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El Cajon Police Return Medical Cannabis - Another Success for the Patient Community
by Terrie Best / CA Campaign for Safe Access
Monday Oct 10th, 2016 8:14 AM
While ultimately the Court confirmed that the law was on SDAC’s side, there is little recourse to make up for the financial and emotional toll of such an ordeal.
shapiro-with-cannabis.jpg
October 10, 2016

San Diego, CA - With the stroke of a judge’s pen, Justice has prevailed. Pursuant to Court order, members of San Diego Alternative Care, a lawfully formed medical cannabis Cooperative, retrieved their property last week from the El Cajon Police Department, including 30 pounds of medical cannabis flower, 5 pounds of concentrates, and hundreds of medicated edibles and vape pen cartridges.

El Cajon Police had been in possession of SDAC’s property since late June when the department raided SDAC’s facility. Along with the apprehension of possibly facing felony charges, Cooperative members were confronted with the fact that their property was in police lockup. The property not only included medical cannabis products but also corporate documents, membership records, and office equipment. Despite the time, money, and effort spent to ensure compliance with the law, Cooperative members were left in a state of limbo as to if they would ever have their medicine returned, or worse, if they would face felony charges.

For three months, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, City of El Cajon, and the Cooperative’s attorney, Matthew Shapiro, hashed out the case, while SDAC waited with bated breath to see what would happen next. Shortly after the raid, attorney Shapiro gathered all necessary paperwork from SDAC to show the Cooperative's full compliance with the law and provided the documentation to the District Attorney’s office. In the past, the District Attorney’s office has not hesitated to bring felony charges against citizens despite receiving such information. However, in this instance, the District Attorney’s office reviewed the case and decided not to bring criminal charges against the operators of the Cooperative.

This was not the end of SDAC’s ordeal. Despite no criminal case being filed, the District Attorney’s Office and the El Cajon Police Department insisted they did not have to return the Cooperative’s property. Fortunately, Shapiro was able to prove to the court that the law says otherwise. After ensuring no criminal case would be filed, attorney Shapiro moved the Court to compel the El Cajon Police Department to return the SDAC’s property. Through carefully drafted legal memoranda, Shapiro was able to prove that the Cooperative was fully compliant with the law, giving little room for opposing parties to argue otherwise. After months of rigorous representation, Shapiro secured the Court order for the return of the unlawfully seized property.

When asked to comment on the case, attorney Matthew Shapiro stated, “While we are very happy with the result in this case, cannabis patients and cooperative members need to remember cases like these do not create legal precedence.” With the recent passage of regulations for the medical cannabis industry and the impending legalization of the adult use of marijuana, Shapiro believes we will have a properly regulated market at some point in the future. Today, however, Shapiro acknowledges, “the legal foundation upon which the cannabis industry stands is very unstable.” Legal operations are still being raided and forced to deal with issues that only criminals should be faced with. Shapiro cautions those in the cannabis industry to “ensure that your business is not only compliant with the law but most importantly can prove it if called upon.”

While ultimately the Court confirmed that the law was on SDAC’s side, there is little recourse to make up for the financial and emotional toll of such an ordeal. And, unfortunately, incidents like SDAC's are much too common. Cases like this highlight the strife of law-abiding medical cannabis patients and providers resulting from law enforcement and government officials’ inability to adapt to or understand the law, and in many instances outright resistance, to the legalization of medical cannabis.