Cops Raid Pot House First, Ask Questions Later

Thumbnail image for Marijuana_illegal.jpg
It's not your landlord knocking
On Jan. 11, someone knocked on the door of Bruce Rossignol's 13th Street home. The investment banker turned medical cannabis cultivator, who, as SF Weekly reported in August wishes to someday open a cannabis club in North Beach, assumed it was his landlord.

He was wrong.

At the door were a dozen officers from the San Francisco Police Department, narcotics officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration, and officers with the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force. They raided the sophisticated cultivation operation on which Rossignol had spent an ungodly sum of time and money.

Cops smashed his grow equipment and then seized cash and an unknown amount of marijuana.

That's a bummer --  and one that could have been avoided with a single phone call.

Rossignol, a medical cannabis patient who says his operation was truly legal, has a dispensary permit application pending with the Department of Public Health. But the SFPD didn't bother contacting regulators until the day after the raid, according to the police report.

Officer Scott Biggs with the narcotics unit had organized the operation -- and six other simultaneous raids conducted that same day. The following day, Biggs called the Department of Public Health. The staffer in charge of the city's medical cannabis program, Larry Kessler, was out on vacation, so another staffer told Biggs that Rossignol didn't have a dispensary permit just yet, according to the report.

That would be true -- but since Rossignol was growing, not selling pot, did he really need an MCD permit?  What he does have is a nonprofit collective organized listed on file with the Secretary of State -- isn't that all an individual needs in California to cultivate medicine under Proposition 215?

Rossignol believed so. Yet Biggs' report never mentioned medical cannabis; it only referenced his conversation with SFDPH. How did a Jan. 12 conversation end up in a report dated Jan. 11, post-facto?

We can't answer that question because SFPD did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Rossignol is due in court Feb. 15, when he says he will tell a San Francisco Superior Court judge that he was running a legal operation: He had 20 other patients' recommendations on site at the time of the raid. Some would interpret SB 420, the state's medical cannabis law, to say he needed only one recommendation for that number of plants (his state-issued cannabis patients' ID card was among the evidence SFPD seized).

As to whether Rossignol's growing-only operation truly required a medical cannabis permit, the city's medical cannabis ordinance is somewhat ambiguous.

"If there was 10 or more patients in the collective, and money exchanged hands, then yes," said David Goldman of the San Francisco chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a patients' advocacy group. "If no money exchanged hands, then no."  (No money was exchanged for marijuana in this case, according to Rossignol.)

But it appears to be an issue of of confusion over permitting rather than a crime.

Goldman added, "The arbiter is [the Department of Public Health's] Larry Kessler [who oversees the city's MCD program]." 

But since Kessler was out of town when the SFPD raided Rossignol's home, the outcome would have been the same.

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7 comments
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Sammy
Sammy

Just wondering why San Mateo was in San Francisco?

cherylmeril
cherylmeril

This is a common practice among police officers. I was called to jury duty on a similar case. Cops have nothing better to do and view this kind of bust as a big political feather in their cap so they want it bad. They don't care about permits and use color of law to get it to a prosecutor. The case I was called to jury duty was dismissed and denoted the police lied about not seeing any permits. There was a lot of O/T and many officers assigned to the case wasting tax payer's money.

These police officers are worthless trash wasting tax payer's money. They're nothing but animals sniffing for trouble where there is none.

gary2515
gary2515

Dumb pigs are going to cost the tax payers millions ... sigh

Anngrogan
Anngrogan

I'm not certain that just electing a particular person to the Mayor's office will necessarily follow in better policing, or less emphasis on pursuing victimless crimes such as this one. It seems that only when citizens and like-minded groups ally, and speak up to their individual supervisor as elected representative, that much can be done and at that, very, very slowly. Perhaps it's more important to write our Supervisor, our Interim Police Chief, and the police commission with our opinions that to comment after an article, so I'm off to do just that.

RayChristlTHC
RayChristlTHC

This is a severe form of modern fascism. Amerika is getting worse under WarBama. I'm very happy for the political gains for gay people,yet the peace movement and drug policy is the shits under this misadventure of Chicago mob style polyarchy.

Colin Broughton
Colin Broughton

The police officers involved in this fiasco ought to be dismissed.

Taxpayers have been getting hosed for decades to support the foolish, failed War on Drugs. Cannabis prohibition is particularly galling, given that the plant is approximately as dangerous as chocolate (not to minimize the dangers of chocolate!) There is no benefit to taxpayers to offset the billions this abuse of law-enforcement resources costs each year.

Now let's look at the impact on families. Whatever problem drug prohibition was supposed to solve, the actual result is families torn asunder and lives destroyed not by the effects of drug use, but by a dysfunctional justice system.

So who is driving these insane policies? Organized crime cheers whenever crooked politicians announce their latest "tough on crime" initiatives, because criminals understand that prohibition is *their* economic concession. The arrest/incarceration industry cheers whenever money is stolen from education budgets to cover more cages for cons. The religious nutters, the ones who really think baby Jesus cries every time a med pot patient lights up, end up being useful idiots.

Taxpayers really are nuts to allow this nonsense to continue.

h. brown
h. brown

Chris,

The salient fact here is that because the President of the United States hates pot, the cops on all levels feel free to attack growers and distributors and patients. And, cops love to attack easy targets. In this town, they are wimps. A dozen of them with automatic weapons smashing grow equipment? These guys are personally wimps with a free hand which turns them into bullies and thugs. How does Ed Lee feel about this?

Gonzalez for Mayor

Mirkarimi for Mayor

Campos for Mayor

Adachi for Mayor

Avalos for Mayor

Until we have a Progressive Mayor, this crap will never stop.

You see that Sabean is still denying he was wrong not to bring up Posey earlier last year? Some people cannot admit when they've been and remain wrong. In baseball it's an annoying thing. In law enforcement?

h.

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