One Giant Victory for Mankind Cooperative … Narcotics Task Force, Not So Much

by on October 3, 2016 · 0 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, History, Politics, San Diego


Ebon Johnson returns with products confiscated by the Narcotics Task Force.

By Terrie Best /San Diego Americans for Safe Access /October 3, 2016

On Thursday, September 29th, a permitted cannabis co-op operator – who was raided by the Narcotic Task Force Team 9 seven days after permitting – braved the downtown police station in order to retrieve the thousands of dollars worth of medicinal cannabis products illegally snatched by Team 9. A local NBC camera and Daily Dab TV were there to document the transaction.

Mankind Cooperative’s products were confiscated in June of last year as one of the co-op principles, 41 year old Ebon Johnson was operating a delivery service for qualified patients from his home. Tenant improvements were being made to Mankind’s retail location on Miramar Road and the Co-op was serving its patients with a home delivery service.

Even though the city had all but blessed Mankind’s Conditional Use Permit documents, – the license required for storefront co-ops in San Diego – after the raid, Team 9 refused to acknowledge this or back down and charges were levied against Ebon Johnson.  In light of the delicate requirements of the CUP, Ebon thought it best to negotiate a plea so as not to jeopardize Mankind’s permit.

In the agreement, the judge allowed time for Ebon and his team to open Mankind and return showing documentation of compliance with the city’s ordinance, at which time charges would drop to a misdemeanor and property could be returned to the collective.

Ebon is a tall and exceedingly polite well-spoken single dad.  We sat together on a democratic club panel once, in spring of last year.  He talked about navigating the Conditional Use Permit process. At that time he and his team had been working with the city to comply for a year, since May of 2014.  The co-op finally did comply in June of 2015 and seven days later, Ebon suffered a SWAT-Style, NTF Team 9 raid to his home and, a month after that, arrest.

In that month’s time, Ebon’s attorney Stephen Kline offered evidence of compliance with the city ordinance and all that had been done to be lawful at the storefront. The defense team opened the kimono and receipts and accounting totaling about 1 million dollars tumbled out with no effect on San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Ebon and Mankind had spent countless hours and a lot of money with the city and now the county’s top-cop wanted Ebon in jail.

The city itself spent a serious amount of public comment time, staff hours and cash to pave the way for people like Ebon and collectives like Mankind to enter the legal market. It took trust and patience and was an extraordinary accomplishment on the part of local government and its people.  The county’s Team 9 not getting the memo that the city was doing something different when it comes to medical cannabis was shocking, destructive and probably vindictive. Team 9 is known for their retaliatory nature.

They once condoned T-shirts emblazoned with “Fuck the Growers, Marijuana’s Still Illegal” and wore them to a raid on a local activist’s property. Now they were trying to undo a public safety measure put into place and supported by city government.

This caused a lot of suffering. Anybody who thinks becoming licensed to provide medical cannabis in the city of San Diego is a fun ride to riches should talk to Ebon. Or for that matter any of the collective operators who have managed to comply with the city’s ordinance. All of these people endured plenty in just bureaucratic entanglements. So, it was a slap in the face of the city, its staff and all the patients who had advocated for collectives when NTF Team 9 raided and later arrested Ebon after he had obtained a permit.  The travesty of the whole thing was publicized in an article in the City Beat and San Diego ASA responded with a letter to the city council asking if council could possibly condone this from the county’s DA when so much had been done to carve out safe access in the city.

After all the suffering, Mankind has been open for months now. It’s a tidy and fresh shop with a friendly staff.  It will now have a portion of its inventory back thanks to a judge who ordered the property returned on September 15th.  It is always a treat to see folks get their property back and it was certainly a victory for Ebon Johnson and Mankind as the dolly made its way from under the bowels of the San Diego police department on Broadway, packed with parcels of vape cartridges, and flower.  We watched in the shadow of the police facility as Ebon loaded his truck. It’s a tall building and anybody could be watching Ebon’s victory from an overhead window above, Carlson, Paxton, Stevens, anybody. Sorry boys, marijuana is legal.

The missing property apparently ticked off local NBC’s Ashley Matthews and she did a followed-up on the story, Friday. Watch it here. Unless Team 9 used the co-oop’s funds to buy more T-shirts, we fully expect Ashley Matthews as well as attorney Stephen Cline to sort the problem out today.

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