|“People in the state of California unfortunately have to be aware of the inherent risk that the feds may come in and shut you down.” – Nathan Shaman, CA-based Attorney|
Earlier this year, 25-year old Zack Curcie was at work as a gardener on a 10-acre parcel of land being used to cultivate medical marijuana in the foothills of southern California.
Though the grow site was legal under California state law, and the people behind it went to great lengths to follow the state’s 18-year old pot laws as best they could, on September 24th Curcie, an Iraq War vet, found out what it is like to be on the other side of a military-style raid as aggressive San Diego-based Narcotics Task Force (NTF) agents stormed the property with weapons raised.
It is really no shock to see the San Diego NTF knocking down doors to grow ops, but the 10-acre outdoor grow they yanked up on September 24th was in Riverside County, well north of San Diego.
Now the property’s owner wants to know why San Diego NTF agents, outside of their jurisdiction, were on her property in the first place, and why they ignored the professionally prepared paperwork that was in place to validate the grow.
Curcie said that he could not identify the para-militarized crew that upended the grow site as he was handcuffed and temporarily detained. He told local CBS News8 that “the first thing they did was point guns at me so I wasn’t asking for any paper.”
Not that they would have been able to provide any had he asked. There was no search warrant for the raid; a detail that the DEA and NTF shrug off as standard operating procedure when weed is being grown “in an open field”.
An unmarked helicopter, allegedly funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, soon landed on the site and roughly 100 cannabis plants were uprooted and confiscated.
Clearly displayed on a sign bordering the property along the roadside were 16 medical marijuana recommendations, another attempt by the owners of the grow op to proclaim their adherence to California’s personal use and caregiver restrictions.
The land is owned by a little old lady from Carlsbad, California, and she rents it out to a medical marijuana collective who set up the grow with her full consent. They even went to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office and presented their paperwork and business plan, to which the officer in charge apparently said that they “might not like it, but its legal”.
The collective owners then hired Curcie to tend to the garden and although he was the one detained on September 24th, he was never arrested. In fact, no arrests were ever made in the case.
The landowner, whose name has not been released, immediately called her local politician, Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, who was also concerned about the style of the raid, and the lack of a warrant before the raid, or arrests after the fact.
Unfortunately cannabis cultivation still remains illegal under federal law, and the DEA and NTF down in San Diego are notorious for using “dual-deputized” sheriffs and law enforcement agents. These are cops who are on the state’s payroll, but due to their proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, have been given certain authorities as federal agents as well – authorities that they abuse in these weed cases time and again.
Nathan Shaman is a cannabis-friendly lawyer based out of La Jolla, California, and is all too familiar with the loophole that San Diego’s DEA and NTF agents are exploiting.
“They are enforcing federal law over their own state law and it’s certainly troubling that state taxpayer money is paying for that,” Shaman told CBS News8.
Shaman is the attorney representing Dennis and Deborah Little of Ramona, California, in a similar case of overreach by San Diego’s well-funded pot prohibitionists. As we reported here earlier this year, the Little’s already beat their criminal case, embarrassing the shit out of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and all of the law enforcement agencies and officers involved in the process.
No word yet as to whether or not the unnamed owners of the Riverside County grow op will sue the San Diego NTF and DEA, but there is certainly precedent for them to do so.
Trials are costly for all parties, but if enough mistreated growers are able to stand up to this harassment in a court of law, the government’s cost of defending itself may begin to outweigh whatever profit these shady law enforcement agencies are raking in off of these busts.
And you know what they say, ‘if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense’.