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Calif. police trespassed on native land, destroyed $100,000 worth of pot, lawsuit says

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By Lester Black

Sheriff’s deputies in Northern California trespassed on Native American land and wrongfully destroyed more than 100,000 cannabis plants, according to a new lawsuit filed in federal court this week.

Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office deputies raided the farm in July of last year, destroying 113,361 plants worth more than $100,000, as well as multiple greenhouses, according to the lawsuit filed by the farm owner, Gary Cordova. The farm was located in Covelo, a small Mendocino County town that sits within the Round Valley Indian Reservation.

The sheriff’s department said the farm was violating the state’s medical marijuana laws, according to a search warrant attached to the lawsuit, but Cordova says that the farm was fully legal under the Round Valley Indian Tribes’ laws.

Hila Fichtelberg, the office manager for the Emerald Law Group, which is representing Cordova, confirmed that he is a member of the tribe. Cordova’s attorneys were not available to answer further questions about the lawsuit.

Cordova says that the officers trespassed on his land, violated his civil rights and destroyed over $100,000 worth of cannabis. He is suing for an unspecified amount of damages related to the allegedly destroyed plants and buildings. The lawsuit was first reported by

Neither the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office nor the Round Valley Indian Tribes immediately responded to a request for comment from SFGATE.

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office has raided cannabis grows on the local tribe’s land in the past. After a raid in May 2020, the county sheriff told the Press Democrat that the operation was in response to complaints from tribal elders about illegal pot farms. (No tribal elders were quoted in the newspaper’s story.)

It’s not clear whether Cordova’s farm had the support of the local tribe.

California’s state law allows medical marijuana patients to grow up to six mature plants on their property, but Round Valley’s Tribal Law allows medical patients to grow an unlimited amount of plants provided they are grown indoors, according to Cordova’s lawsuit. His farm was using six greenhouses to grow the plants, the suit said.

Local tribal law also requires law enforcement to contact tribal police before any raids are conducted or marijuana is destroyed. The sheriff’s department did not consult with Round Valley officials before the operation, according to the lawsuit.

Cordova filed a claim against Mendocino County in January, seeking damages related to the raid, but that claim was rejected the same month, the lawsuit said.


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