Santa Barbara narcotics detectives raided two local medical marijuana dispensaries last week after investigating illegal marijuana sales in the area.

Detectives charged three suspects from Helping Hands Wellness Center on State Street and Choice Pharmacy in Goleta with drug trafficking and money laundering. Between the two dispensaries, authorities seized hundreds of pounds of edible marijuana items, 1,300 plants, nearly one hundred pounds of marijuana processed for sale and $20,000 in cash.

The dispensary busts are the latest in a series of recent raids at local residences and pot farms around the county.

According to Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. Public Information Officer Drew Sugars, enforcement initiated the investigation following accusations that the dispensaries were overstepping their legal boundaries as non-profit providers of medicinal marijuana.

“Prop 215 is there to help sick people,” Sugars said. “Nowhere does it say that people can make a profit from dealing marijuana. So anyone who tries to hide behind Prop 215 will be treated like any other drug dealer and will be arrested”.

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Das Williams, an advocate for compassionate use, said that any illegal activities at Helping Hands and Choice Pharmacy do not mirror standard operating procedures.

“I do not think this is typical at all,” Williams said. “Obviously there are still dispensaries that are up and running, so they are playing by the rules.”

Williams said it is important for dispensaries to follow strict operating procedures so their behavior does not detract from the legitimate benefits medicinal marijuana has for its patients.

“If people are operating outside the boundaries of Prop 215, they are undermining the legitimacy of medical marijuana,” Williams said. “That does a disservice to the people who really need the help”

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Dale Francisco said he is opposed to the dispensaries and believes medicinal marijuana dispensaries are a front for recreational users.

“The vast majority of dispensary customers are using marijuana recreationally and are hiding behind medical marijuana as their excuse,” Francisco said. “Ninety-six percent of the people who own medical marijuana cards are between the ages of 17 and 35. So that tells you right there.”

Sugars said the investigations were not linked to Proposition 19, the initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to legalize cannabis. He said the increase in raids is typical with growing patterns this time of year.

“There is a history of these busts coming in bunches, and there are a lot of outdoor grows that happen during the summer and fall months,” Sugar said. “The simple fact is that our detectives work hard”.

Williams said he does not think the recent raids will not change voter opinions come election time.

“I think that people are already tired of the drug war,” Williams said. “I kind of doubt they would change now if they are already edging towards voting yes on 19.”

Francisco, however, said he hopes that the continued violations will turn voters away from proposals that encourage cannabis use.

“Santa Barbara is the only city in a four-county area that permits medical marijuana use,” Francisco said. “By welcoming these dispensaries, we are causing huge problems for the city.”