A Danville resident attempted to turn himself into authorities in connection with a marijuana storefront raid. Agents from the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and members of the Newark/Union City SWAT team raided Happy Wellness Center in Newark and a home on Victoria Place on Wednesday afternoon.
Justin Hammer attempted to turn himself in at the Newark police station on Friday afternoon, but was turned away by police because they didn't have a warrant for his arrest. The Happy Wellness Center CEO is among the four Danville residents sought in connection with operating the illegal marijuana dispensary.
Center Manager Keila Santos-Gonzales was the only person arrested during the raid in Danville, which netted $40,000 in cash, 20 pounds of marijuana, an assault rifle and shotgun.
According to reports, Hammer went to the police in an attempt to avoid "the major scene" that happened on the 100 block of Victoria Place.
"The raid of the Happy Wellness Center conducted by SWAT teams is (sic) riot gear was nothing but political bullying," Scot Candell, attorney for the nonprofit collective, wrote in a release.
The collective maintains that it complies with all state laws and is suing the city on the grounds that Newark has illegally denied a small business license. But the Department of Justice investigation says otherwise, said Michelle Gregory, the department's press information officer. The sale of medical marijuana is illegal in Newark and Danville.
"These people are involved in criminal activity, not in it for patients or operating as medical collective or dispensary," she said. "We received information from the US Attorney that the activity they were engaged in was unlawful. ... The investigation is based on that and other complaints that they're purely in it for the profit."
Investigators are currently analyzing seized financial records before beginning prosecution, but Hammer said the $40,000 found at his Danville home was intended to go to the California Board of Equalization.
"Last week, our bank accounts were closed because the federal government pressures banks not to do business with legitimate medical marijuana collectives." Hammer wrote. "We took the money to the collective, but three days ago, we were robbed (a case currently under investigation by the Newark Police Department). I moved the money for our taxes, landlord, payroll for 15 employees and for reimbursing our farmers to my home to keep it safe. Last night the collective and my home were raided by the police, and we were robbed again.
"Patients have a legal right in California to use marijuana as medicine, even in Newark," Hammer continued. "Why can't we have something that is simple and effective where we can come together to help patients?"