Chelsea Sutula (left) owner of Sespe Creek Collective in Ojai talks with bud tender Vega Pan in the newly opened medical marijuana dispensary in Ojai in November 2017 . JUAN CARLO/THE STAR
Years after the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office seized at least 25 pounds of cannabis from an Ojai dispensary, a court order prompted deputies to return the product this week.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge David Hirsch ordered the return of the product to Sespe Creek Collective, which deputies had raided in 2016, less than a week before Proposition 64 – California’s voter-approved “marijuana act” – legalized recreational marijuana use by adults.
Authorities seized an estimated $350,000 worth of product from both Sespe’s delivery operations and the personal collection of its chief executive officer, Chelsea Sutula. Deputies also seized $28,000 in bank funds and $6,000 in cash as part of a civil asset forfeiture.
In the years since the raid, criminal charges against Sutula and Sespe were dropped and the money has been returned. But legal obstacles prevented the return of the seized cannabis until last month’s court order.
“It’s a victory in some ways, but a really disappointing one,” Sutula said.
The cannabis had been improperly stored in brown paper bags, Sutula said. The bags of plants were filled with insects – both dead and alive – when she picked them up from the sheriff’s office, rendering the product unusable.
“It was kind of gnarly,” Sutula said.
However, the cannabis was destined to be destroyed even if it had been returned in its original condition because it was seized before it could be processed through the California Department of Cannabis Control’s “track and trace” system, Sutula said. The system was created after Prop. 64 took effect.
Published: November 01, 2021
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