How San Diego Police Are Getting Away With Robbing Cannabis Businesses

BY ON MAY 21, 2016

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Police in San Diego and nationwide are taking advantage of laws that allow them to steal money and property from individuals and businesses with no transparency or accountability, and often with sinister implications.

When U.S. House Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California heard about the bust of a respectable and state compliant cannabis oil manufacturer he had this to say:

“Cases like the one against Med-West in San Diego should be dropped and prosecutors should instead use their resources against murderers, rapists, robbers and terrorists.”

But what if the law enforcement system itself is increasingly becoming the most guilty of committing those very crimes? All of those crimes are being committed by police at alarming rates. Yet when it comes to robbery, not only is it perfectly legal for them to do so, they are doing it at a pace that exceeds all of the street criminals combined.

In San Diego police are using bogus raids against legitimate cannabis businesses as a front for stealing millions in cash and other assets. There have been over 300 cases of this happening there in recent years. Med-West is one such company to have recently experienced one of these robberies conducted under the guise of civil asset forfeiture laws.

“We just thought that we were part of the responsible marijuana industry,”said Med-West CEO and founder James Slatic.

Slatic had pretty good reason to believe he was on the up and up, too. He has been deeply involved with California cannabis politics, as well as serving on the boards of Marijuana Policy Project and the California Cannabis Industry Association. Since starting Med-West in 2010, he has had no other issues with legal compliance or law enforcement. So the surprise raid in January, which took pretty much everything the company owned and put them out of business, came as quite a shock.

Even more shocking is that no legal charges have ever been made following the raid that robbed his business blind and left it and everyone involved in ruins. At the time it was claimed that the company was using illegal and hazardous methods of production, and that they had been selling to unlicensed distributors. Yet none of these claims have been substantiated and prosecutors now refuse to give any details in the case. Slatic has no idea if he will be charged, or with what. Nor does he have any idea when his property will be returned, if ever.

And it wasn’t just his property that was seized. Police and prosecutors also helped themselves to the banking accounts of his wife and daughter. There are also the lost earnings of those who Med-West employed to be considered. Many lives have been trampled in just this one case.

However, Slatic and San Diego cannabis businesses are not alone. Nationwide civil asset forfeiture has been used by police to seize billions in cash and property. Critics of this practice often use the term ‘policing for profit’. Yet that misnomer doesn’t even begin to describe what is really going on, which is blatant theft.

When a business makes a profit, they do it by providing a valuable product or service, and both parties are generally happy with the exchange. This is not what police are doing at all. There is no mutual exchange or benefits. There is no service or product. There are just men with guns taking your property who have no problem killing you if you try to interfere with the robbery. And more grotesque than that, they are doing it legally.

Civil asset forfeiture is legal organized crime. It is done under the facade of protecting citizens from drug dealers, which not only does it not actually do, it becomes a greater threat against peaceful people than all of the black market criminals combined. Drug kingpins are not deterred by these police activities, they have numerous resources hidden internationally that police cannot touch. And they are rarely even the target of these thefts. The people who are most often affected are upright individuals and businesses who get caught in this wheel of predatory policing.

In states where prohibition laws are still running amok on humanity, the profit motive seems clear. How else is your local department going to afford or justify that military grade armored vehicle that has been taunting them in their dreams? But in places like San Diego, the potential motives become even more complex.

Are law enforcement agencies and prosecutors trying to stack the books to make it look like legalization doesn’t work in the hope that legislators will return to the good old days of the Drug War free-for-all that fattened the ranks and budgets of the justice system? Or are there more direct motives such as policing on behalf of political allies in order to knock out competitors and create monopolies? Is there something else we aren’t seeing?

Or is it simply just exactly what it looks like – massive theft under the cover of the law?

If you think I am exaggerating, consider this. Last year there was a total of 5 billion dollars in money and assets seized as a result of civil forfeiture nationwide. Whereas the total amount Americans lost as result of criminal theft was only 3.5 billion dollars. Police agencies took about 30% more than freelance crooks. And in almost all of those cases, no charges were ever filed and the property was never evidenced as having been related to a crime.

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