Many people in the cannabis community heard the news via social media apps like Facebook and Instagram way before the San Diego Division of the DEA put out a press release and the local news media caught on.
On Wednesday of last week, the DEA announced that on September 16th, 2014, they arrested nine San Diego area residents after successful raids on multiple locations in the takedown stage of a yearlong investigation they oh-so-cleverly dubbed Operation: Shattered Dreams.
The Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego Division of the DEA, Richard Sherman, has not been shy about his office’s war on dabs. In a prepared statement he said, “The number of explosions and fires that we have had in San Diego County just this year make Hash Oil cases a priority. The people who are using dangerous chemicals to extract Hash Oil do so without concern for anything other than making a profit.”
San Diego law enforcement has investigated over 50 hash oil labs just since January 2nd, and they’ve even busted active hash oil production sites in the past. Unfortunately, about 1/3rd of them, roughly 20 in San Diego in the past year alone, were discovered by the fire department after an explosion and/or fire.
The resources spent over the course of a year on a case like Operation: Shattered Dreams must be sky high. The early morning raids saw doors being kicked down from Chula Vista, to Spring Valley, to El Cajon, and agents say several of the locations they hit had active hash oil labs inside.
Hash oil, or butane hash oil (BHO), is currently illegal to manufacture in the state of California, even under the state’s 18 year old medical marijuana laws.
The DEA would not disclose how much hash oil was seized in the raids, other than to refer to it as a “large quantity”, much of which was allegedly packaged for sale.
Authorities say they also confiscated weed, extraction unit pieces and parts, leftover butane canisters, $25,000 cash, and an illegal assault rifle during their searches.
|Evidence confiscated during Operation:Shattered Dreams|
The nine suspects arrested were all arraigned on Friday, and they face a range of charges including; Manufacturing a Controlled Substance, Cultivation of Marijuana, Possession of Marijuana for Sale, Possession of Concentrated Cannabis, Child Endangerment, and Possession of an Illegal Assault Rifle.
The two facing the Child Endangerment charges are a married couple, and have been accused of preparing the potentially explosive and highly flammable hash oil dangerously close to the bedroom where their toddler slept.
One of the apartments hit by the feds was allegedly foggy with residual butane vapors hovering in the air in a small bathroom as agents literally walked in on the process in action. The agents had to vacate the premises and HazMat teams were called in to clean up the various suspected BHO labs taken down in the morning raids.
Immediately following the raids, rumor spread quickly through the tight-knit San Diego cannabis community that three well-known local Instagram personalities were among those taken in by the DEA.
We will not re-print the screen names, or actual names, of those who stand accused, but their followers on the hyper-popular photo-sharing app number in the tens of thousands, leaving many people wondering if social media is as safe as they think it to be.
Mr. Sherman’s right-hand man at the San Diego Division of the DEA is a man named Steve Hill. In an April 2014 interview with CBS News 8, Hill hinted that “big brother” really is looking at your personal pictures of that particularly perfect dab of dank, but unless you are selling slabs of it, he said you likely have little to worry about.
“We’re not really focusing on those who are possessing small amounts of hash oil or marijuana as we’re seeing it in the community,” said Hill at the time. “That’s not the concern right now. Our biggest concern is those who are manufacturing it.”
Hill’s admission that the feds definitely are watching, along with the fact that the local DEA office is willing to dump a year’s work into an undercover investigation on the matter, should tell any aspiring “extract artists” in America’s Finest City that Operation: Shattered Dreams may just be the beginning.
Mr. Sherman once again did not mince his words when he recently reiterated, “(the) DEA and its law enforcement partners will continue to target and relentlessly pursue the individuals responsible that are running these dangerous labs.”
Sherman’s #2, Mr. Hill, proved that the DEA is still very much out of touch when it comes to cannabis, belching, “The hash oil labs of today are like the meth labs of yesterday.”
Many have drawn comparisons to a slightly similar set of raids that took place in July of this year in Washington under the stupidly-similar codename of Operation: Shattered. In the Washington raids, eight were arrested on almost identical charges as the nine busted last week in southern California. The main difference is, those popped in Washington were brought in on charges related to past hash oil related explosions stemming from three totally separate incidents.
On the contrary, the Operation: Shattered Dreams raids that went down in San Diego were coordinated, and apparently pre-emptive, based on information they must have gathered through their undercover connection(s) to the group.
The latest wave of aggression from the DEA has many SoCal stoners purging their social media “friend” lists and wisely thinking twice before posting over-filtered photos of their meds onto the world wide web for all to see.
You cannot build a résumé with “Likes”, but the drug warriors sure can build a case with them.