Greetings, fellow member/patients,
For those of you who haven't heard yet, Sespe was raided on November 3rd. Since then we've received amazing support, but our fight is just beginning.
A Little Background
A collective in California operating under the Medical Marijuana Program Act or SB420 has a difficult time because the law itself was incomplete and vague. Neither SB420 nor Prop 215 "legalized" medical cannabis, they only created an affirmative defense (a fact or set of facts other than those alleged by the prosecution which, if proven by the defendant, defeats or mitigates the legal consequences of the defendant's otherwise unlawful conduct) to various cannabis-related charges. Because neither SB420 or Prop 215 changed the underlying laws, all commercial cannabis activity was technically illegal, and law enforcement was given wide discretion to determine whether or not to take action against it. Thankfully, Proposition 64 has legalized the possession of cannabis by people 21 years or older, and set up a system for commercial cannabis activities, but our raid took place 5 days before that law was passed.
A collective in Ventura County has an even more difficult time because the local governments determined to regulate activity by consistently banning everything they were allowed to ban, meaning that all of the services within this county have been operating without a local regulatory structure.
We know that several local officials had investigated Sespe and acknowledged that, after looking into our operation, they were satisfied we were compliant. We know that when local representatives declined to regulate cannabis businesses, their decisions were based, in part, on the belief that their constituents' needs were already being met (by Sespe) and therefore no action was necessary on their part. Considering they've known about us for several years, it's up to speculation why law enforcement chose 5 days before the vote on Prop 64 to act. It was apparent, however, that the law enforcement officers thought they were going to find a lot more going on than they did.
The Road Ahead
A few days after the raid, we put up a fund-raising link, and were overwhelmed by the love and generosity of our members. The initial goal set was $25,000, but that goal has since been raised to $50,000 as we confronted the extent of the damage done. We have high hopes that some, if not all, of the charges will be dropped and that everything that was taken will be returned, but the legal fees required to accomplish this are enormous. This is the price of serving our patients while protected only by an "affirmative defense."
We intend to get back to serving patients as soon as humanly possible, but we need to find a place to be. The main thrust of the current charges involves alleged "irregularities" with our business license. What law enforcement considers an irregularity is nothing more than a business practice that adopted by cannabis- and non-cannabis businesses all over the state so that employees, taxes, bills, and worker's comp premiums are paid without having to hand them sacks of cash (which itself is a risky practice likely resulting in law enforcement claiming that paying in cash is an “irregularity”).
Our continued existence hinges on either our ability to change some minds in some City Councils, or our willingness to relocate to another county and serve our patients from afar. As daunting as this all seems, we are determined to make it work. This past week the Sespe team have been volunteering our efforts to make this happen. That's how much we believe in what we're doing. This passion for what we do is the reason we put our necks on the line for safe access in the first place, in spite of the countless obstacles we've faced over the past five years. Thanks to those obstacles, we are well-trained in dealing with adversity, and this one isn't going to stop us any more than all those other ones have.