California law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, have reportedly raided a number of laboratories operated by the highly respected Santa Rosa cannabis company known for producing pot products for medical marijuana patients across the state.
On Wednesday, drug agents dropped a hammer on five properties owned by Care By Design, arresting several people and seizing everything from equipment to payroll records, according to The Press Democrat. The company, which produces cannabis oils, tinctures, and sprays under the Absolute Xtracts brand, is being accused of manufacturing these products using methods that are illegal in the eyes of the state.
The company is suspected of producing cannabis oil using a popular butane extraction process that is considered by some to be a dangerous technique for producing highly concentrated pot products. However, Nick Caston, a spokesperson for Care By Design, told reporters that the company does not use volatile chemicals to manufacture any of the products they sell.
“We produce medicine as determined by the voters in the 1990s, and we do it with the best practices of any company in the state,” said Caston.
Although it has not been made clear just how many people were arrested – and on what charges – Santa Rosa police did specify that Care By Design owner Dennis Franklin Hunter has been taken into custody and charged with felony manufacturing of a controlled substance. Reports indicate that Hunter’s bail has been set at $5 million because police claim, “he has a history of evading arrest.”
Interestingly, an email obtained by SF Weekly suggests that law enforcement may have used the suspected butane extraction operation simply as an excuse to conduct the raid. Former Care By Design consultant Martin Lee told the publication “those guys never used butane, only CO2.”
Although the processes are similar, the distinguishing factor in the method Lee says the company was using does not involve volatile chemicals.
Santa Rosa police along with the local Fire Marshal are currently investigating the laboratories in an effort to determine exactly how a variety of pot products were being manufactured. So far, officials have discovered a number of code violations, but no definitive evidence that Care By Design was engaged in any questionable extraction practices.
Unfortunately, Care By Design has been forced to shutdown while the investigation is underway. But the company says it hopes to clear up the issue and get back to business very soon.
“This law enforcement action is unprecedented, unfortunate, and has the potential to deprive thousands of profoundly sick patients of much needed medicine,” Caston said in a statement. “We will cooperate fully with law enforcement in an effort to resolve this as quickly as possible, and hope to have our several dozen employees in Sonoma County back to work this week.”