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Calif. cops forced to return $800,000 in pot after controversial raid

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American police have been seizing cannabis for decades, but the tables were turned last week, when law enforcement in a California city was forced to return hundreds of pounds of cannabis to a pot distributor. 

Costa Mesa police officers returned the massive shipment of cannabis last week to Se7enLeaf, a cannabis distributor in the city, according to the Los Angeles Times. The authorities had accused the company of illegally operating and seized the cannabis in September of last year.

Michael Moussalli, the owner of Se7enLeaf, told SFGATE that he was happy to get his cannabis back after his attorneys explained he was operating legally, but he still blamed the city for taking it in the first place and delaying its return.


“The sad thing is once all this info was shared, there was no apologies. There was only more aggression,” Moussalli said, referencing the city’s attempt to further delay the return of the products. “The police were not happy that no charges were filed. The police were not happy that the product was being returned.”

Tony Dodero, a spokesperson for the city of Costa Mesa, declined to comment Tuesday. 

Moussalli said the cannabis the city returned had a wholesale value of around $800,000 and a retail value of between $1.5 million and $2 million. He said some of the products were now too old to be sold, six months after the initial raid, but he was not sure how much was still sellable.

The returned shipment is the latest in a long legal saga between Moussalli’s businesses and the city of Costa Mesa. Moussalli is part owner of High Seas, a retail store in the city that sued Costa Mesa in November, alleging that the city broke the law by delaying the store’s retail permit approval without giving any reason. 


September’s raid came after authorities accused High Seas of illegally delivering cannabis through the Se7enLeaf company prior to having a license, according to the LA Times. An undercover Costa Mesa police officer had placed an order through High Seas’ app and received products with High Seas branding that were delivered by a Se7enLeaf employee, according to the Times. Costa Mesa authorities argued this amounted to High Seas and Se7enLeaf illegally selling cannabis, since neither business had a license to deliver to customers.

But Moussalli and his partners at Se7enleaf said that they were only packaging cannabis products on behalf of High Seas — a common practice in the industry — and they were legally using a third-party delivery service to send the products to customers. The city settled the case in February and agreed to return the seized cannabis to Se7enLeaf, and Moussalli agreed to pay for the legal costs of the case, he told SFGATE.

Moussalli said he felt like he had been “extorted” by the city because officials told him they would not approve the permit for High Seas' retail location while the investigation against Se7enLeaf was still pending.


“The city held our permit hostage at High Seas, so I had no choice other than to settle. Otherwise, we would have ended up in court for three to four years, but nobody has time to sit on a multimillion-dollar investment,” Moussalli said.

He added that his Se7enLeaf distribution company is now in “severe financial turmoil” and may go out of business because of the economic damages from the raid. 

“The city should be paying me for ruining my business and doing what they did, but somehow I’m paying them because that was the only way to get my store opened here,” Moussalli said.



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