Barely a month after California implemented legal weed, a Mendocino cannabis company in showdown with authorities has caught our attention.
Just little over a week before legalization took effect in California on January 1, state police stopped a truck hauling 1,875 pounds of cannabis in Mendocino County, seizing the goods and slapping the two occupants with misdemeanor possession charges.
This despite the fact that they were hauling for their employer, Ukiah-based Old Kai Logistics, and had paperwork showing the firm is licensed by county authorities. Now that cannabis is recreationally legal, the Mendocino cannabis company in showdown with authorities is wondering where they stand.
It remains to be seen if prosecutors will pursue the case in light of legalization, and the affair has enflamed suspicions between growers and authorities at a critical moment.
Supply Chain Problems
Old Kai, the Mendocino cannabis company in showdown with authorities, is a cannabis industry logistic company that offers “supply-chain solutions” including testing, processing and distribution to area cultivators. The truck was hauling product for six growers in the Covelo/Round Valley area of the county.
During the December 22 traffic stop, the two employees presented law enforcement with documentation that the company was licensed as of December 19—to no avail.
Old Kai founder Lucas Seymour told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat: “We’re a licensed entity. We have all the paperwork. All of our employees are aboveboard. We have payroll, pay stubs, workers’ comp. We’re not trying to scam anyone.”
Angry county residents packed a Jan 22 Board of Supervisors meeting to protest the bust in the public-comment period, local radio reports. Joe Rogoway, attorney for Old Kai, told the Supervisors he contacted both the California Highway Patrol and the sheriff’s office as soon as he knew the bust was underway and was “rebuffed” by both. He called the affair a “grave injustice.”
Authorities Claim Haul Was Still Illegal
Officer Jake Slates, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol’s Ukiah office, told the Press-Democrat he couldn’t comment on the case. The reason being, the investigating officer was out of the office. But Slates did say, “Let’s say they went through and got all the documentation and it’s 100 percent legal — it’s still illegal because it’s before Jan. 1, 2018.”
The participation of the Mendocino Sheriff’s department in the bust is particularly disconcerting. It indicates that the county’s own law enforcement is at odds with the county’s regulatory bureaucracy. Mendo Supervisors passed an ordinance to license and regulate cannabis in the county in April 2017. But Sheriff Tom Allman is a leader of the right-wing “Constitutional Sheriffs” movement, as the Press-Democrat has reported.
Legalization has been law in California since New Year’s Day. But the charges against the two Old Kai employees haven’t been dropped. Worst of all, the cannabis is still being held as evidence. Or, perhaps it has been destroyed.
And just 17 days after the bust, local officers, acting on a “probation search” linked to a 2015 misdemeanor cannabis conviction for Old Kai co-owner Lucas Seymour, entered the firm’s place of business and removed boxloads of financial documents.
The case is being watched closely by those who fear that a continued heavy police hand will discourage growers from joining California’s newly established legal and regulated market.
As attorney Rogoway told the Supervisors: “What I hear from a lot of operators in Mendocino County is, ‘Why should I participate in the system, put myself at risk? Why bother? If this is what happens to Old Kai, what will happen to me?'”
Final Hit: Mendocino Cannabis Company In Showdown With Authorities
Mendocino has approved more than 400 cannabis permits. But even licensed growers are clearly worried. Joshua Artman, one of the cultivators whose product was seized in the bust, told the Press-Democrat: “If I lose my crop… what do I tell my wife and kids? It’s tough. Honestly, I’m not sure what to do. Hopefully some good will come out of this; we can set a precedent and it won’t happen again. But this has massive repercussions for the county of Mendocino.”
And for what the legal cannabis economy is going to look like in the state of California.