Medical marijuana has been legal in California for over two decades, since 1996. Recreationally, California voters approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64), in November 2016, legalizing it for everyone else. Despite cannabis being legal in the state, police departments — addicted to kicking in doors and robbing peaceful pot growers and seizing their assets — continue to wage a war on this plant and many of the upstanding citizens who grow it.
With all the grim news lately in regards to police overreach, it is refreshing to see some of these departments get put in their place. The following story is just that.
In January, the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s office along with investigators from the California Department of Food and Agriculture Cal Cannabis and the Department of Fish and Wildlife served a search warrant at an entirely legal and licensed cannabis farm. After they raided entirely peaceful and legal cannabis growers, the sheriff’s office took to the internet to brag about the bust.
Through the investigation, detectives discover off-book (black market) marijuana sales associated with the farm. During the warrant service, detectives found a small volatile extrication lab along with extracted oil – both of which are outside of the grower’s license. Approximately 20 pounds of illegally stored cannabis was seized as well as over 1,000 pounds of cannabis crude.
It was actually 1,800 pounds of crude which had already been sold to another legitimate and legal company — not 1,000. After the cops robbed the place at gunpoint, stole all the cash, and seized the cannabis, the companies involved were forced to lay off nearly half their workforce. The amount of product stolen from them by police represented 65% of their entire marketable inventory.
On top of all the product and oil these “hero” cops stole from the owner of Arroyo Verde Farms, Barry Brand, they also robbed him of $620,000 in cash. For the last five months, Brand and the company who was purchasing it from him, have been fighting the corrupt department in an attempt to get their property and money back. But the sheriff’s office argued in court that they have the right to permanently keep the assets because they are part of an “ongoing criminal investigation.” Seems legit.
The judge didn’t buy it though. As Marijuana Business Daily reports, Judge Thomas Anderle ruled on May 15 that the sheriff’s office had to return the seized property because “the record here shows that a California licensed cannabis operator committed no crime, much less intentionally committed a crime.”
The seized oil had already been sold to manufacturer Eagle Bay Enterprises, doing business as Procan Labs, and was being stored by Carpinteria, California-based Arroyo Verde.
John Armstrong, attorney for Procan Labs in Concord, California, said in a news release that the case was an instance of a “police mistake.”
Citing the ruling, Procan Labs reports that “criminal laws such as the state Controlled Substances Act do not apply to licensed commercial cannabis activities.” The court further found “there was no black market oil whatsoever on the premises,” and all substances had been clearly tagged.
In other words, the cops raided an entirely legal business and robbed them for their personal gain.
“For years, unwarranted legal lawsuits have plagued the cannabis industry,” the company said in a statement, noting they were happy about getting back the product owed to them, but unhappy about the way parasitic police departments prey on the cannabis industry to pad their budgets.
Naturally, the police are defending their initial raid — albeit terribly — by claiming some “technical non-compliance issues” gave them the ability to steal nearly 3/4 of a million dollars and hundreds of thousands in product.
“With millions of dollars at stake, licensed cannabis operators should not be at risk of losing their business because police mistake lawful cannabis operations for illegal black market activities,” argues John Armstrong of the Horwitz + Armstrong law firm, lead counsel in the case. “This decision shows that our courts will side with the cannabis industry when provided evidence of good faith efforts to comply with state regulations,” Armstrong says in the statement.
While they keep calling this raid a “mistake” it is entirely likely that it was no mistake at all. TFTP has reported on countless instances of police officers raiding legal operations, seizing their product and money — and even taking their children — simply because they can.