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California Brand Caught Illegally Growing Ordered To Pay $1.1M Settlement

The penalty stems from numerous violations found at the farm

Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni announced today that her Cannabis Enforcement Unit has reached a settlement with the owners and operators of California’s Top Shelf and California’s Top Shelf Family for various violations related to a failed cultivation site at 25950 and 26000 Encinal Road in Salinas in September 2018.    

The case arose out of a site inspection by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  When a site is near a riparian habitat or other environmentally sensitive location, Fish and Wildlife may inspect the site to ensure there is not threat to the local wildlife.  Cannabis operators are also required to enroll with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Water Quality Control Board.  During the site inspection, violations of the Fish and Game Code related to waterways were noted by the wardens. 

Cannabis operators also must obtain a license from the California Department of Food and Agriculture to cultivate commercially.  California’s Top Shelf had held a license for 10,000 Sq.Ft but that license had expired in August 2018.  At the time of the inspection, well over the 10,000 Sq. Ft. allowance were observed growing.  Licenses are issued based on the amount of “canopy” a grower intends to grow.  Law enforcement advised the operators to cease operations and not remove any of the product but found employees trying to move cannabis plants to another location in the middle of the night.  This caused the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to pull in extra resources to immediately eradicate the cultivation operation.  A significant amount of cannabis was found to have been removed from the site and more processed cannabis was found on site.  All remaining cannabis plants were eradicated. 

California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted the investigation into who was operating the site.  They found the owners of the company and were able to build the case against them.  The operator of the cultivation site was Gino Galofaro.  The person named on the business documents was his father, Francesco Galofaro.  The cannabis operation operated as the businesses known as California’s Top Shelf Inc., California’s Top Shelf Family Inc. and Alderpoint Real Estate, LLC.  Both individuals and all three legal entities were named as defendants.  Additional investigation was done by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.  

The owners were cooperative in settlement negotiations and, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to stipulated judgment.  The settlement requires the named defendants to pay 1.1 million dollars in civil penalties, $100,000.00 to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for a Supplemental Environmental Project and nearly $100,000.00 in costs to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, the Resource Management Agency and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.   The business and the owners are prohibited, via a permanent injunction, from engaging in cannabis cultivation without being properly licensed.  Commercial cannabis is highly regulated, and this includes licensing from the State of California for every step of the process from cultivation through packaging and distribution.   Along the way the cannabis product may pass through multiple licensees.  With the California’s track and trace program finally up and running, consumers will be better protected.  Consumers should know that legal cannabis is tested for contaminants and pesticides before approved.  Testing may be done on the plant or on the extract.  Consumers should check to make sure the product and the retailer are properly licensed. The District Attorney’s Office strongly encourages those who choose to use cannabis to purchase it from a licensed retailer.  Not only will this help to ensure the product is tested but it will also assist in allowing the legal cannabis industry to succeed.  Illegal cannabis is not tested and may be grown with violations of worker safety, environmental and other health concerns.   

he District Attorney’s Office is responsible for enforcement of State and Local laws and has assigned a prosecutor and two investigators to this changing area of the law.  Enforcement is done using both civil and criminal laws.  The goal of the District Attorney’s Office is to protect the public by ensuring that cannabis businesses are operating safely, fairly, in the areas designated for cultivation and in the manner prescribed by the voters which includes regulation at all stages of cannabis operations thus protecting workers, consumers and the environment.  This will ensure the product consumers use is safe, free of contaminants and contains what the label says it contains.  The illegal cannabis market is a threat to the successful establishment of a legal cannabis market.  Anyone aware of illegal cannabis activity is encouraged to call 1-833-WEED-TIP (1-833-933-3847).    

Source: County of Monterey

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