Aggressive Police Actions Taken Against SLO Medical Marijuana Delivery Services

High bails, child endangerment charges being used to intimidate state law-compliant providers

San Luis Obispo County, CA — A Narcotics Task Force (NTF) made up of local and state law enforcement agencies aggressively raided 5 collectively-run medical marijuana delivery services on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, arresting at least 13 people on felony charges and holding them on bails of up to $100,000. Several of those arrested were charged with child endangerment, after Child Protective Services (CPS) removed at least 6 children from the homes of 3 different families. One of the people arrested on Monday suffered a heart attack because of the police raid and was taken to a local emergency room before being arrested. As of Thursday afternoon, at least four people were still in jail unable to raise bail.

Medical marijuana delivery services have increased in San Luis Obispo County — up to 20 collectives by some estimates — mainly as a result of local hostility, which has resulted in federal raids and prosecutions against storefront dispensary operators, further resulting in an absence of dispensaries in the county. Delivery services, as long as they are run in compliance with the 2008 Attorney General Guidelines, also serve a critical need for those patients that cannot travel to obtain their medicine. Helpful Remedies, Harmonic Alliance, and Trilogy Holistic Health Services were local collectives raided this week and which operate mainly out of Paso Robles and Pismo Beach. Most of the collectives raided were state-registered nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporations.

“It’s wasteful to spend taxpayer dollars to aggressively raid state law-compliant collectives,” said Kris Hermes, media spokesperson with Americans for Safe Access, the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy organization. “But, it’s a greater tragedy that local officials would resort to taking people’s children away because they don’t agree with the state’s medical marijuana law.” Advocates are vowing to hold a protest at the first set of arraignments scheduled for Tuesday, January 11th at 8am in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court. A second set of arraignments will be held the following day.

In 2007, a licensed storefront dispensary in Morro Bay was raided by the San Luis Obispo Sheriff and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), abruptly halting safe access to medical marijuana in the county. The dispensary operator, Charles C. Lynch, was later charged and prosecuted in federal court without a means to defend himself. Lynch was ultimately convicted and sentenced to a year-and-a-day, but is currently appealing.

In one report of this week’s raids, the police kept people handcuffed face-down on the ground, including a grandmother and two children, who were later hauled off by CPS after their parents were taken to jail. In addition to seizing medical marijuana, money, and other property, police have also frozen some bank accounts. Undercover police also reportedly used legitimate and verifiable physician recommendations to obtain medical marijuana from the targeted delivery services.

Coordinated police raids on medical marijuana delivery services occurred earlier in the year in the San Jose area, based on an interpretation of state law similarly held by local San Luis Obispo law enforcement agencies, namely that everyone in a collective must participate in the cultivation and no money can exchange hands in the procurement of medical marijuana. “Now that we have stopped law enforcement from hiding behind federal law, hostile police agencies are stooping to flawed interpretations of state law and heavy-handed tactics to further undermine the effort of getting medicine to sick people,” continued Hermes.

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