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Debriefer: June 22, 2016 

Raiding growers and underpaying workers

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Santa Rosa Police and Drug Enforcement Agency officers raided the cannabis dispensary Care by Design on June 15, halting the distribution of medical cannabis to patients statewide. In response, advocates, supporters, patients and leaders joined together the next day to protest the raid on the steps of the Sonoma County Superior Courthouse.

Care by Design has been operating in the legal gray area for over two decades, and the raids came right after the company gave a tour to law enforcement to discuss industry regulations. The state passed an omnibus bill to regulate legitimate medical-cannabis businesses last year, but last week's raid reveals that regulation and law enforcement are not in sync.

Attorney Joe Rogoway is representing Care by Design and told a crowd at the rally that the business was "attempting to move past a model of incarceration for cannabis operators" and emerge into regulatory compliance.

Tawnie Logan, executive director for the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, also addressed the crowd to say what cannabis distributors, patients and workers want is adherence to guidelines established by the 1996 Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. Logan stated that "we the people are inspiring law on a local level in order to inspire law on a national level," and noted that California is one of the leaders in the medical marijuana industry in the United States. (Read "The Nugget" on page 34 for more from Logan.)

Denis Hunter, a founding patient member of CBD, was arrested on charges of manufacturing a controlled substance by chemical extraction, a law typically applied to meth labs. Hunter was arrested and bail was set at $5 million. He was released 48 hours later and charges were dropped.

Officials also confiscated cannabis, cash and equipment, which the company is trying to get released.

Rogoway told the crowd that the raids resulted from "a business dispute from a disgruntled employee who was attempting to gain a market advantage."

In a follow-up interview, CBD spokesman Nick Caston alleged that the ex-employee started a competing company and provided officials with false information about his former employer. Caston says CBD hopes to be back in operation in short order.—Casey Dobbert


On June 2, the state Assembly failed to pass bill AB 2757, a story we first read at The bill would have compelled employers to pay farmworkers overtime benefits based on the industry-standard threshold of a 40-hour work week or eight hours per day. Local assemblymen Marc Levine and Bill Dodd both voted against the bill.

Overtime benefits for farmworkers now kick in at 10 hours a day or 60 hours across the week. The effort recalled a similar workers' rights bill that passed through Sacramento in 2013 and extended OT benefits to domestic workers, many of whom, like the farmworkers, are immigrants. Assembly Bill 2757 was opposed by the California Farm Bureau Federation, which claimed that the new regulations would lead to higher food prices.

Levine and Dodd have accepted contributions from the Farm Bureau, which is listed as among Levine's top contributors at the Vote Smart campaign-data portal; the Farm Bureau contributed $2,500 to his last District 10 campaign. Spread over a five-day work week, that's $500 a day. —Casey Dobbert and Tom Gogola

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