An investigation into illegal trafficking led to the seizure of more than 400 pounds of marijuana along the Arizona border at the end of January, police said.
The weed was taken while sheriff’s deputies from San Bernardino County served search warrants in the Mojave Desert in California and Arizona as part of an investigation into illegal drug sales at California MMJ dispensaries.
In a news release, police said their investigation spanned “several weeks” and involved the sheriff’s Marijuana Enforcement Team, deputies from the station in Needles, and the Mojave Area General Narcotics Enforcement Team. It allegedly uncovered a scheme to sell medical weed to bogus patients over state lines.
Fake patients came across the border from Arizona and bought pot at California dispensaries using fake IDs, the sheriff’s department said. And “many of the dispensary owners and operators are also full-time residents of Arizona,” according to the news release. Under state law, only California residents may sell cannabis.
The warrants were served in the last two days of January. On Jan. 30, deputies served eight warrants, three on dispensaries, four on homes in Needles and one on a residence in Lake Havasu, Ariz.
The next day, they searched another five pot shops and homes in Needles and Bullhead City, Ariz. During the two raids, deputies seized nearly 450 pounds of pot, edibles, cash, weapons and more than five pounds of honey oil, a marijuana concentrate that’s highly valuable.
No arrests were made at the time of the searches, but the sheriff’s department said deputies were seeking a suspect for illegal possession of firearms.
Both California and Arizona allow medical marijuana. But Arizona’s system is more tightly regulated, and it’s generally harder for people without “legitimate” medical conditions to obtain weed through the system. That would make California attractive to Arizonans who live near the border – both buyers and sellers looking to cash in on the demand by hopping the state line.
Californians approved MMJ at the ballot box in 1996. Arizonans did so by a narrow margin in 2010. The Arizona law is much stricter than the California system, which is widely seen as under-regulated and easily abused.
Dispensaries in the Golden State have been under a state of constant siege for many years, as the federal government and local officials eager to win the law and order vote have tried to shut them down across the state. It’s not clear yet whether January’s raids were part of that larger effort or a legitimate attempt to shut down a criminal scam.