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Medical marijuana crackdown continues in California

| Jun 3, 2015 | Articles, News

h/t Blog @ SF Gate

Law enforcement raided a state-legal medical cannabis cooperative in the Lake Tahoe area Monday, in a chilling reminder that the four year-old joint federal-state attack on medical marijuana continues despite widespread opposition.

Several reports trickled in Monday of the raid at Tahoe Wellness Collective in South Lake Tahoe. Police took cash, cannabis, computers, keys, phones and the like, reports indicate. The dispensary stated via Facebook: “This is a sad day for the industry. We hope that this will not interfere with TWC’s mission of providing safe, affordable medicine to qualified patients who need it.”

Officials released a statement Tuesday as to why they raided the dispensary, which has a license to operate in South Lake Tahoe.

On Monday, June 1st, 2015, members of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, South Lake Tahoe Police Department, El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, California Department of Justice, South Lake El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team (SLEDNET) Franchise Tax Board (FTB), Board of Equalization (BOE) and Employment Development Department (EDD) executed search warrants at five locations relating to an investigation of the South Lake Tahoe marijuana dispensary Tahoe Wellness Collective and its owner Cody Bass concerning possible violation of tax evasion and illegal possession for sale of marijuana.

This joint investigation of TWC and [founder] Cody Bass by state, county and city law enforcement agencies has been ongoing for several months. No one was arrested, as the investigation is still ongoing. Investigators seized large amounts of evidence and documents which all need to be fully evaluated and audited before any decision is made as to potential charges in this case.

“TWC has always operated above board and within the law of the State of California and the City of South Lake Tahoe,” the dispensary stated.

Henry Wykowski, attorney for Tahoe Wellness, said the federal government and the city of South Lake Tahoe appeared to have no involvement.

“There were no federal agents involved, I think it’s pretty safe to say.”

“They closed down the only dispensary in South Lake Tahoe — although Cody opened up right afterward — and we’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened.”

Industry members decried the action, noting that TWC has been operating in the open for seven years and abides by state cannabis laws. Tahoe Wellness founder Bass was elected to the National Cannabis Industry Association’s board of directors May 18.

The raid occurred one day before Bass planned to lead a protest against the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office is embroiled in a scandal over a deputy who allegedly sold methamphetamine obtained from Sheriff’s Office evidence lockers. El Dorado County Sheriff’s deputy and South Lake Tahoe Narcotics Enforcement Team member Mark Zlendick is on paid leave after being arrested and posting a bond for $55,640 dollars bail, reports state.

Cannabis remains federally illegal, but is also subject to state-level enforcement, depending on a county’s interpretation of vague state law. California police have long-opposed regulating medical marijuana, saying it would legitimize a dangerous illegal drug.

A White House memo orders the Department of Justice to spend scarce resources on armed inter-state drug traffickers and trespass growers, not state-legal cannabis enterprises.

A federal law passed in 2014 also bars the use of Department of Justice funds for such raids. However, the DOJ has stated they do not believe the law applies to California. The law’s author Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R- Huntington Beach) said the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment very much applies to the oldest medical cannabis economy in the world.

California was the first to legalize the botanical for medical use in 1996. More than 80 percent of Americans now support medical cannabis.

Federal prosecutors in the Bay Area are also continuing to work to seize and shutter Berkeley Patients Group in Berkeley, and Harborside Health Center in Oakland — part of a pattern of targeting the highest profile most compliant dispensaries in the state.

“It’s U.S. attorneys, like Melinda Haag in the Bay Area, who are breaking federal law, not the dispensaries they’re prosecuting. These federal prosecutors have gone rogue, and the attorney general needs to rein them in. Their campaign against medical marijuana is no longer just misguided, it’s also illegal,” Rohrabacher stated.

TWC is in the process of cleaning up and has reopened.

“We will keep you appraised of updates as they come, and thank all of you for your continued support and assistance,” the dispensary states.

Any further inquiries in this matter should be directed to the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office