down by authorities are up and running again within a few days. So, the LAPD is ready to move in and identify the owner if the dispensary resumes operations, said Detective Arturo Koenig with the LAPD.

“The citizens voted that we have legal dispensary locations [...] unfortunately the black market that can sell for lower prices takes money away from the dispensaries that are permitted by the city and state,” said Koenig.

Correction: A previous version of this story said La Espiga was the last Mexican bakery in Echo Park. That's wrong. One of our readers noted that K Bakery on Temple Street remains in operation.

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