Local law enforcement and Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Santa Rosa raided the production labs of prominent cannabis company Care By Design this morning, possibly after receiving a complaint from a disgruntled former employee, according to reports.
Several people were arrested and police seized equipment as well as payroll and product paperwork, according to the company.
Care By Design, which produces high-potency cannabis oil cartridges under the AbsoluteXtracts brand name as well as sprays, tinctures, and many other products sold at California medical marijuana dispensaries, has production facilities in a Santa Rosa office park.
According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Santa Rosa police raided the production lab as well as a nursery and two private homes in Sonoma County.
Several people were arrested, the newspaper reported, on suspicion of running afoul of drug laws. Authorities said the operation was not licensed, but it appears police were looking to bust a hash oil lab.
Producing high potency cannabis oil — a popular and potent way to consume cannabis — using butane as a solvent to extract active material from plant matter runs afoul of state law banning drug manufacturing.
However, according to company officials, Care By Design does not use butane, and does not create the cannais products — shatter, wax, and the like — popular with cannabis consumers who “dab.”
A Santa Rosa police spokesman did not immediately return a request seeking comment and to confirm who was in custody and for what.
But according to an e-mail from former Care By Design consultant Martin Lee, the raid was “under the pretext of looking to bust a butane extraction operation.”
“Those guys never used butane, only CO2,” Lee wrote.
Here's some science explaining the difference between using supercritical CO2 to extract the vital components of cannabis from the plant material and using butane, but the main difference is the lack of a volatile solvent.
And it's volatile solvents that lead to hash lab explosions that have drawn attention from law enforcement — and it's also volatile solvents that make the manufacturing process a felony under current state law.
However, Santa Rosa has also not passed local regulations allowing cannabis production of any kind, leaving what Care By Design is doing in a sort of legal gray area.
A police spokesman told the Press Democrat that Care By Design didn't have any kind of specific permitting for what it was doing.
“They’ve done nothing official that we could find that makes any of this a legitimate operation,” Santa Rosa police Lt. Michael Lazzarini told the newspaper. “There’s nothing to indicate that anything here is in line with any regulations in the handling of chemicals or processes, code enforcement, city building permit, the whole lisa.”
Santa Rosa is working on local regulations that would comply with the state's new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, but no actual rules are yet in place.
Care By Design spokesman Nick Caston told the newspaper that he believes the raid came after a former worker at the company gave law enforcement a false tip. The company was working on becoming permitted under existing state law, he said in a statement.
For now, the company is closed while the investigation continues.
“This law enforcement action is unprecedented, unfortunate, and has the potential to deprive thousands of profoundly sick patients of much needed medicine,” Caston said in a statement. “We will cooperate fully with law enforcement in an effort to resolve this as quickly as possible, and hope to have our several dozen employees in Sonoma County back to work this week.”