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Local News

Preliminary Hearing Held for Owner of Raided Marijuana Dispensary

Questioning focuses on the business operations of Charles Restivo and his Pacific Coast Collective

A basic outline of how the Pacific Coast Collective, a Santa Barbara medical-marijuana dispensary, does business emerged Friday during the preliminary court hearing of its primary owner.

Pacific Coast Collective, the first medical marijuana storefront dispensary to be permitted by the city of Santa Barbara, was raided along with the home of owner Charles Restivo in February. The raids led to his arrest on charges of cultivation and possession for sales of marijuana.

Charles Jeffrey Restivo
Charles Jeffrey Restivo

Medical marijuana storefront dispensary guidelines focus on a nonprofit status and a closed-loop cultivation and distribution model.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota, who is prosecuting the case, is also handling the case against six people associated with the Humanity dispensary on Bond Avenue. Cota introduced two Santa Barbara police officers as witnesses. The officers testified about information gathered Feb. 17 during the issuance of two search warrants.

The warrants for Restivo’s residence and the cannabis club were influenced by the arrest of Glen Mowrer, 39, who was found to have pounds of marijuana, a lab that converted marijuana to concentrated forms using carbon dioxide, and concentrated cannabis in his car, residence and mother’s residence. Mowrer had vendor receipts in his possession and said he sold the concentrated cannabis to four local dispensaries, which led to search warrants of those four places and others, according to testimony.

Restivo’s lawyer, Allison Margolin, has argued against the search warrants, saying the intention was to target evidence regarding Mowrer and not Restivo. She was denied a motion to that effect earlier in the week.

Detective Shawn Hill, the investigating officer, conducted an interview with Restivo at his residence in the morning the search warrant was served. On Friday, Cota played tapes of the interview, which included Hill and Restivo talking about the collective’s business practices.

It’s a licensed mutual benefit nonprofit entity, which has a bank account, pays sales taxes, is permitted by the city, and accepts both credit card and cash payments from its customers, Restivo said in the taped interview.

Restivo, a licensed CPA who has since lost his accounting job, was chatty and candid with Hill on tape, and expressed disbelief that he would be in trouble after putting in so much effort to make it “legit.” He is a patient himself, and had a small cultivation at his residence as well as some product for personal use and the dispensary. All vendors — about 10 people — are registered patients, he said. However, he is one of three managers and doesn’t deal with vendors directly, leaving that to the five employees.

Restivo’s two partners in the venture are Joshua Braun — who was recently arrested in relation to his dispensary, Hortipharm — and Anthony Arri, a friend with whom he started the California Fight Syndicate. He had been involved with the collective for about a year when arrested, and his name was on all the permitting paperwork with the city.

After initial struggles, Braun served as a consultant for the storefront and profit margins increased 30 percent to 40 percent, Restivo said on the tape. According to all of the day’s testimony, all customers who bought marijuana at the storefront had verified recommendations.

The search warrant served at the 331 N. Milpas St. dispensary yielded about $6,000 in cash, various marijuana products and a back room with “thousands” of clones, according to Hill. The establishment includes a lobby area, easily visible through the street-facing windows, “budtender” service area where money and marijuana were exchanged, office areas and the back room, he said.

White boards on the walls boasted prices, strains and specials such as “Mary Jane Mondays” (two free joints with a $50 purchase) and “Six-Pack Saturdays” for clone sales.

Restivo told Hill the back clone room was subleased to a few men who sold the plants to his and other dispensaries.

Police Officer Craig Burleigh of the tactical patrol assisted the narcotics division on Feb. 17 in interviewing Pacific Coast Collective customers coming in, and testified that most of them had little to no knowledge about the inner workings of the storefront. None of the nine interviewed — one of whom testified Friday — helped cultivate the marijuana or knew who grew it and operated the store.

Cota and Margolin clashed on numerous occasions, as he accused her of wasting time and “making up things as she goes,” and she frequently objected to testimony and the taped interviews. Her objections were based on her previously denied motion, since she believes the search warrant and resulting interviews to be without probable cause.

Margolin questioned Hill about the probable cause leading to Restivo’s arrest, and Hill said the described activities didn’t seem to be the collective cultivation of marijuana.

The use of “primary caregiver” also came into play, as membership papers for the collective state that patients identify the store as a primary caregiver, and the term came into play during their initial interview.

About 2,000 patients visit the storefront, half of that regularly, and the average buy is $50, according to the taped interview.

The court hearing will continue Tuesday, when the prosecution will continue with its witnesses and Margolin will introduce her own, including patient advocate William Britt.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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