Early yesterday morning, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents conducted a sweep of Costa Mesa marijuana dispensaries, raiding several storefronts as well as homes of collective members. The raids appear to confirm that, as spelled out in an Obama administration memo first reported by the Weekly last October, the federal government's war on California weed is showing no signs of ending anytime soon. A press release issued by the U.S. attorney's office states that three of the collectives were located at 440 Fair Dr., which until last September was the location of the now-closed Herban Elements, operated by Sue Lester, erstwhile candidate for city council and a subject of an OC Weekly cover story last year.
Also raided yesterday was a dispensary on Cabrillo St. In connection with the raid drug agents arrested grower Jeff Byrne, whose cannabis is marketed under the "Simple Farmer" label, and seized more than 500 plants at two separate locations. Simultaneously, the feds raided Otherside Farms, whose owner, Chadd McKeen, also featured in another Weekly cover story, who according to the U.S. attorney's office complaint, told a city code inspector that he hoped to "make so much money" from his marijuana cultivation that he could provide $500,000 in donations to the city each year, thus staving off layoffs of city employees.
The U.S. attorney's office press release issued today states that the raids were part of an ongoing effort to crack down on storefront dispensaries in California, and that letters "went out today to the owners and operators of currently operating or recently closed marijuana stores--nearly three dozen in Costa Mesa, and one now-shuttered store in Newport Beach. All known stores in these two South Orange County cities are now the subject of federal enforcement actions."
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A member of one of the raided collectives who asked to remain anonymous said that he and two other employees were detained at gunpoint yesterday morning at a delivery warehouse, handcuffed, and then released without being charged. He said the DEA had no search warrant, but was acting on information provided by an informant, presumed to be a city code enforcement officer. The source added that the feds confiscated an unknown amount of cash as well as approximately 10 pounds of marijuana.