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Disclaimer: This column is written for educational purposes only. It does not provide specific legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. This column should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.
It’s an exciting time right now for many cannabis businesses. More and more states are legalizing marijuana and the public appetite for cannabis is huge. But with the uncertainty of marijuana’s legal status at a federal level and states continuously tweaking their laws, business operators are right to remain concerned about the possibility of raids.
It’s incumbent upon business owners to know their rights, understand how raids work, and take appropriate steps to prepare in case the authorities come knocking. Raids can come from a variety of different authorities with jurisdiction over your dispensary or grow house. The federal government has the authority to raid any cannabis business at any time, thanks to marijuana’s “contraband” status under the Controlled Substances Act. While federal raids were less common during the Obama Administration, the question of whether the Trump Administration will crack down on cannabis is a big unknown.
Raids are much more common at the state and local level, particularly where cannabis laws are conflicting or ambiguous. For example, your cannabis business may operate in a state that has legalized medical or recreational cultivation and sales. However, if your city or county has banned these activities, local authorities may seek to shut you down even if you are otherwise appropriately operating under state laws.
So, what happens during a raid? Typically, law enforcement authorities will show up unannounced and serve a search warrant showing their authority to conduct the raid and seize potential evidence. Be aware that sometimes search warrants are filed under seal, so