On Jan. 11, someone knocked on the door of Bruce Rossignol's 13th Street
home. The investment banker turned medical cannabis cultivator, who,
reported in August
wishes to someday open a cannabis club in North Beach, assumed it
was his landlord.
He was wrong.
At the door were a
dozen officers from the San Francisco Police Department, narcotics
officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration, and officers with
the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force. They raided the
sophisticated cultivation operation on which Rossignol had spent an
ungodly sum of time and money.
smashed his grow equipment and then seized cash and an unknown
amount of marijuana.
That's a bummer
-- and one that could have been avoided with a single phone call.
Rossignol, a medical cannabis patient who says his
operation was truly legal, has a dispensary permit
application pending with the Department of Public Health. But
the SFPD didn't bother contacting regulators until the day after
raid, according to the police report.
Officer Scott Biggs with the narcotics unit had organized
the operation -- and six other simultaneous raids conducted that same day. The following day, Biggs called the Department of Public Health.
The staffer in charge of the city's medical cannabis program, Larry Kessler,
was out on vacation, so another staffer told Biggs
that Rossignol didn't have a dispensary permit just yet, according to
That would be true -- but since Rossignol was growing, not selling pot, did he really need an MCD permit? What he does have is a nonprofit collective organized listed on file with the Secretary of State -- isn't that all an
individual needs in California to cultivate medicine under Proposition 215?
Rossignol believed so. Yet Biggs' report never mentioned medical cannabis; it only referenced his conversation with SFDPH. How did a Jan. 12 conversation end up in a report dated Jan. 11, post-facto?
We can't answer that question because SFPD did not
respond to a request seeking comment.
Meanwhile, Rossignol is due in court Feb. 15, when he says he will tell a San Francisco
Superior Court judge that he was running a legal operation: He had 20 other patients' recommendations on site at the time of the raid. Some would interpret SB 420,
the state's medical cannabis law, to say he needed only one recommendation
for that number of plants (his state-issued cannabis patients' ID card was among the
evidence SFPD seized).
As to whether Rossignol's growing-only operation truly required a medical
cannabis permit, the city's medical cannabis ordinance is somewhat
"If there was 10 or more patients in the collective, and money
exchanged hands, then yes," said David Goldman of the San Francisco
chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a patients' advocacy group. "If no money
exchanged hands, then no." (No money was exchanged
for marijuana in this case, according to Rossignol.)
But it appears to be an issue of of confusion over permitting rather than a crime.
Goldman added, "The arbiter is [the Department of Public Health's]
Larry Kessler [who oversees the city's MCD program]."
But since Kessler was out of town when the SFPD raided Rossignol's home, the outcome would have been the same.