The Cherry Top Farms dispensary wasn't the target of a DEA raid last week -- but the feds confiscated 2,500 plants anyhow.
Cherry Top's owners wanted to open up again early this week. But the dispensary's still closed at this writing -- and still losing money -- due in part to the way complicated state rules might impact restocking.
As you'll recall, federal authorities were conducting surveillance on three members of the Do family -- Nathan, Ha and Hai. The three were allegedly running an unlicensed marijuana grow in the same location that had been shut down back in June.
Law enforcers were just about to execute search warrants at the warehouse space in question when they saw suspects loading "contraband" into a truck. They followed the vehicle to Cherry Top Farms, watching as the pot was brought inside. And because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level whether it's used for medicinal purposes or not, agents subsequently seized all of Cherry Top's plants, medicines, edibles and more in addition to the truck's contents.
Attorney Bob Hoban, who also spoke to us today about the unionizing of medical marijuana workers, doesn't rail against the DEA and company for this action. In fact, he sees it as "a good sign that the federal government is working closely with the state Department of Revenue and the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. And the fact that they simply seized the plants and did not go out and arrest everyone on site is a good sign for our state-regulated industry."
That doesn't mean he expects the feds to return the confiscated products. "We're certainly inquiring about it," he says, but terms the prospect of that happening "highly unlikely." His focus, then, is state authorities. "We've got calls into the MMED to find out about continuing operation," he notes. "Cherry Top Farms has been 100 percent compliant with state law. They just happened to make a deal with the wrong guy at the wrong time. But that presents an interesting question: Despite the fact that all their product was seized, can they continue to operate?"
The center would be out of luck right now under any circumstances. "They don't have any merchandise at this point," Hoban confirms. "So we've reached out to the MMED to inquire what their position is, and if we can reopen the grow facility and lawfully purchase inventory."
Both of these matters are complicated by the state regulation known as the 70-30 rule; it requires centers to grow at least 70 percent of their medicine and purchase no more than 30 percent. But because Cherry Top's grow was completely wiped out, it would have to buy enough to get back open and continue operating until its cultivation operation was back at full speed -- something that could take a long time.
How flexible will MMED be when it comes to helping Cherry Top get going again? "We don't know the answer to any of these questions," Hoban concedes. "And I've advised my clients not to reopen until those questions are answered."
Hoban was out of town when the raid went down. He spent much of yesterday making calls in an effort to arrange a meeting involving enforcement division representatives and the dispensary ownership "over the next day or so." When that happens, "we trust the MMED will evaluate it by how it's complied with state law to date. Given its track record of cooperation, we're hopeful the MMED will allow the center to go out and purchase medicine and continue on its track record of compliance -- but be a little more careful about who it does business with."
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Jessica Corry, Bob Hoban on what's wrong with new Denver MMJ regs."
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