OC Sheriff's Department Says All Sales of Marijuana Illegal, Investigation Involving Belmont Shore Collective Ongoing

10:00am | The Orange County Sheriff's Department considers all sales of marijuana to be illegal -- whether or not they involve profit -- and says the investigation that led to the raid of Belmont Shore Natural Care and numerous other locations and individuals is ongoing, according to a department spokesperson.

In response to follow-up questions regarding the search warrant served on a half-dozen collectives and over a dozen other locations and persons on November 8, Lt. David Doyle has told the Long Beach Post that "the CUA and MMPA do not authorize sales of marijuana," and that therefore all cash-for-cannabis transactions are illegal.

Doyle also provided further details on the November 8 enforcement action, reporting that a total of approximately $492,000 was seized in the various searches. No cash was seized from Belmont Shore Natural Care; however, in addition to the collective's entire medicinal inventory, a variety of bookkeeping paperwork was seized, along with a computer.

Doyle noted while no arrests have been made thus far, the investigation centering around John Walker, whom the Sheriff's Department labels "a silent partner that heads … [a] criminal organization conspiring to illegally sell marijuana at several storefronts," is ongoing.

While many law-enforcement organizations view cash-for-cannabis transactions (such as typically take place at storefront dispensaries) as illegal, in August 2008, then-State Attorney General Jerry Brown released a set of guidelines based on his interpretation of the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA), the legal foundations for California's allowance of the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. In those guidelines, Brown states that "a properly organized and operated collective or cooperate that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful under California law," and that such operations can include marijuana being "[a]llocated based on fees that are reasonably calculated to cover overhead costs and operating expenses." 

However, the Sheriff's Department alleges that some or all of the sales made at the collectives named in the warrant were made on a for-profit basis.

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