L.A. County officials seize marijuana at Palm Springs collective

Los Angeles County officials seized marijuana at a Palm Springs collective Wednesday as they served search warrants in four counties across Southern California, a sheriff’s captain said.

“We had a long-term investigation of a certain organization,” said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Capt. Ralph Ornelas, who oversees the multiagency Marijuana Dispensary Task Force. “Today was a culmination of this investigation where we served 16 search warrants.”

One of the dispensaries searched was The Holistic Collective of Palm Springs, 2235 N. Palm Canyon Drive.

Authorities arrived about 11 a.m. to serve the warrant, said Lt. Joseph B. Nuñez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Narcotics Bureau.

“It’s a search warrant for illegally operating dispensaries,” Nuñez said.

By about 2 p.m. Wednesday, authorities had carried at least half a dozen small boxes out of The Holistic Collective.

Ornelas said authorities took marijuana buds and other products made with the substance.

Authorities also searched a dispensary in Riverside, but none of the 11 arrests were made in Riverside County, Ornelas said.

Names of the people arrested were not immediately released.

Ornelas said the dispensaries searched Wednesday in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Riverside counties were all tied to an organization that operated under various names to make a profit.

“Basically, it’s a money-making organization, not what the Compassionate Use Act was meant to be,” he said.

State law allows qualified patients to collectively grow marijuana for medical purposes but does not allow marijuana to be grown or distributed for a profit.

Palm Springs is the first and, so far, only Coachella Valley city to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, but a city ordinance limits the number and location of dispensaries.

The city filed a complaint against The Holistic Collective in April 2009, saying the business had violated the city’s 2006 moratorium on marijuana dispensaries and that it later operated without the proper permits. The collective legally challenged that ordinance.

Three people who identified themselves as volunteers at the collective but did not give their names said authorities took patient files and personal property during Wednesday’s search, and the disruption would likely keep the collective shuttered for days.

A person reached by phone at the collective said an owner or manager was not immediately available for comment.

An attorney who had represented the collective as it challenged Palm Springs’ dispensary ordinance was also unavailable Wednesday afternoon.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office assisted with Wednesday’s operation, and Palm Springs police had a unit on standby in the area at the outset of the search, spokespeople for those agencies said.