Ojai’s marijuana cooperative Shangri La has been raided once again by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, according to co-op owner Jeff Kroll, and the offices of his personal lawyer, James Devine.
The raid occurred on Wednesday, Dec. 9, four days after the cooperative convened a meeting to discuss possible legal actions against the sheriff’s department after a previous raid in October that resulted in the seizure of doctors’ recommendations for the use of marijuana for various members of the cooperative.
While Kroll was traveling with a friend in downtown Ojai, several undercover narcotics detectives served a warrant to search the vehicle they were in, and when he returned home, he discovered officers searching his home.
Kroll said the stress of the event landed him in the hospital, where he spent five hours recovering from high blood pressure.
Since the original raid in October, Kroll has had his bank accounts frozen, creating problems when paying quarterly taxes. Kroll said that he believes this is being done purposefully ahead of several laws coming into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, that would allow for cooperatives like Shangri-La to receive state licenses to operate.
“This was a clear intent to take the medicines away from patients, because we’ve asked numerous times, ‘Does this mean we’re closed?’ And their answer is, ‘no,’ ” said Kroll. Officers took legal documents, and money from his home as well as marijuana plants, effectively rendering the cooperative unable to operate.
Devine’s own lawyer, J. David Nick of the Law Offices of J. David Nick in San Francisco, said that officers seized his client’s files “under a very tenuous theory” that Devine may have been assisting in the committing of a crime, but that the State Bar of California says otherwise, adding that the ordeal is “like stuff from the McCarthy era.”
“You really have to wonder when comments are made by law enforcement officials executing the warrant such as, ‘You won’t be representing any more of these people after we’re finished,’ ” said Nick. “It’s clearly to chill representation of these types of institutions, deprive them of counsel, which they are entitled to, and to prohibit these institutions from knowing what the law requires in order for them to be legitimate.”
Nick says that they will apply to the court for an order to return documents and computers seized from Devine’s office.
Update: In the print edition of our paper, we note that the Sheriff’s Department could not be reached for comment. The Sheriff’s Department responded to our inquiry after deadline and acknowledged that a second search warrant had been served to Jeff Kroll and to his attorney James Devine.