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Friday, October 15, 2010

Feds Seize Grow Equipment, Cash from Oakland Pot Factory

Posted By on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 12:59 PM

click to enlarge Pot growers, we welcome you -- and your seized assets
  • Pot growers, we welcome you -- and your seized assets
Pot growers, we welcome you -- and your seized assets
Backers of Proposition 19 say their legalize-and-tax-it approach to marijuana will raise money for the strapped California government. Recent comments by U.S. attorney general Eric Holder, along with an Oct. 8 federal forfeiture filing connected to a growhouse raid in East Oakland, suggest the proposition could just as easily fill federal coffers with proceeds from increased forfeitures of pot growers' assets.

The Oct. 8 U.S. Attorney filing seeks to take possession of $146,050 in cash, 106
'light hoods," and other equipment stemming from a springtime raid of Asiana Food Company, an apparently phony front business that hid four growing rooms and high voltage lighting systems powered with stolen PG&E electricity. Agents arrested Eric Tran, who was on probation following a drugs conviction stemming from a 2007 raid on a previous Oakland grow operation, in which agents reportedly seized 1,000 plants.

The filing came

just a week before Holder's promise Friday that

the DEA

will continue to raid grow operations whether or not California passes

Prop 19, the pot-legalization initiative.

Holder's comments followed predictions that Prop. 19's passage could presage a legal war between California and the federal government.

Some fear a renewed surge of federal raids, similar to actions that shut down medical pot shops, targeted suppliers and doctors after California voters passed Proposition 215, its medical marijuana law, in 1996.

Our sister paper, LA Weekly, cited Stephen Gutwillig, the California director of Drug Policy Alliance. He claimed that, in the event Prop. 19 passes, the U.S. government will not have the resources to pursue marijuana violations at the local level.

click to enlarge legalize_it_tin_thumb_300x300.jpg
Given that federal agents could theoretically seize and sell every last asset generated under Prop. 19 backers' purported California pot-industry bonanza, Gutwillig's prediction seems naive at best.

Under federal law, the government may open a civil forfeiture case against property held by those accused of committing a crime. Forfeiture is most often used in drugs cases, and allows the government to seize assets indicated by a preponderance of evidence to have been associated with a crime.

Notwithstanding, the city fathers of Berkeley and Oakland have lately struggled to one-up each other angling to pass laws aimed at producing a pot growing-and-selling industrial region that might make the East Bay to marijuana what Guangzhou has been for Chinese industrial goods.

Judging from the take described in the feds Oct. 8 forfeiture filing in the Asiana Food Company case, the east bay could just as easily become an eBay of resold forfeited goods seized in federal marijuana raids.

When agents in April entered the Asiana Foods Company building, "they found no evidence or indication that any food company existed at the location," the forfeiture complaint said. Instead, they:

"Discovered a multipIe room indoor cannabis cultivation facility (the "grow-site"). The grow-site consisted of four growing rooms using high voItage lighting. In a loft area above several of the rooms agents found electrical ballasts and multiple screens of dried cannabis. The grow-site was equipped with carbon air filters to scrub the ventilated air of the marijuana odor and surveillance cameras depicting the entry to 1920 E. 12th Street, Oakland, California."

You can read the entire file here:
PotComplaintrescan.rtf


So the U.S. Attorney now seeks to force the forfeiture of $146,050, plus four Western Union Money orders of unspecified value, 106 light hoods, and 129 ballasts.

We imagine Prop. 19 launching a virtuous, government-revenues-enhancing cycle.

Here's how to take part: Buy the Asiana Foods Company grow lights once they make their way through the Federal Asset Forfeiture Program. Use the equipment to grow and sell pot. Pay taxes to Oakland and California. Get busted by feds, so they can seize your cash and equipment all over again.

If enough people do this, we'll have free and universal medical care, BART tunnels to Ocean Beach and S.F. State, a third Bay Bridge designed by Maya Lin, and a chicken in every pot club.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly 


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Matt Smith

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