June 16, 2016 – Yesterday’s multi-agency raids on Sonoma County cannabis concentrate manufacturers Care by Design and AbsolutExtracts targeted industry leaders that produce CBD and THC extracts sold in medical marijuana dispensaries across the state.
According to a press release from Care by Design, the enforcement comes just days after the company hosted local and State public officials and regulators to walk through their new state-of-the-art facilities to discuss regulations for the emerging industry resulting from the newly passed Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) passed by the California legislature last fall. One of the organization’s founding patient members, Dennis Hunter, was arrested and held in Sonoma County jail.
According to The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Santa Rosa police, Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies, and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents conducted coordinated searches of at least six properties in the city and county affiliated with the group.
The raids may be part of a pattern targeting such businesses in California.
In January, the San Diego County Joint Narcotics Task Force raided Med-West Distribution, a legal medical cannabis company that has worked to provide qualified patients and primary caregivers in California pharmaceutical grade medical cannabis oil and similar products through legal collectives and licensed storefront dispensaries since 2010. At the time of the raid, Med-West employed twenty-five people, most of whom have now lost their jobs. Med-West also paid taxes to the to the California State Board of Equalization, the State of California, and the federal government.
The NTF, which includes local and federal agents, has frozen personal assets of Med-West’s CEO James Slatic, his wife Annette Slatic’s personal account, into which she deposits her paychecks as a federal employee, and the college savings accounts of her daughters Lily and Penny.The NTF even seized a coin collection belonging to Miriam Slatic, Mr. Slatic’s mother.
Since 2014, the federal budget has contained the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which prohibits any Department of Justice funds going towards undermining the implementation of medical marijuana laws by states such as California that allow medical marijuana. In October 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer ruled in U.S. v Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, et al. that the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment prohibited the federal government from going after individuals and entities that comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws.
In People v. Mulcrevy (2014) 233 Cal.App.4th 127, the court concluded that the Compassionate Use Act includes concentrated cannabis: “The statutory definition of marijuana includes the resin extracted from the Cannabis sativa L. plant and concentrated cannabis is that resin.” In Mulcrevy, the court also cited the persuasive authority of an Attorney General opinion from 2003, No. 03-411, which stated that concentrated cannabis is included within the meaning of marijuana under the Compassionate Use Act.
The use of concentrates of medical cannabis has become increasingly popular in recent years, with the use of portable e-cigarette vaporizers, a healthier and less obtrusive means of inhaling the active ingredients in cannabis (CBD or THC). Concentrates are also used in manufacturing edible cannabis products, which are popular with pain patients and with seniors and others who prefer not to smoke or vaporize.
A protest rally was held today at the Sonoma County Courthouse by medical marijuana patients whose supplies of medicine have been jeopardized by the Santa Rosa raids. CBD, a nonspychoactive cannabinoid, remains extremely rare and often costly for patients; for decades it was selectively bred out of marijuana plants in favor of THC. Only in recent years have medicinal properties of CBD been documented, as in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s reports on CNN about the successful treatment of children with severe epilepsy.
Both in San Diego and in Sonoma, officials claimed that volatile solvents like butane were being used to make concentrates; however the companies involved say they were using only concentrated carbon dioxide, a nonvolatile substance. Sonoma county plans to release draft regulations for licensing medical marijuana businesses this November; state licensing under the new MMRSA laws will start in 2018.
“We don’t yet know whether the raids in Sonoma were federally directed, or if they stemmed from local officials,” said Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML. “In either case, it is troubling that on the eve of full state and local licensing for medical marijuana manufacturers, above-board businesses operating under current state law are still being treated as narcotraffickers or meth manufacturers.” As Tawnie Logan of the Sonoma County Grower’s Alliance said at a meeting of supporters on Wednesday, “If there is a report of unsafe practices at a winery, do they send in a SWAT team to investigate?”
“Care By Design has worked tirelessly over the past year to ensure that all of our facilities, employees, company policies and procedures are in compliance with city, county and state laws,” a company spokesperson said. “We have planned for this type of situation and are fully confident in our ability to resolve this matter expeditiously with minimal disruption to the business. We hope to resolve this before it affects our thousands of patients throughout California.” Send a Letter to Sonoma County Officials in Support of CBD Guild and ABX
Meanwhile, MedWest has launched a crowd funding campaign to fund its legal case and re-open its doors.
The news comes as the Governor of Ohio has signed a bill establishing regulations for the licensed production and dispensing of medical cannabis vaporization formulations to qualified patients.