Sheriff's officials raid local medical marijuana collective

Kimberly Rivers & Tim Dewar

Tuesday, members of the narcotics division from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO) executed a search warrant at the Shangri La Cooperative offices on Bryant Street in Ojai and at the home of one of its officers. 

Captain John Reilly, VSCO public information officer said no arrests were made and charges have not been filed. Officials from the Ventura County District Attorney’s office confirmed that no charges have been filed.

When asked by the Ojai Valley News for a copy of the search warrants, Reilly stated, “We do not release (search) warrant information to the public as it is a document of the court in an open investigation. I can only confirm that a (search) warrant was issued and executed on that date.”

Section 1534 of the California Penal Code states, however, that after the execution and return of a warrant or the expiration of a 10-day period after issuance, “the documents and records shall be open to the public as a judicial record.”

“This is unbelievable. What is the county doing?” asked Sue Williamson, a resident of Ojai and a member of the Shangri La Care Cooperative. “They are hurting a lot of people who are dependent on (medical marijuana) for pain control. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night without it. It is ridiculous, they want us to take poison instead of a harmless plant that helps a lot of people.” 

Jeff Kroll, one of the Shangri La Care Cooperative principals, referred questions to his attorney, James Devine. Devine did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

According to its website, Shangri La Care Cooperative is a members-only medical marijuana collective and cooperative, offering its members products ranging from teas and oils to body wash and edibles. Only their members have access to the online-ordering system, and orders were being hand-delivered by the Cooperative to its members. They do not operate a storefront dispensary. 

In 2014, the group was given a business license by the city of Ojai to operate a testing facility on Bryant St. According to city records, the group was allowed to accept limited amounts of marijuana to test for mold, pesticides, fungus and chemical content. 

According to a 2014 report issued by Ventura County Behavioral Health (VCBH) department marijuana is still technically “an illegal substance” according to the federal Controlled Substances Act. But the U.S. Department of Justice announced, “prosecution efforts have been reprioritized,” which, when the smoke has cleared, means the feds will not be prosecuting in states where marijuana use has been authorized. 

Friday, three days after the county raid, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed a trio of bills, AB 266, SB 643, and AB 243, providing greater clarity in how the medical marijuana industry in California will be regulated.

Among the provisions, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2016, are the establishment of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. The Bureau will establish regulations and a permitting process for medical marijuana cultivators. AB 266 states that growing medical marijuana within the Bureau's guidelines “shall not be an offense subject to arrest, prosecution, or other sanction under state law, or be subject to a civil fine or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under state law.

In 2004, California passed Senate Bill 420 creating the Medical Marijuana Program Act.

The MMPA permits “collective cultivation” and instructs counties and cities to create their own regulations “to support the MMPA guidelines.”

In 2010, the restrictions on quantities of pot a qualified person can have were declared unconstitutional. Today, technically the holder of a medical marijuana ID card can “have as much marijuana as their doctor recommends.”

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