Law enforcement reportedly posed as managers of Hillcrest marijuana collective
Well, this is a new trick in the war on medical marijuana…
A medical marijuana patient and a CityBeat advertising account executive both say that law-enforcement officers in plainclothes were posing as the “new management” of a Hillcrest pot collective today.
The collective member, who asked not to be identified, said he visited the Helping Hands Wellness Collective in Hillcrest at about 11 a.m. this morning and found the collective closed. It was supposed to open at 10 a.m., so he called the collective’s number on his cell; a voice answered and he was let in. Once inside, he said several men wearing the collectives’ T-shirts introduced themselves as the “new management.” He was allowed into the dispensing area and was given hash as a free gift, a common gimmick to attract and retain collective members.
When he mentioned that he also grew marijuana, he said the men identified themselves as law-enforcement and detained him in a back room.
[Update] The San Diego County Sheriff’s office confirms that the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office served the search warrant, with the San Diego County Regional Narcotics Task Force assisting.
“They kept asking how much medicine do I buy, how am I affording it, where am I getting it from, what cooperatives I’m a member of ,where my garden is,” the person tells CityBeat. “They just basically, in a easy sentence, they raped me for everything I had and never told me I had a right to remain silent. They made me think if I didn’t talk they would arrest me on the spot.”
The officers photocopied his medical marijuana card and physician’s recommendation and took his photograph, he says. He was allowed to leave after an hour and a half of questioning.
“They told me today’s my lucky day and I get to go home and to say ‘no’ to drugs,” he says.
At about 2 p.m., CityBeat rep Jason Noble visited the collective as part of a routine call to see whether the organization was interested in advertising. He says the door was initially locked, but he could hear someone fumbling with the locks before letting him in. There were about five men inside, including one with long goatee and wearing a T-shirt.
“He said they were under new management and had just opened the doors today,” Noble says. “Then I introduced myself and that’s when he pulled out his badge.”
Noble was not detained.
Eugene Davidovich, an activist with the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access, says he went to the site after hearing the initial reports and recognized at least one officer from the San Diego County Regional Narcotics Task Force. In March, a San Diego court acquitted Davidovich of charges stemming from Operation GreenRX, a task force sting operation targeting medical marijuana collectives.
Update: The Santa Barbara Independent is reporting on related raids. I’ve made some minor edits in this piece since publishing. After publication the collective asked his name be edited out of the story.