Though details remain sketchy, the Santa Barbara Police Department has confirmed they have raided at least three medical marijuana clubs today and arrests have been made. “We did do an operation today,” explained Lt. Paul McCaffrey this afternoon, adding, “some parts of it are still going on so I cannot say much more at this time.”
According to McCaffrey, the search warrants were served in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Department but that federal agents were not involved, suggesting that this has more to with Santa Barbara-specific laws rather than at-large federal issues. “This is a local thing being carried out with local [and] state laws,” said McCaffrey. According to eyewitness reports, authorities were seen serving search warrants at clubs on Milpas and San Andres Streets throughout the day today. As one industry insider put it, “It seems like they went after just about everybody.”
Debate has raged recently about the number of legal and illegal cannabis clubs within Santa Barbara City limits and the City Council has spent several meetings debating the specifics of their still-evolving medical marijuana ordinance. As a result of this ongoing discussion, several long time clubs — that are otherwise considered legal — have been deemed “non-compliant” for being located too close to schools and public parks or just simply being sited outside of the specific neighborhoods identified as being okay for pot dispensaries. The “non-compliant” clubs had received “cease and desist” letters from the city late last year.
In fact, despite more than a dozen clubs operating in town, city staff recently opined that only two of them were actually operating legally. Interestingly enough, one of those clubs — the Green Well on Milpas Street — was not raided today according to their owner Nat Reinke. McCaffrey expects full details will be available later today or tomorrow.
UPDATE, 3:46 p.m.: According to sources close to the dispensaries, the series of busts conducted today was not related to city zoning compliance issues, but rather related to a criminal investigation overseen by the District Attorney’s office. Reportedly, seven locations in Santa Barbara County were searched and another three or four operations took place in Ventura County at the same time, though it’s unclear if they are related.