Undercover raids at 14 so-called medical marijuana dispensaries effectively shut down operations run by drug dealers, many of whom had a criminal past, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Thirty-one people were arrested across the County.
“Help me, help me, I am being arrested,” one man said as he was handcuffed in his wheelchair at Hillcrest Compassion Care.
One-by-one employees of the medical marijuana dispensary were arrested.
“They're doing so under the guise of helping people who are sick. But we're not fooled and the public shouldn't be fooled either,” District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis said.
By some estimates, there are now 60 operating in San Diego County, according to investigators.
“The police came in and raided us and told us to get our hands up, pushed us against the wall, started handcuffing people. All they said was that they had a search warrant, but they didn't tell us what is was for,” Sara Sanders said.
In the North County cities of Vista and San Marcos, government officials have been fielding citizen complaints about the storefronts.
Law enforcement also stormed Nature's in Linda Vista. Witnesses said that officers had guns drawn and bashed the door in.
"They put me against the wall, and did a search. I ended up cuffed before they even checked my bag and I am a med patient with a legal card. So, I felt like I was harassed by being cuffed," medical marijuana patient Stacey Gant said.
There were more arrests at another raid in Pacific Beach at 929A on Turquoise Street and boxes of evidence were confiscated.
In one small Pacific Beach neighborhood, investigators said there are five storefronts within a few blocks of each other.
“In fact, in that particular neighborhood in Pacific Beach, it's easier to find some place to find marijuana than it is to buy a Starbucks to find a latte," Dumanis said.
The District Attorney supports the legitimate and legal use of medical marijuana, but says the dispensaries are not legal.
"Let me be clear from the start, this investigation has nothing to do with legitimate medical marijuana patients, or their caregivers," Dumanis said.
Volunteers say the raids are unnecessary and that they are abiding by the law.
“We have a lot of patients that are ailing and they need medicine and that’s what we are here for, doing this, doing the right thing by what the voters of San Diego, California decided on,” marijuana dispensary volunteer Booker Sanders Jr. said.
Law enforcement seized marijuana at each location, more than $70,000 in cash and six guns. An initial review of the records at one dispensary reveals that more than $700,000 in income was generated in the past six months through the selling of marijuana and marijuana-laced products.