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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SoCal Cops Adopt Shady Marijuana Raid Tactics Seen In Mendocino

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2014 at 7:18 AM

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Tensions are high this year in marijuana country, where rumors of a gang of mysterious armed men — who descend from the sky in helicopters to cut down cannabis gardens — have been swirling for the past few months.

At first, ripped-off pot growers in Mendocino and Lake counties suspected private security teams or even crooks dressed up as cops as the perpetrators. After all, the tactics used have been described as paramilitary — lots of camo, no badges —  and no charges or even records of the "raids" are filed or left behind.

That's because police using the "open fields doctrine" to spot marijuana from the sky don't need a warrant to bust a garden. It turns out at least one of the Mendocino raids was a legitimate police operation. And now, reports out of Riverside County reveal that cops are employing the same legal "rip-and-run" tactics there — causing consternation even among weed-unfriendly politicians. 

The Riverside County-based Press Enterprise reports that a private citizen complained to a county supervisor that he'd been the victim of marijuana burglars. Just like in Mendocino, "unidentified armed men" had descended from a helicopter to "steal marijuana," the newspaper reported.

But after county officials, including Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, who has voiced support for a new law against outdoor weed grows, received the angry call from their constituent who thought she'd been robbed by "gangsters," it came out that a San Diego-based task force had conducted the raid.

A Drug Enforcement Agency spokeswoman confirmed the raid, which netted 100 plants from the rural property in De Luz, a rural area west of Temecula, the newspaper reported.

No arrests have been made, but the marijuana was cut down and hauled away. The investigation, meanwhile, is "ongoing," according to the DEA.

This is the same script cops have been using in the Emerald Triangle — and, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, it's lawful.

In Oliver v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that Fourth Amendment restrictions on search and seizure do not apply to "open fields." Open fields are defined as the area outside of the "curtilage" of a home, which is to say, pretty much anywhere marijuana is grown in a rural area.

Because no search is considered to have been made in an open fields situation, no warrant is required, and since no warrant is required, the property owner technically isn't required to be given any kind of notice.

This means that nearly any marijuana garden can be summarily eradicated if it's spotted from the sky by law enforcement. And, apparently, law enforcement is catching onto this neat trick, though they aren't necessarily boasting about it.

One raid in Mendocino County appeared to be led by a special agent claiming allegiance to state Attorney General Kamala Harris. Her office blamed the county sheriff, whose office bears some, but not all, of the responsibility for the intra-agency task force. 

But out in California, cops are more sophisticated than their brethren in Georgia — who recently mistook a man's okra crop for marijuana

So goes the Drug War in 2014. 

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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