Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

July 1, 2010
Advocate for pot businesses blasts 'strong-arm' raids in Butte

The lobbyist for a Chico medical marijuana patients group hoping to open a dispensary in the city is crying foul over Wednesday's law enforcement sweeps that targeted eight Butte County pot shops and 11 residences.

Max Del Real, whose California Capitol Solutions firm represents dispensaries and other marijuana-related business, took issue with the timing of the raids by 100 officers from a dozen law enforcement agencies.

The sweeps took place as the city of Chico is considering a local ordinance to allow marijuana dispensaries to legally operate in the college town, the home of Chico State University. The City Council began reviewing a proposed dispensary ordinance in May and the Chico planning commission is to take up the issue in August.

Del Real represents a local patients' group called Citizens Collective that is seeking to open a dispensary in Chico. He said the home of one of the group's organizers was targeted in Wednesday's raids.

"We have a sting operation that is wasting resources and chasing down crime that doesn't exist," Del Real said. "Butte County is muddying the waters for great cities like Chico that want to push forward a reasonable ordinance."

He added: "What we find are strong-arm tactics meant to spread fear throughout the north state, and I find that very unfortunate."

Chico Police Chief Mike Maloney said in an interview Wednesday that the raids were triggered by evidence that existing pot clubs in the county were doling out marijuana to people lacking proper medical recommendations.

He said officers were also responding to questions over "the legitimacy of these operations" and their "compliance with the law."

Officials in both Chico and the county say current zoning laws don't permit dispensaries.

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