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Owner of Raided Medical Marijuana Dispensary Takes Plea Deal

Charles Restivo of the Pacific Coast Collective is expected to get three years of probation and some fines

A Santa Barbara man accused of operating the Pacific Coast Collective medical marijuana dispensary from 2008 to 2010 accepted a plea deal Thursday from the District Attorney’s Office.

Charles Jeffrey Restivo
Charles Jeffrey Restivo

Charles Jeffrey Restivo, 33, was arrested in February 2010 after the dispensary and his home were searched as part of a four-dispensary raid by local law enforcement. Restivo’s name is on the incorporation documents, and he was the one who acquired a City of Santa Barbara permit for the establishment at 331 N. Milpas St.

He was charged with possession of marijuana for sale and cultivation of marijuana for sale since authorities argued the dispensary was violating state laws regarding medical marijuana. With the deal offered by Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota, Restivo pleaded no contest to a new charge — possession of concentrated cannabis — so the other two charges were dropped.

“It’s sweet and sour, I guess,” Restivo said after the hearing. “Part of me wanted to win it out, but the other part is glad I’m not coming to court anymore.”

Restivo is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge George Eskin on May 18. Cota said Restivo is expected to get three years of probation and some fines.

Restivo’s attorney, Allison Margolin, plans to fight for the felony charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor, which would make a difference for his criminal record and whether it’s supervised or unsupervised probation.

She noted that Restivo is the only defendant in all of the local dispensary criminal cases who had a city permit for his establishment.

Once Restivo had the permit, he expected there would be signals if things went wrong — such as unpermitted dispensaries being shut down, or city staff members calling to check up on him, he said.

“The permit definitely gave me a false sense of security,” Restivo said. “I worked with the city and within the guidelines laid out, but in the end it really didn’t matter.”

All of his accounts — business and personal — were frozen and subsequently emptied after his arrest and haven’t been restored. Cota said of the $15,250 seized, Restivo will get $7,325 back with the plea deal. Margolin says the seized amount is more like $60,000 and is working to find and restore the rest.

Since the arrest, Restivo said he has been trying to get life back to normal, despite the many court appearances, people talking about him behind his back and losing his accounting job after tax season.

“They said it had nothing to do with the case, but it couldn’t have helped,” he said.

Restivo denies any involvement in the dispensary since his arrest two years ago, but the Drug Enforcement Administration raided his home last week when they also raided Pacific Coast Collective, just two days before the plea deal was originally scheduled. 

Nothing was seized from his home, Margolin said. No one was arrested in the raids, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed asset forfeiture complaints with three local landlords whose properties are leased by dispensaries or growers.

However, a plea deal provision lets Restivo withdraw the plea if he’s criminally indicted by the federal government, but Cota said, “If the feds indict him, a felony conviction in a state court for possession of concentrated cannabis will be the least of his worries.”

With the federal raids closing down Pacific Coast Collective, Cota said he was glad to resolve Restivo’s case with a felony conviction and not use any more resources to go to trial.

“If the feds shut (the dispensaries) all down, it’s kind of the end of a chapter — until something else comes along,” he said.

Cota prosecuted and got felony convictions in all four cases related to the traffic stop of Glen Mowrer III, a man accused of producing and selling concentrated cannabis to local dispensaries Pacific Coast Collective, The Healing Center, Miramar Collective in Summerland and the Santa Barbara Care Center in Goleta. Those businesses were all subsequently raided, and charges were brought against operators and employees.

The Upper State Street dispensary Hortipharm was raided and its operator, Joshua Braun, and several employees accepted plea deals last summer.

Cota said the last outstanding dispensary criminal case is the Bond Avenue dispensary Humanity, whose employees are scheduled for trial in July.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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