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This guest column is from Paula Collins, EA, Esq., a tax attorney dedicated to the cannabis industry and a co-founder of the NY Consortium of Cannabis Accountants. She can be contacted at email@example.com. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of NY Cannabis Insider.
She was able to hit her phone and call someone, who then called me. I heard them yelling at her to “calm down” and to “quit screaming” or she would be taken to “psych for an evaluation.” I said over the phone to the officer that I would meet them at the precinct.
She will forever remember asking for a warrant, then being swarmed by several people in vests that said “Police.” She was wrestled into submission while screaming, “You’re hurting me!” and “I need to see a warrant!” Her shirt was torn. Her wrists were cut by the handcuffs.
The shop has cameras. I watched the video. Tiny shop. Lots of cops.
Gotta say – they don’t do it this way on Law & Order. The Law & Order guys are way more smooth when they go to cuff someone. Those guys have finesse.
But I think these guys secretly are playing out some sort of Law & Order fantasy. Something like that. This surely is not the result of policy and training. Or is it?
My client is younger than 30 years old. White. Actually, so far, everyone I know who has been arrested in a shop raid is white. I suppose turnabout is fair play.
She was detained for close to six hours. She was not read her rights. When her hands were not cuffed behind her back, she was cuffed to a bench.
When she was brought into the precinct by NYPD officers, she asked if I was “the lawyer” and I said yes. So she at least knew I was there. Fortunately, she was able to make eye contact with me across the precinct room.
I sat, thinking, “a few minutes more.” Six hours. At one point I stood up to ask someone something. The whole room freaked out. “Sit down, or you’ll have to leave.”
I said, “I just need to be able to speak to my client.”
Eventually, three Tax Police arrived and moved into positions at a desk close to her. They huddled around a few computer monitors, apparently watching a video and commenting. She could hear it all. Periodically, they asked the NYPD cops questions. It seemed like they couldn’t figure out what to charge her with.
Eventually, they settled on resisting arrest. You know, when she tried to stand up as three of them were pushing her down and she screamed, yet again, “I need to see a warrant!”
I identified myself to the Tax Police as her lawyer and asked repeatedly to speak to her. I was denied repeatedly. “Paperwork,” they said.
At one point, one of the Tax Police wandered across the room toward me. I asked again if I could have time to speak with my client. “We might let her go, but she just keeps calling us names.”
Speaking of names, I asked repeatedly to be told their names. They refused. The Tax Police were notable in the precinct in that they were the only authorities who did not have name tags and badge numbers. All of the NYPD people, including the clerks, did.
They said they didn’t have to tell me their names. “Tax – we don’t give names.” Later, it was, “It’s in the paperwork.” It wasn’t in the paperwork. There were scribbles in the paperwork, but I have no way of figuring out who was who. I can’t even read their writing.
And about that paperwork … when she was released and I was able to talk to her, she disclosed that they messed up on her paperwork multiple times. I had surmised this, as they huddled around a screen, talking in low tones and pointing. They clearly did not have things like passcodes to the fax and copy machines. They’re sort of NYPD precinct squatters.
They also clearly did not know how to issue a Desk Appearance Ticket, and had to do and re-do the process multiple times.
She could hear their personal conversations. These guys are no saints. They’re not even guys you would want to sit next to at a football game.
After the hours-long siege, the net gain from the raid at her shop was less than a pound and half of weed and less than $20,000 market value of gummies and pre-rolls. I’ve been to events with licensed professionals and staff from the Office of Cannabis Management with more cannabis products in the room.
And reviewing the highlights of what’s on the camera, I don’t see that the Tax Police really do much tax-like inspecting. They should call themselves the “Weed Police.” I’m a tax person; we go for things like ledgers, or computers, or inventory reports. Not these guys. They went straight for the weed, gummies, and pre-rolls. No tax paraphernalia.
The next day, as I walked down 6th Avenue, I saw that another new smoke shop had opened up the day before, while I was busy at the precinct trying to talk to my client during her prolonged encounter with the Tax Police. I reflected on the twist of arresting someone in a warrantless search that violated several of my client’s constitutional rights, all in an effort to prop up an industry that was being launched by people who had, themselves, endured these and other violations. That’s not anybody’s idea of social equity.
A recent appellate court decision regarding the parameters of a regulatory search; the process for conducting an inspection outlined in the recently amended cannabis law. I guess the wannabe Law & Order officers haven’t gotten around to reading those memos.
Three Tax Police, working over six hours. NYPD who were called in to bring her to the precinct. She will be arraigned and will briefly occupy a space on a docket downtown. There will be a lengthy OCM hearing, with an administrative law judge, an OCM attorney, witnesses, exhibits, possibly a few motions passed to and fro, tech support, administrative support … that $5 million for enforcement isn’t gonna last long.
And none of this got a single CAURD-licensed shop open, not in the city; not anywhere in the state. And why should it. The unlicensed shops and their employees are not the ones preventing the CAURD shops from opening; it’s the molasses-like OCM process that’s slowing things down
Only 460-something more to go. Don’t worry, I plan to see them all open. At this rate, we only have about 15 years to wait to get through the whole list.
But, by golly, we raided another shop, even if it meant tossing aside the Constitution, judicial precedent, and black letter cannabis law in the process.