Santa Barbara police and federal agents executed four search warrants Wednesday and Thursday during what authorities say is part of a region-wide crackdown on illegal marijuana operations. The raids at dispensaries and houses included the seizure of money, property, and weed, but no arrests were made. Local officers assisted in the operation headed by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service.
On Wednesday, a search warrant was carried out at Pacific Coast Collective on 331 North Milpas Street. The home of its suspected operator — Jeff Restivo, who’s being prosecuted on marijuana-related charges in a separate case involving the dispensary — was also visited by law enforcement personnel.
On Thursday, Miramar Collective on Ortega Hill Road in Summerland was raided. Its owner, according to a spokesperson for the the U.S. Attorney’s Office, is currently being prosecuted in Santa Barbara on state narcotics charges. A search warrant was also executed at “an indoor marijuana farm on East Haley in Santa Barbara, where substandard and unpermitted electrical equipment has been used,” the spokesperson said.
“In conjunction with the filing of the asset forfeiture complaints,” the spokesperson explained, “letters were mailed out yesterday to the property owners and operators of 10 additional marijuana stores that are either currently operating or were recently closed — six in Santa Barbara, three in Goleta, and one in Summerland. All known marijuana stores in Santa Barbara County are now the subject of federal enforcement actions,” he said.
Sergeant Riley Harwood, spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Police Department, said in a prepared statement that the SBPD has looked into citizen complaints against storefront marijuana dispensaries since 2009. “Detectives have used a variety of means to investigate these locations,” he said, “including interviewing customers, conducting undercover purchases of marijuana, and searching facilities. In every instance thus far,” he went on, “their investigations revealed that these storefronts were operating as for-profit business enterprises, conducting retail sales to customers, or ‘members,’ and purchasing from wholesale vendors bulk quantities of marijuana grown outside of the region.”
This, Harwood said, conflicts with California law and falls beyond the scope of exemptions set forth in Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420. And such operations, he went on, are contrary to the California Attorney General’s Guidelines for the “Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medicinal Use”
Investigations within the city limits have resulted in the closure of five dispensaries and criminal charges being filed against their owners and/or operators, Harwood said. Three of the cases resulted in convictions. Two are still working their way through courts. “We will work within the law and we will aggressively enforce the law,” Police Chief Cam Sanchez said in a press release.