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Last week, a well-known local activist and small business owner was effectively shut down when Police raided his office, stole his legal medical cannabis and ordered the electric meter removed. Very little explanation was given.
The bizarre story began very early Tuesday morning when unknown thieves attempted to break into a small medical cannabis grow-site in Imperial Beach, CA. The building, on Palm Avenue in the small beach town, houses several retail shops and a family-owned insurance business belonging to Marcus Boyd. Marcus is Vice Chair of San Diego Americans for Safe Access, and the legal collective cannabis grow he cared for – hidden away in a unused part of the building- was the site of the attempted break in.
This building is special to many activists who fight for safe access to medical cannabis in our county. Marcus’s office was the site of the Yes on S Campaign, a 2012 local medical cannabis regulatory ballot initiative and is where much of the activism generated by our chapter comes from. The Yes on S campaign was a collaborative effort between SDASA and Canvass for a Cause. Marcus Boyd was a key participant in the campaign. He also manages SDASA’s website, is it’s equipment expert and has hosted countless organization meetings out of his insurance office. He is a financial contributor to SDASA and the office is a hub for the chapter.
Ideal Choice Insurance is busy and the agency can’t afford thieves so Marcus took steps and bought a video camera He installed the lens pointing at the exterior door, which the thieves had failed to breach. And that night began uploading the footage to a safe location while he slept.
Marcus woke up early Wednesday, October 22, and knew something was amiss by the way the on-line surveillance equipment was behaving. He wasn’t wrong. During the night, neighbors reported masked men using a battering ram to again break into the exterior door of the building, this time they were successful. The doors to the collective grow were sturdy and caused a terrific ruckus when the masked men rammed the apparatus, similar to the one shown here, against one, then the other of them. The noise and men running in and out removing items prompted a 911 call.
Shortly after discovering the hitch in his surveillance, Marcus drove to the site of his business. He immediately saw what was happening. There in his back lot were nine one-ton trucks with creepy blackened windows and one San Diego sheriff cruiser. It was apparent to him the collective grow area had been entered by the sheriff in order to investigate the burglary. The sheriff spotted the grow and notified the Narcotic Task Force even though what was found was a legal medical cannabis garden, with county-issued state cards attached to each plant and affixed to all walls and doors. The room was also lined with SDASA protest signs from as far back as the California Narcotic Officers’ Association Awards, protest rally our chapter organized in 2009.
Observing the frightening sight in his parking lot, Marcus, went home to make some phone calls. When he returned he requested badges from all law enforcement present. He recognized District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’s Team Nine of the NTF and Team Nine recognized him. Marcus refused to allow entry so the entire gang of them waited for a search warrant, the first one to be served that day.
Shortly after Marcus, Heidi Whitman and Eugene Davidovich arrived with a camera. Eugene is the former chair of SDASA and Heidi currently serves on the steering committee. Both are long-time friends of Marcus’s. The three assessed together that, so far, the collective’s medicine had not been harmed. They waited for Team Nine to produce a warrant and find the Medical Marijuana Program Act cards around the cannabis plants. They assumed Team Nine must know state law – in place for 18 years – and would inspect the grow, then leave the sheriff to make his burglary report.
Unfortunately, none of that happened except the search warrant. Once it arrived, Team Nine observed the grow, sent the sheriff home and refused to honor state law. They called for another search warrant for Ideal Choice Insurance office and set about cutting down the cannabis garden.
In a strange twist, one of the NTF officers, called “The Sergeant,” became so heated by his work – cutting down plants – that he removed his hoodie, revealing a shirt beneath, which read “Marijuana Eradication San Diego, CA.” Those words were followed up with “Fuck the Growers… Marijuana’s Still Illegal.” Marcus tells us he was the head agent in charge.
That’s when the raid actually began for Marcus and was the catalyst for what happened next. Because the officers refused to honor the state legal medical cannabis collective, Eugene turned the camera on, got on his phone and we mobilized a protest of citizens. It is unclear why the officers refused to honor the collective’s state cards but they certainly did not like the camera pointed at them and the scene chilled, with officers scattering from the view of the lens and hustling Marcus into the building. They mentioned things would get “rougher” now that Eugene’s camera was on. Then local NBC arrived, this was the footage they aired that night.
Thankfully, things didn’t get as rough as they could have but Marcus spent several hours inside with the officers and was never arrested. He broke our rule, “Don’t talk to the police” when he began to politely relay what he learned about the endocannabinoid system to San Diego Police officer and cross sworn DEA, Paul Paxton. Paxton has been at many medical cannabis raids in San Diego and I’ve seen him testify in court. He could use some education so we give Marcus a pass for that. But, he reminds us all to practice good security culture.
Also present was sheriff deputy Matt Stevens, the NTF agent who embarrassed himself a few years ago when he, in a chopper, spotted bamboo growing in Ramona and thought it was cannabis. He then victimized seriously ill, Deborah and Dennis Little with court testimony, lying about their small garden. The Littles werevictorious and are now suing in federal court.
Meanwhile, outside Marcus’s office, tensions were brewing and citizens were watching. Eugene, in his work as SDASA Chair, is a well known medical cannabis raid responder in San Diego. He has vexed San Diego District Attorney, failed mayoral candidate and all-around bug to medical cannabis, Bonnie Dumanis’s NTF agents for years. It is for these sorts of NTF raids that SDASA has instigated political opposition campaigns against Dumanis in her last two bids, staging protests and supporting her opposition. Now here we are with our oppressors on SDASA’s doorstep.
A cannabis patient and media spokespersonfor SDASA, Heidi Whitman was on hand to speak to the press about the waste of money and serious harm that comes from these unlawful raids by Dumanis’s NTF. Yes on S campaigners, Canvass for a Cause, a radical queer organization and beloved friend to SDASA also responded to Marcus’s office within minutes as well as local medical marijuana attorney, Melissa Bobrow. Then more media showed up and prompted this “Vulgar T-Shirt,” investigative report by Local ABC’s Allison Ash.
Ideal Choice Insurance is Marcus’s livelihood. He is a family man and losing even a day of income harms him and his family. Many times SDASA has needed Marcus and he has come through for us – he IS us, in some sense. I am outraged that NTF shut his office down. By insisting on the removal of the meter they have cruelly and devastatingly harmed his family.
Thankfully, the officers did not take the business’s computers and equipment. In fact, the only thing Team Nine took from Marcus’s office was the newly installed security camera – the one that had been pointing at the exterior door and quietly uploading footage of the burglary, off-site.
The City of Imperial Beach has an ordinance and, Marcus was following it to the letter. It is legal to grow with three patients or fewer, which is what was happening in the building. Marcus was not charged and did not deserve to be raided in this smash and grab manner by NTF. Now he will have to fight to get his property and medicine back from Bonnie Dumanis’s office, like so many before him. An astounding number of folks have reached out with kind words and offers of help. Marcus has created a GoFundMe page. He will use the funds for any legal battles and donate any remaining to continue the education campaign he started with Officer Paxton. Marcus’s long-time wish has been to circulate Americans for Safe Access Condition-Based Booklets at strategic trade shows, community forums and outreach events hosted by law enforcement.
We hope you will consider a donation to Marcus. The love and support the community showed during this traumatic time was awesome. I visited Marcus in his office and he was both touched and also scared for his future. His message to the community ”Please stay safe and remember, OneLove.”
Thank you, Marcus Boyd for standing strong.
How you can help:
- DONATING and SHARING will send a strong message back to Bonnie Dumanis’ NTF Team 9.
- If you can not donate, please share this GoFundMe page.
Since 2003, Terrie has been a volunteer in harm reduction and drug and prison policy reform in San Diego. She is an advocate of medical cannabis patients’ rights. Terrie is the Advisory Committee Chair of San Diego Americans for Safe Access and is focused on court support and building a bridge between the recovery and medical cannabis communities in San Diego and reducing stigma surrounding the therapeutic use of cannabis.