UPDATED WITH INFO ON HOLLISTER ARREST
Look for the upstart cannabis industry of Salinas, and possibly a wider swath of the community, to be shaken by a law enforcement search Thursday of the Salinas home of medical pot grower and restaurateur Mike Hackett.
As first reported by the Monterey County Weekly, marijuana and a plastic bag of white powder were found in an SUV parked in front of Hackett’s Maple Park home while the residence was being searched by the San Benito County Unified Narcotics Team early Thursday.
The Weekly has now reported that no bag of white powder was found.
The San Benito County Sheriff’s Office later reported that is had seized 150 grams of marijuana, scales, packaging material for sales, suspected marijuana pay-owe documents, firearms, and ammunition and had found a large amount of currency.
The news release said the search was an outgrowth of Hackett’s arrest July 1 during the Hollister Independence Day motorcycle rally. It said he had been arrested for possession of cocaine for sale. A sheriff’s official said he had been spotted openly sharing small quantities of cocaine with others at a bar.
The Weekly reported that Hackett was handcuffed during Thursday’s search but his lawyer, Tom Worthington, said there had been no arrest. Worthington said the search was authorized by a warrant signed July 14 by a San Benito County judge but authorities would not provide him with a copy of the law enforcement affidavit detailing grounds for the action. Such affidavits are generally made public two weeks after a search.
Worthington said he had known Hackett professionally and personally for many years “and we expect a very favorable outcome.”
A Hackett associate said he understood that law enforcement had received a tip about Hackett’s activities after he was arrested during a bar fight in Hollister during the annual Fourth of July motorcycle rally there.
Hackett owns Casa Sorrento restaurant in downtown Salinas and formerly was a partner in Hacienda Mexican Grill in North Salinas. Article updated to make clear that Hackett is no longer involved in Hacienda. As president of River View Farms, Hackett also has become one of the most prominent players in the Salinas Valley’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry. He was well situated when the industry started blossoming because he had purchased two commercial greenhouses that had been used by flower growers before trade agreements killed the local flower industry nearly two decades ago.
When Monterey County supervisors started handing out permits for commercial marijuana production, they limited the permits to operations within existing greenhouses. The stated intent of that rule was to keep the marijuana industry contained in easily monitored spaces. The result was a real estate boom among the rows of seemingly abandoned greenhouses south of Salinas. A Los Angeles Times article from last year explains the situation well.
Hackett has been quietly active in Salinas-area politics as a campaign contributor and occasional host of political fundraisers. Local law enforcement organizations and politicians have routinely used Casa Sorrento for fund-raisers, with Hackett sometimes donating the space. He was among several commercial pot growers to contribute last year to Jimmy Panetta’s successful congressional campaign, chipping in $1,000.
Hackett is a longtime friend and associate of another significant campaign contributor locally, David Drew, founder of the Growers Pub bar and restaurant downtown. Growers Pub has been the site of numerous political gatherings, which has proved controversial at times because of Drew’s decades-old convictions and prison terms on marijuana- and cocaine-related charges.
Hackett was featured prominently in a recent Sacramento Bee profile of the Salinas marijuana scene.
“Hackett grew up in the valley, the son of a lettuce and celery farmer. He graduated from North Salinas High School and has worked in nearly every aspect of agriculture, including planting, picking, property leasing and farm-pallet manufacturing,” The Bee reported.
“Most recently, in an area surrounded by strawberry and broccoli fields near the Salinas River – the ‘crossroads of heaven,’ he calls it – Hackett was growing poinsettias, succulents, carnations and snap dragons in aging greenhouses. Now he is converting family property to produce cannabis in a venture called Riverview Farms.
“Hackett never has grown pot before, but has no shortage of confidence. ‘I have the best agricultural scientists right here in the Salinas Valley,’ he says. ‘I have the best soil scientists. This is a plant just like anything else. There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to use our technology here and incorporate that into cannabis.’”
“Hackett says one of his greenhouses did ‘a sizable trial’ with marijuana cultivation last year and he was ‘very pleased with the results.’ He is planning on going into the business in a big way, exploring expansion beyond cultivation to a potential retail dispensary and a concentrates manufacturing facility.”