(This story has been updated from an earlier version with comment from the California Highway Patrol.)
A California marijuana distribution company plans to file a lawsuit soon over what its attorney alleges is a “conspiracy” between the state Highway Patrol and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security involving the seizure of a large amount of cash.
According to a news release from Eureka-based Wild Rivers Transport (WRT) – a state-licensed transport-only distribution firm – California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers on Sept. 6 detained two employees who had been driving a company vehicle bound for Eureka on Interstate 5 after delivering medical cannabis products to the Los Angeles area.
The employees had been stopped earlier by a CHP officer and received a warning for an alleged violation involving their vehicle’s mud flaps, according to the release.
During a second stop by CHP, the Wild Rivers employees identified themselves and their state-legal business but were handcuffed and taken to the CHP substation in Merced, according to the release. The employees are former CHP officers, the release noted.
“WRT parties had their cell phones seized, personal travel funds confiscated and were released without charges after being detained in handcuffs behind their backs for approximately 6-7 hours,” according to the release.
The Department of Homeland Security was called in to “assume responsibility for the investigation” because the CHP allegedly “did not think they had enough to arrest” the detained employees, the release stated.
Attorney Matt Kumin, who was retained by Wild Rivers on Wednesday, told Marijuana Business Daily on Thursday he plans to file suit in state court “as soon as I get all the facts.”
Kumin said he believes the Highway Patrol and Homeland Security seized about $230,000 in cash from a safe in the Wild Rivers Transport vehicle and that the money has been transferred to DHS.
Responding to MJBizDaily‘s request for comment, CHP Sgt. Christopher Swanberg wrote in an email that “the California Highway Patrol (CHP) wants to assure the public that it takes all allegations of misconduct by its employees seriously.
“The CHP has a process in place that allows a member of the public to file a complaint, whether it be against an individual or the Department. When the Department becomes aware of an allegation of misconduct, whether on its own or when presented with evidence, through the filing of a complaint by a member of the public, the Department will conduct an investigation.”
Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to MJBizDaily‘s request for comment.
Kumin called the incident illustrative of a “conspiracy” between CHP and DHS, since the latter is not bound by a federal law – the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment – that prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from interfering with state-legal marijuana companies.
“It’s a cowardly act by the federal government,” Kumin said. “The story for the cannabis industry is, are we going to be able to transport our stuff on California highways?
“If I’m a cannabis business, I’m wondering if even a transport company is safe.”
Kumin added that he has been in contact with the office of U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who has long supported federal protections for state-licensed MJ companies – and that the case is “going to have reverberations all the way up to Washington DC, no question.”
Attorneys Marc and Craig Wasserman have also been retained in the case, Kumin said.
John Schroyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org