Judge orders sheriff in California to return seized marijuana oil, cash

Just Released! Get realistic market forecasts, state-by-state insights and benchmarks with the new 2024 MJBiz Factbook member program, now with quarterly updates. Make informed decisions.

Two California marijuana companies won a significant victory over the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s office when a superior court judge ordered the law-enforcement agency to return 1,800 pounds of cannabis oil and $620,000 in cash that it seized in January.

Judge Thomas Anderle ruled on May 15 that the sheriff’s office had to return the seized property because “the record here shows that a California licensed cannabis operator committed no crime, much less intentionally committed a crime.”

After Santa Barbara sheriff’s deputies raided Arroyo Verde Farms in January and seized the oil and cash, the sheriff’s office tried to persuade Judge Anderle that the assets should be forfeited to them because they were connected to an ongoing criminal investigation into the farm.

Anderle disagreed and ordered the oil released to its owners.

The seized oil had already been sold to manufacturer Eagle Bay Enterprises, doing business as Procan Labs, and was being stored by Carpinteria, California-based Arroyo Verde.

John Armstrong, attorney for Procan Labs in Concord, California, said in a news release that the case was an instance of a “police mistake.”

“Licensed cannabis operators should not be at risk of losing their business because police mistake lawful cannabis operations for illegal black-market activities,” Armstrong said.

“This decision shows that our courts will side with the cannabis industry when provided evidence of good-faith efforts to comply with state regulations.”

Anderle noted in his ruling that Procan Labs had already been forced to cut its staff by 40% because of the January seizure and that the 1,800 pounds of oil represented roughly 65% of its saleable inventory.

“Unless the seized cannabis oil is returned to Procan expeditiously, the company will likely be forced to close its business,” Anderle wrote.