San Diego has been notoriously tough on marijuana law enforcement. City and county authorities have been shutting down illegal grow houses and business operations for many years. In March 2017, the police and city attorney’s office began a targeted crackdown on illegally-operated dispensaries. KPBS reports that sixty marijuana dispensaries were shut down in the first six months of the program. And yet, as raids expand, and authorities collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and pounds of marijuana, some question whether the enforcement tactics have gone too far.
A Shocking Case Study
There is perhaps no stronger argument for the overreaching of authority by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office than its treatment of a defense attorney. The attorney represents a marijuana distributor, Med-West, which has been under investigation by the DA’s office, in spite of the evidence its corporate officers have consistently provided to establish that it operates lawfully. In the course of her representation, the attorney sent an email to the client containing the words “plausible deniability”. This email was the basis of a criminal indictment of the attorney for being an accessory to a crime after the fact. Not only was the attorney indicted in blatant disregard of her client’s attorney-client privilege, but she was also treated with a surprising amount of aggression in the execution of the resulting warrant. She was arrested by an armed SWAT team at the home she shares with her boyfriend and mother. There, handcuffed and still in pajamas, her arrest warrant was read aloud “just loud enough for the neighbors to hear”.
The District Attorney’s Office was amazingly cavalier in its response when asked about this case. According to Slate, a public affairs officer claimed that “attorneys who do not break the law should have no concerns about attorney-client privilege”. This theory ignores a fact which every prosecutor must know in order to practice law: the attorney-client privilege is a right held by a client, and attorneys have a legal obligation to protect it vehemently. As one law professor aptly summed up the situation: “[The San Diego District Attorney’s] Office does not respect medical marijuana laws.” This may explain why the DA’s office seized $100,000 from the personal account of the owner of Med-West. The owner was eventually able to sue the DA’s office for the return of the funds with interest, but this did not stop their pursuit of his company. Within days of the return, felony charges had been filed against the company, the owner, and the lawyer.
What San Diego Dispensaries and Medical Marijuana Users Can Do to Protect Their Legal Rights
If you or your business has become the target of a criminal investigation, it is important to contact an experienced Southern California marijuana defense attorney as soon as possible. He or she may not be able to stop an investigation entirely, but the attorney will be able to protect your rights against self-incrimination and illegal searches and seizures. More importantly, an attorney can file motions or civil lawsuits with the court to stop harassing behaviors which are made under the pretext of a legitimate law enforcement investigation.
The Los Angeles Cannabis Law Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
District Attorneys Gone Wild, September 29, 2017, by Jessica Pishko, Slate
More Blog Entries:
San Diego Ordered to Return $100,000 to Medical Marijuana Business Owner, May 11, 2017 by Cannabis Law Group