Santee Cannabis Deliveries Feel The Stings

By Benjie Cooper

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Some medical cannabis delivery operations in the San Diego area are lying low after the County Sheriff’s Department conducted a series of undercover sting operations on October 12 which resulted in the arrest of seven separate delivery service drivers and the seizure of 12.76 pounds of marijuana. San Diego County does not currently allow any commercial cannabis activities.

Even though opponents of the sting are not disputing the legality of the delivery services, they are voicing their opposition as to how authorities handled the situation. Officers carried out the sting operation by acting as medical cannabis patients via an undisclosed website and ordered small amounts of cannabis products to be delivered to the Carlton Oaks Country Club in Santee. When the drivers arrived, officers arrested them and charged them with misdemeanor violations of city regulations.

While authorities claim that there has been an increase in marijuana-related crime in the area in the six months leading up to the sting, San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance president, Elizabeth Wilhelm believes that the operation was actually entrapment because all of the proper legal documentation was provided for the delivery, including a doctor’s recommendation and a valid photo ID.

Wilhelm states that “We feel conducting a sting operation at a country club is grandstanding. Public shaming only serves to fuel the divide between law enforcement and the cannabis industry. We understand that not every community needs or wants dispensaries or other cannabis activities. But every community has medical marijuana patients who deserve safe and private access at their homes or businesses.”

An alleged surge in marijuana-related crime could be due to the fact that all cannabis businesses must operate within a cash-based system, and drivers who might be running around with money on them after a delivery could be an increased target for theft. But Wilhelm is skeptical and claims that none of the drivers in her alliance have ever called to report a robbery. Based on the Sheriff’s Department’s reasoning, dispensaries and delivery drivers should attract crime, but a 2017 study conducted at the USC Marshall and the Paul Merage-UC Irvine business schools showed that the closure of these businesses was actually related to an immediate increase in crime rather than the other way around.

In a statement, Wilhelm points out that the delivery services fill a need in areas where brick-and-mortar medical cannabis shops are not allowed. She says that “Banning marijuana in the county does not make medical marijuana patients go away. The demand for medical marijuana is real. Many of the people served by independent delivery services have no other form of reliable and safe access. We feel it is unfortunate that the Sheriff’s Department chose to use its precious resources on marijuana delivery while the death toll from pharmaceuticals, heroin, and meth continue to scourge East County.”

Authorities released the five male delivery drivers from custody in the early morning on Friday, October 13, and transferred the two female drivers to the Los Colinas detention center.