Cannabis may be legal in California, but the new rules of the road are so confusing that even former California Highway Patrol officers are struggling with them.
That became clear on a September morning when a pair of former CHP officers who now run a licensed cannabis distribution business found themselves arrested after a traffic stop on Interstate 5 in Stanislaus County.
Rick Barry, 48, and Brian Clemann, 47, were released from custody in Merced hours later, but the CHP kept the $257,000 the two men were transporting and handed it over the the Department of Homeland Security, according to a lawsuit filed in Merced County Superior Court.
Barry and Clemann also are suing the CHP in San Francisco Superior Court, where they’re seeking a ruling directing state and local governments not to interfere with the legal distribution of marijuana.
“It appears the CHP will stop at nothing to disrupt the lawful and legal transport of items involved in the medicinal cannabis industry,” Barry and Clemann said in a press release.
Their predicament underscores one of the key challenges that cannabis distributors face a year after a California law legalizing recreational marijuana took effect.
Marijuana may be legal in California, but it’s still an illicit substance under federal law and people in the business run the risk of time in custody or lost product if they run afoul of local authorities.
State and local governments also want to prevent illegal marijuana distributors, such as black market growers and drug cartels, from operating easily.
The California Office of Administrative Law last week handed down a ruling that sought to clarify how distributors should move about the state. Its decision upheld a Bureau of Cannabis Control regulation that states “a delivery employee may deliver to any jurisdiction within the State of California provided that such delivery is conducted in compliance with all delivery provisions of this division.”
Bureau Chief Lori Ajax said in a statement that “These approved regulations are the culmination of more than two years of hard work by California’s cannabis licensing authorities.”
But the ruling was unpopular among long governments that wanted to retain influence over how marijuana is sold in their jurisdictions. Its opponents included the League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Association.
“We are deeply concerned with the adoption of the new cannabis regulations, which allow for the delivery of cannabis anywhere in the state. We are already having trouble enforcing a new and complex industry, and this allowance will only make enforcement even more difficult,” California Police Chiefs Association President David Swing said.
CHP seizures of cannabis on the rise
The CHP hasn’t slowed down in cannabis seizures since legalization. In fact, the department seized nearly eight tons of cannabis between January and November of 2018. That’s almost double the amount of cannabis the CHP seized in 2017, and the most it has taken in a calendar year since 2014.
CHP spokeswoman Jaime Coffee said in an email interview that “in order to legally transport cannabis in California for commercial purposes, a person must possess the appropriate (Bureau of Cannabis Control) license and comply with the BCC administrative regulations.”
That means state officers remain on the lookout for black market operators.
Barry and Clemann, the former CHP officers who now own Eureka-based Wild Rivers Transport, weren’t transporting cannabis when they were stopped on Sept. 6, 2018. Their vehicle was searched when a police canine detected cannabis during the traffic stop, according to their lawsuit.
The cannabis distributors acknowledge they left the CHP on bad terms after careers there that lasted more than a decade, Clemann said. The CHP in 2015 accused Clemann of burglarizing an evidence room. A jury in 2016 found him not guilty, according to the Del Norte Triplicate.
Barry and Clemann went into business together in 2017. Clemann in an interview said he and his partner resolved only to deal with “white market” cannabis companies when they opened their distribution company.
“We make sure they’re a licensed company,” he said. “We do our research, then we transport from A to B.”
To Read The Rest Of This Article Byon The Sacramento Bee
Published: January 21, 2019
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