A California church that uses cannabis as a sacrament is suing the state following a law enforcement raid, claiming that officials violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights, according to a report by Kelley Lincoln of Redheaded Blackbelt. The June 11 raid on the Redwood Spiritual Healing Ministry led to the seizure of all of the church’s plants.
The suit argues that the County of Humboldt and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife violated their First Amendment right of religious freedom and their Fourth Amendment right of due process. The lawsuit also argues that the CDFW search warrant did not include that the property was a church when it was given to the judge to sign off on. Additionally, the lawsuit claims that officials violated the Fourth Amendment by destroying the crops before the case could be taken to trial.
Attorney Matthew Pappas noted that “it’s not the job of law enforcement to execute punishment,” including destroying property.
“When you go in with a search warrant, it is the investigatory stage. It is not the time when you execute a judgement and render punishment and that’s what these law enforcement folks are doing.” – Pappas, to Redheaded Blackbelt
Last year, Pappas, on behalf of the church, told officials the property was legally a church after the property had received an abatement notice.
CDFW spokesperson Janice Mackey defended the action of the agency, saying that the plants were being cultivated illegally since the church never received a license from either the state or county to cultivate cannabis.
“As part of the licensing process, cultivators are required to check in with CDFW to either apply for a Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement or written verification that one is not needed,” she said in the report. “If we suspect illegal cultivation activity near a sensitive watershed, we have various avenues to check for compliance.”
Those “various avenues” she said include “breaking locks, cutting [cables], taking down netting on plants or forcing entry into a locked door.” The plants destroyed in the raid were grown in several greenhouses.
“We will eradicate plants that are not permitted or licensed by the state,” Mackey said. “We focus our efforts on those sites doing the most environmental damage.”
The lawsuit is seeking for all of the church’s seized property to be returned, a permanent injunction prohibiting law enforcement from raiding the property over cannabis cultivation, and attorney and lawsuit costs.
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