An Ex-Detective Teaches Pot Shops How to Deal With Raids

The road to legalization is complicated.
The road to legalization is complicated.
Ernie Manrique/L.A.. Weekly

Fearing a wave of raids against pot shops in Los Angeles County, a group that represents some of those dispensaries is working to educate dispensary operators and budtenders on how they should behave if cops bust down the door.

The "L.A. County Raid Safety Training Class" will be taught by Nick Morrow, a former county sheriff's detective who says he's participated in many busts. Organizers of the class, who operate under the group Angeles Emeralds, say they don't intend to teach dispensary operators how to skirt the law.

"We're looking to show people how to obey the laws better," says Angeles Emeralds co-founder Jonatan Cvetko. "In the end we want to show the county we want to be good operators."

The three-hour, $20 course, which will be held tonight at Drug Policy Alliance offices in Echo Park, will cover "raid prep," "how not to become a target for a raid" and "robbery and crime prep," among other topics, according to a statement.

Morrow says he's taught this class before: He brings videos of pot-shop raids so students can see what really happens when officers armed with a search warrant and big guns come knocking. He recommends that operators and employees remain calm, stay quiet and follow orders. "Officer safety is first and foremost," he says. "That's the reason officers come in so hard and fast."

He also has consulted security-camera installers who work for dispensaries and told them that backup video systems are recommended because cops on raids often seize video as "one of the first things they do," Morrow says. They want video of sales as evidence, but that often means video of their actions isn't preserved.

Morrow says he consulted with security experts who installed the backup video system at Sky High Holistic, the dispensary famously raided in 2015 by Santa Ana Cops who were caught on tape eating what appeared to be cannabis edibles (after they destroyed the main security video system). He shows the video during his class.

"The O.C. collective staff was well trained, and nobody got roughed up," he says. "Still, we see just how bad it can go when law enforcement believes the cameras aren't looking."

Morrow's tips include:

Have a dual video security system with cloud storage.

Know your cop. One of my long-standing beliefs is never talk to a guy with a machine gun. They're not the ones you're going to see in court anyway.

You don't need to explain things to police. You have the right to remain silent. Use it.

You need to pay taxes and fees and be as compliant as you can.

In March, the county's chief executive officer, Sachi A. Hamai, filed a memo suggesting that at least some of the cash from a $25 million settlement with Wells Fargo over alleged fake accounts be spent cracking down on marijuana dispensaries. The Board of Supervisors has outlawed dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county such as Marina del Rey. But Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has expressed support for moving from a ban to permitting and regulating sales.

We reached out to the Sheriff's Department but a spokeswoman did not respond. Details for the class are here.


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