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San Diego Police Seize Family’s Bank Accounts Because the Dad Ran a Medical Marijuana Business

James Slatic and his family are fighting to get back $100K that was seized nine months ago by the San Diego D.A. They haven't been charged with a crime.

Institute for JusticeInstitute for JusticeJames Slatic, a California medical marijuana business owner, found out all his family's bank accounts had been seized by the government one day in January when his 19-year-old daughter tried to buy lunch at the San Jose State University cafeteria and her card was declined.

Slatic's wife tried to transfer money to their daughter, figuring she had simply overdrawn her account, as teenagers are wont to do, but her account wouldn't work, either. What the Slatics soon learned was the San Diego police had frozen all of their bank accounts: $55,258 from Slatic's personal checking and savings account; $34,175 from his wife Annette's account; and a combined $11,260 from the savings accounts of their two teenage daughters, Penny and Lily.

"Just imagine what it's like when you're a 57-year-old business man with three kids and a house, and supporting elderly parents, and all the sudden all your money is gone," Slatic says in an interview with Reason. "It's disappeared. Your car payment bounces, your insurance doesn't go through."

The Slatics' crimes? None. Or at least, the San Diego District Attorney's Office hasn't charged them with any in the nine months since it seized their accounts.

On Tuesday the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm, filed a motion in California district court seeking the return of roughly $100,000 of the Slatic family's money. The Institute for Justice argues the seizure was a brazen and illegal use of civil asset forfeiture, a practice that allows police to seize property they suspect is connected to a crime. The owner often does not have to be convicted or even charged with a crime.

"I've not come across an abusive civil forfeiture this shocking," says Wesley Hottot, an attorney for the Institute for Justice. "We decided to become involved because his family's plight illustrates the power of civil forfeiture. Even when you've got rules in place, like in California, to protect property owners, police can still seize virtually everything you own based on one officer's suspicion."

Law enforcement groups say asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt drug traffickers by cutting off their ill-gotten proceeds, but civil liberties groups argue the perverse profit incentives lead police to target everyday citizens, who then must prove their innocence to get their own property back.

The trouble for James Slatic began five days before his family's accounts were frozen, when around 30 San Diego police officers and DEA agents raided Slatic's medical marijuana business, Med-West Distribution, and seized nearly $325,000 in cash from a safe.

Slatic says he worked with the city to obtain all the necessary permits for his business, which refined marijuana oils for use in vaporizers and topical ointments. He is also politically involved in California's marijuana regulations and served on the boards of the Marijuana Policy Project and the California Cannabis Industry Association

"I had heard of [asset forfeiture] before but naively thought it was for people who don't pay their taxes or some other tawdry thing, not people who create jobs and pay taxes and are involved in the political process," Slatic says. "I didn't consider myself to be a potential target, but I was wrong."

Surveillance video shows the heavily armed law enforcement officers breaching the door and detaining Med-West employees at gunpoint.

The raid was a crushing blow to Slatic—not to mention his 35 employees, who lost their jobs and benefits without notice—but he never thought the police would go after his family's money as well. Slatic says they've been relying on help from family and friends, credit cards, as well as an online fundraising campaign, although that hasn't made much a dent in the roughly $70,000 in legal fees he's accrued so far.

The Institute for Justice argues there was no probable cause to raid Med-West. According to the warrant, law enforcement suspected Med-West was illegally producing hash oil and violating a California statute that bans the chemical extraction of controlled substances. The problem, Slatic and the Institute for Justice argue, is that Med-West only refined THC oil, not extracted it, using laboratory equipment—a far cry from a clandestine, combustible drug lab.

Likewise, the Institute for Justice says there is no traceable line between the alleged criminal activity and the personal bank accounts of Slatic's wife and daughter.

"You have to directly tie every dollar to a particularized allegation, and they've done none of that," Hottot said. "It's as if they think they have a blank check to take everything from a legal medical marijuana business owner's family. Even if we were to accept that the District Attorney has a legitimate investigation, they still don't have reason to take everything from this family and leave them nothing."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the San Diego District Attorney's Office says "the investigation related to this DEA task force raid is ongoing and the case remains under review for potential criminal charges."

"In addition, the primary mission of the asset forfeiture program is to enhance public safety by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals to perpetuate their criminal activity," the spokesperson continues. "When it comes to spending the funds, we're obligated to follow nationwide policies, procedures and guidelines set up by the Department of Justice."

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and the city have been particularly aggressive in policing medical marijuana businesses.

Although the police were working as part of a Drug Enforcement Administration task force, federal prosecutors were blocked from going after Slatic by legislation, authored by California GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, that restricts Justice Department funds from being used to prosecute people who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

"Asset forfeiture is and of itself theft and is a crime against ordinary people by their own government," Rohrabacher says in an interview with Reason.

"My bill wouldn't cover what happened in San Diego unless it's dealing with a federal agency," Rohrabacher continued. "But the fact is in California people voted to make medical marijuana legal a long time ago. On the face of it, this seems to be contrary to the wishes of the people, and it's time that law enforcement wakes up and realizes they can't get away with this anymore."

Earlier this year, the California legislature also passed an asset forfeiture reform bill that requires a criminal conviction for prosecutors to seize under $40,000 from someone, which would have protected Slatic's wife and daughters from having their bank accounts frozen. The law goes into effect in January.

As it so happens, Slatic worked to get that legislation passed. He says the $40,000 cap was added to the bill at the last minute at the insistence of law enforcement groups, who said it was needed to preserve their abilities to go after cartels and large criminal organizations.

Now, even if the law applies retroactively, it won't protect Slatic.

"We either capped it or weren't going to get passage, so we took it," Slatic says. "It was better than nothing, but once again [law enforcement] kept their hand in the cookie jar. It has nothing to do with cartels, it just gave them the ability to go after bigger companies like mine."

California vote on a ballot initiative next week that would make recreational marijuana legal in the state.

Photo Credit: Institute for Justice

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  • TheZeitgeist||

    Stronger Together

  • ||

    Asset forfeiture is just something we do together, like government and shooting puppies.

  • Hank Phillips||

    So the no-stealing law becomes effective January of... 2026? 2030?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Isn't the Nanny-State great?

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    "When you diss the government you're really dissing yourself." --soon-to-be President-elect Hillary Clinton

  • timbo||

    I hope the war on terror is as successful as the war on drugs.

  • Ted S.||

    The war on drugs has destroyed the 4th Amendment. Which amendment(s) do you want to destroy with the war on terror?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The really tiresome thing about the 'War on Terror' as it is fought by our would-be political masters is that none of the civil rights abuse is necessary, or even desirable. What needs,to be done is an unapologetic policy od ruining States that sponser terrorists, or even tolerate them. Don't start with the Saudis, because we really don't want the Hadj to dissolve into chaos for any number of selfish reasons, but if they haven't gotten the freaking message by the time we've taken down the governments of pestholes like Iran, then do them too. DON'T 'nation build'; just wreck the target and LEAVE. Make the message clear, "Don't come to our negative attention. You won't like it.".

    But that would require jettisoning a lot of post-Victorian bullshit that the Chattering Class hold dear.

    Oh well....

  • The Late P Brooks||

    It's not stealing when the government does it.

    That's just their FAIR SHARE.

  • ||

    Those people had to be doing something wrong anyway, drugs something something children.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Observe how much good it did to work within the system lobbying for better laws. Voting libertarian would have done a lot more. This victim would make an excellent LP candidate if he could be turned from the Dark Side...

  • waffles||

    Will this still happen in a post proposition 64 California?

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    Yes, even more so.

    Gavin Newsome wants to be the head of the largest drug cartel in the country.

  • This Machine||

    First off, this is fucking terrible, and if the SDPD had any shame they'd return the cash they stole and beg forgiveness.

    Second off, wouldn't wouldn't wouldn't wouldn't would.

  • waffles||

    I agree with both of your points.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Keep going dude, I count like 15 cops in that video screencap.

  • This Machine||

    Oh, for-

    Let me issue a blanket "WOULDN'T" for all of the uniformed thugs that see nothing wrong with stealing from the people they're nominally supposed to protect and serve.

  • Citizen X||

    This is a commentariat that includes both Warty AND Crusty Juggler. You gotta play it safe with the disclaimers. Nothing is assumed.

  • Jury Nullification||

    Wonder how many are Oath Keepers.

  • R C Dean||

    On the evidence?

    Not a single one.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    Not even the dog?

  • ||

    Only with a shovel.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    That could mean a few things. I don't think I want clarification.

  • ||

    I'm assuming this, "Would," and, "Wood," business is shorthand for, "I would hit it," meaning one would have the sex with them. "Only with a shovel," simply means I, "Wouldn't," nor ,"Woodn't."

  • Mainer2||

    Humor is like gossamer. If you explain it, it disappears.

  • Spartacus||

    Assuming there was any there to begin with.

  • This Machine||

    BOOOOO.

  • Juvenile Bluster||

    Armed robbery is just the price we pay for civilization.

  • ||

    I mean if the cops just suddenly stopped stealing people's stuff, it would be anarchy right? Cats and dogs sleeping together, locusts...

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Don't forget murder. The government is real good at murdering Americans too.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Look, you gotta set some examples so survivors'll know how serious you are about the looters and their laws. It's called sacrifice.

  • Suicidy||

    That was a simple coherent sentence. Are you back on your meds finally? If so, kudos.

  • Alan@.4||

    Is "civilization" worth it?

  • Princess Trigger||

    Looks like a Bad Hombre.
    [the dog]

  • Rhywun||

    As despicable as this is, it's hard to believe that he couldn't envision it happening.

  • Jury Nullification||

    Slatic says. "I didn't consider myself to be a potential target, but I was wrong."

    Ah, the old false sense of security trick. Sucker. The cross hairs are always moving.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The footage of the actual raid is kind of embarrassing. They come loaded for bear but also seem to understand it's not at all a threatening situation. It's like a Civil War reenactment.

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    They don't know what kind of terrier is on duty, Fist. Terriers can smell the donut residue, which drives them barking mad.

  • ||

    I don't know what you are talking about Fist, those guys looked like they feared for their safety.

    Actually I can't believe one of them didn't shoot someone as they were horsing around and playing with their weapons.

  • You ARE a Prog (MJG)||

    Urge to chip... rising.

  • tarran||

    I want to remind everyone that as soon as I rise to power, all the guys you see hiding behind ballistic helmets and bullet proof vests going into that store are going to end their days in excruciating agony in the boats.

  • Free Society||

    I'm voting Tarran for God Emperor

  • ||

    We can't rely on charging people with crimes just to seize assets. Haven't you ever watched a cop drama? Criminals get let go on "technicalities" and "loopholes" all the time! Why, if I went on a mass killing spree and a cop collected one piece of evidence incorrectly, the judge is forced by that damn American Communist Lovers Union to throw out the case!

  • Mainer2||

    You jest, but several hours of pro-cop, pro-government propaganda on TV every night has to have an effect.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "I had heard of [asset forfeiture] before but naively thought it was for people who don't pay their taxes or some other tawdry thing, not people who create jobs and pay taxes and are involved in the political process,"

    Understandable. He thought the laws were there for guilty people. Anyone can make that mistake.

    Welcome to Hit & Run, Mr. Slatic.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    My compliments to James Slatic for the security footage. He got video of the raid from several different angles in high definition, and the task force wasn't able to seize or destroy it. Outstanding. Outfuckingstanding.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I'm sure the cops will have a ball watching it in the briefing room with a few seized brewskis after they suffer absolutely no consequences for their brazen daylight robbery.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    You mean seized marijuana edibles.

  • Florida Hipster||

    +1 kick in the stump

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "the investigation related to this DEA task force raid is ongoing and the case remains under review for potential criminal charges."

    Ah, the money shot. This was at the behest of the Obama administration.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "What the Slatics soon learned was the San Diego police had frozen all of their bank accounts: $55,258 from Slatic's personal checking and savings account; $34,175 from his wife Annette's account."

    President Hillary Clinton and her Treasury Department crony, Liz "Dances with Lies" Warren, might have seized it because of gender inequality.

    Why don't they have the same amount of money in both of their accounts?

    Gender gap.

    America divided.

    How can we heal as a nation when these wounds are still being freshly inflicted every day?

  • LV||

    Liz's Indian name is "She No Indian".

  • CE||

    Or just seized it all because one needs more than ten thousand in their checking account.

  • Free Society||

    They couldn't just knock on the door or open the damn thing when the business was open. They had to break it. Yet I'm told it's totally not fair that cops have a bad reputation as thugs.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Tell you what. Send me ten dollars and I'll tell you the same thing they want you to hear.
    * Disclaimer: That won't make it true.

  • commodious cam't contmpla..||

    The comments on the CBS story are, thankfully, quite hostile toward the Brave Men in Blue.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, they think you're only supposed to use SWAT tactics on scary rednecks.

  • commodious cam't contmpla..||

    It's a start.

  • Free Society||

    Kind of ironic that the people claiming the wildlife refuge protesters should have all been shot for being armed are usually the ones fully supportive of the pipeline protesters that actually shot at the cops.

  • Tumulus||

    I mentioned this on FB and got crickets.

  • CZmacure||

    It's pretty trivial to tell that people are not arguing in good faith when they don't remember the positions they allegedly held so passionately mere months ago.

  • The Fusionist||

    Wikipedia says that Bonnie Dumanis, the San Diego DA, is a Republican.

    Aha! One of those Drug Warrior SoCons!

    But it also says: "She is the first openly gay or lesbian DA in the country. She is the first Jewish woman to hold the post of District Attorney in San Diego."

    It also says she filed an anti-Second-Amendment brief in the Supreme Court's Heller case.

    But at least Dana Rohrabacher is a hippy-dippy socially-liberal type of Republican, right?

    Well, he's prolife enough to get a 0% (zero percent) rating from NARAL, though he only got an 80% from the National Right to Live Committee (perhaps because of his regrettable support of embryonic stem-cell research).

    Wow, the socially liberal DA is a drug warrior and the SoCon Congressman wants to rein in the drug war, cats and dogs living together!

  • The Fusionist||

    Right to *Life* Committee

  • ||

    You can't be a real gay person and be a Republican. Everyone knows this, duh!

  • Hank Phillips||

    There you have the violence of law BOTH DemoGOP candidates' party platforms promise to enforce. Both looter parties want weed to remain a felony stripping you of Second Amendment rights for life, taking your home and savings, and leaving you under a bridge or in a prison. Both looter parties also promise to keep the Communist Manifesto income tax fastened like a lamprey onto your hide.
    Candidates aren't important to any but morons. Platforms are what the people with money and/or brains go for, but platforms are also what libertarians write and other parties ignore at their peril.

  • You ARE a Prog (MJG)||

    There you have the violence of law BOTH DemoGOP candidates' party platforms promise to enforce

    See the violence inherent in the system!

  • You ARE a Prog (MJG)||

    And it can never be said enough: the Institute for Justice is a great organization. They'll be getting some money from me tonight.

  • Rich||

    The Slatics' crimes? None. Or at least, the San Diego District Attorney's Office hasn't charged them with any in the nine months since it seized their accounts.

    Let the lawsuits begin.

  • Mainer2||


    Earlier this year, the California legislature also passed an asset forfeiture reform bill that requires a criminal conviction for prosecutors to seize under $40,000 from someone, which would have protected Slatic's wife and daughters from having their bank accounts frozen. The law goes into effect in January.

    As it so happens, Slatic worked to get that legislation passed...

    What a coincidence, don't you think ?

  • JW||

    In a statement, a spokesperson for the San Diego District Attorney's Office says "the investigation related to this DEA task force raid is ongoing and the case remains under review for potential criminal charges."

    "In addition, the primary mission of the asset forfeiture program is to enhance public safety by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals to perpetuate their criminal activity," the spokesperson continues. "When it comes to spending the funds, we're obligated to follow nationwide policies, procedures and guidelines set up by the Department of Justice."

    There really isn't a Hell horrific enough for these cunts to burn in.

  • Ron||

    the cops had to break every lock they found instead of asking the people there to open the doors. they have to be getting their jollies off to be that asinine

  • JayWye||

    this guy needs to get serious;go after them with THIS law;
    Color of law;

    Section 242 of Title 18 makes it a crime for a person acting under color of any law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
    For the purpose of Section 242, acts under "color of law" include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the their lawful authority, but also acts done beyond the bounds of that official's lawful authority, if the acts are done while the official is purporting to or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. Persons acting under color of law within the meaning of this statute include police officers, prisons guards and other law enforcement officials, as well as judges, care providers in public health facilities, and others who are acting as public officials. It is not necessary that the crime be motivated by animus toward the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin of the victim.

    The offense is punishable by a range of imprisonment up to a life term, or the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the resulting injury, if any.

  • Africanis||

    It's not theft, it's tax collection. You see the government is upset because that money collected in exchange for drugs ends up in the wrong account, so they are correcting that problem. Just like Obamacare, it is a tax.

  • Unemployed Armenian Tranny||

    Aperantly this still wasn't enough shock to his progressive system. His basicly summerized by saying, the government oughta do something to protect people from this kind of thing, that's only supposed to happen to other people - "there's gotta be a legal system that protect people frem..." Wake the fuck up! Its the system that fucking you!

  • ||

    "I've not come across an abusive civil forfeiture this shocking," says Wesley Hottot

    Where have you been Wesley? Under a rock?

  • JParker||

    The article unfortunately uses the word "seized" rather than the more accurate stole; in addition, the actions at Med-West are no less than armed robbery!

  • Rockabilly||

    Just remember, Hillary Clinton is a staunch supporter of the racist and un Constitutional on war drugs.

  • Duke of url||

    D.A. Bonnie Dumanis, (pronounced, dumb anus) believes voluntary exchanges of money for plant matter by mutually consenting adults, justifies armed robbery!?!
    The folks that elected her must be so proud of the way she shits on liberty!
    Way to serve & protect, you hero's you!!

  • Duke of url||

    D.A. Bonnie Dumanis, (pronounced, dumb anus) believes voluntary exchanges of money for plant matter by mutually consenting adults, justifies armed robbery!?!
    The folks that elected her must be so proud of the way she shits on liberty!
    Way to serve & protect, you hero's you!!

  • Duke of url||

    Seizing a college students lunch money is totally going to thwart those Drug cartel's criminal activities!!!!!
    / D.A. Dumb anus

  • Jer Citti||

    The only way to truly put a stop to this to put someone in jail for theft. In this case the San Diego District Attorney
    would be a good start.

  • Alan@.4||

    The Best of British Luck with that sir.

  • Alan@.4||

    Sounds like the same old bullshit, aka Civil Asset Forfeiture, aka Theft Under Color Of Law, as I have long described it.

  • Gigantopithecus||

    This is a perfect illustration for all the anti-cannabis folks to understand that pro-legalization is not the same as pro-cannabis. How much did it cost to send that SWAT team in there? How much time is going to be tied up in court fighting this? Who were the victims they are protecting us from (the old lady with RA that was using the medicine?). Lives ruined. Tax payer money wasted. All to destroy the lives of people that are literally helping others live better lives. I believe in legalization from a personal liberty point of view, but for those of you that do not, this is why the war on weed is absurd.

  • jbsnc||

    'Civil asset forfeiture' seems to allow seizure without normal due process. I've read that the value of assets thus seized are greater than from thefts. What can you do about it? Nothing, Dem or GOP, politicians have a vast value: THEMSELVES. Spare me that Obama is anything other another jerk. So is Trump but Obama and Hillary elevate him to Saint Hood, 3rd class.

  • Festool Power Tools||

    Tell me why? if I went on a mass killing spree and a cop collected one piece of evidence incorrectly, the judge is forced by that damn American Communist Lovers Union to throw out the case?

  • Longtobefree||

    1. ""I've not come across an abusive civil forfeiture this shocking," says Wesley Hottot, an attorney for the Institute for Justice."
    2. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
    3. All civil forfeiture is a violation of the U. S. Constitution.
    (minor detail, to be sure, but relevant)
    It is also a violation of the constitution if the amount seized is over $40,000.00

  • Longtobefree||

    Wait! The thieves are wearing jeans and sneakers! Fake cops! No uniforms and badges! And they are carrying guns banned in California! Life in prison at a minimum.

  • Alan@.4||

    How long, one wonders, with the people of this country put up with the racket called Asset Forfeiture, or Civil Asset Forfeiture or as I describe it, Theft Under Color of Law?

  • Charitable Humans||

    I've been opposed to violence since I was old enough to understand the concept, but I'm beginning to weaken my stance. It seems to me like the most dangerous criminal cartels is law enforcement themselves, along with most of th US government.

  • Hank Phillips||

    I sure hope we can get him to run for president on the LP ticket in 4 years. The guy seems real clear and convincing.

  • masculistman||

    The DEA is not supposed to be doing this because it is violation of the Rohrabacher Amendment which prohibits the DEA from going after states with medical marijuana laws in place. What went down was not only in violation of state law it was in violation of federal law as well. I wrote my Congressman and Senators about this you may want to do the same or the DEA is going to feel embolden and do this to other people as well. It's time to put a stop to it. Congressional Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/ Senators: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

  • kaanseadai22||

    Well I think that this is going to work for sure in the best way possible Snapchat Login

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