Snitchin: Ex-Employee Sparked Massive, Empty-Handed Raid of Sonoma Cannabis Company

One way to pay back your old boss.

Last week's police raid on a major California cannabis company in Sonoma County came after a disgruntled former employee, who is attempting to form his own competing company, called the authorities on his old employer, an attorney said Friday.

Santa Rosa police and Drug Enforcement Administration agents wearing camouflage and kevlar descended on the production facilities and offices of CBD Guild, which manufactures popular cannabis products under the Care By Design and AbsoluteXtracts brand names.

Police seized cash, cannabis, paperwork, and expensive production machinery, including a one-of-a-kind device used to test pesticides, according to CBD Guild attorney Joe Rogoway.

According to initial reports, police were looking for a hash oil lab that uses flammable butane as a solvent. Labs that make butane hash oil — highly concentrated forms of cannabis also known as dabs — are illegal under state laws aimed at banning methamphetamine production.

But Care By Design does not use butane. On Thursday, Care By Design founder Dennis Hunter, initially in custody on $5 million bail, was released on no bail. He has not been charged with a crime — which means police essentially raided a business following “an employment dispute,” Rogoway said.

“But because this is cannabis, it involves law enforcement,” he said.

[jump] Authorities from Santa Rosa police did not return SF Weekly's calls for comment.

According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, the district attorney was still investigating, and Hunter — who did time in federal prison for a large cannabis grow in Humboldt County — could eventually be charged with a crime.

Police said they received a tip five days ago from an employee who said the lab was “not safe,” according to Santa Rosa police narcotics Sgt. Rich Celli. During the raid, police seized “hundreds of thousands” of dollars from the operation as well as cannabis oil processing machines that use high-pressure carbon dioxide, according to the newspaper.

CO2 oil extracts the active ingredients in cannabis — cannabinoids including THC and CBD as well as aromatic compounds called terpenes — without using butane.

CBD Guild had just a few weeks before its raid hosted state and local elected officials, as well as government workers, for a tour of the facilities.

The ex-employee who caused it all was identified as involved with a company called Ruderal (an apparent reference to cannabis ruderalis, a cousin of the cannabis sativa that's behind California's multibillion dollar industry). A phone call made to a Google voice number associated with the company was not returned.

Rogoway described him as an “ex-engineer” who was in charge of the processing machines at the Care By Design processing facility. 

“He had a falling out and decided he was going to leave, and on his way out, he stole a laptop with trade secrets from the organization,” Rogoway said. “He threatened everybody that he was going to go to the authorities — OSHA and other organizations.”

And instead of investigating with a visit, law enforcement visited with a raid.

“They came up empty-handed,” Rogoway said.

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