The federal government has given back $257,733 that was seized by law enforcement officers from a licensed California cannabis distributor last fall.
It’s a big legal win for state-authorized cannabis companies, an attorney in the case said Wednesday.
Humboldt County-based Wild Rivers Transport filed suit in San Francisco County Superior Court in December after two of its drivers were stopped by California Highway Patrol in September.
Federal authorities were called to the scene, and more than a quarter million dollars in cash – from a recent MJ business delivery – was confiscated.
Wild Rivers at the time said it was the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that seized its money and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) was the agency that agreed to return it, according to a news release from Wild Rivers’ attorney, Matt Kumin.
CBP is one of several agencies that fall under the larger DHS umbrella.
According to the release, prosecutors decided not to file an asset forfeiture case, and Kumin pointed to a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in 2016 – U.S. v. McIntosh – as a key to the win.
The decision hinged on a temporary federal law, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment (now called the Joyce Amendment), that barred the U.S. Department of Justice from using federal funding to interfere with state medical marijuana programs or businesses. Recreational cannabis companies are not protected.
“The federal government’s surrender in this forfeiture case gives hope to an otherwise beleaguered California cannabis industry,” the release noted.
“The case also puts the CHP on notice that its core tactic – turning seized cannabis and cannabis cash over to federal authorities – will no longer work.”