Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Drug Agents Raid Marijuana Store in Midtown Sacramento

News 10 Sacramento

After a complaint by a Sacramento City Counsil member, federal drug agents have raided a medical marijuana dispensary, the first such raid within the city limits.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents swept into the storefront at 2020 16th Street around 9:30 a.m. and, according to witnesses, held three employees inside at gunpoint and made them lie on the floor. With a federal search warrant, DEA Special Agent in Charge Gordon Taylor said they seized "several pounds of marijuana" as well as $48,000 in cash.

"That just shows you how much money is made in these operations," said Taylor. No arrests were made but Taylor said two other search warrants were served at the homes of the two owners. "Our invesigation is continuing," said Taylor, who wouldn't identify the owners.

Medicinal marijuana advocate Ryan Landers said the lack of arrests "kind of tells you what's going on. This is very typical of the DEA. They waste your tax dollars, raiding people, stealing from people, because when you raid a place with no intent to prosecute people, that is called a robbery."

This is the fifth medical marijuana storefront the DEA has raided in the 34 California counties covered by the eastern district of the federal courts. In the four earlier raids, including one in Roseville and another in Rancho Cordova, the operators were eventually arrested.

Taylor said the DEA investigation began sometime last year, but Sacramento City Councilmember Robbie Waters said he was the one who tipped law enforcement to the operation.

"Last year I started getting complaints about traffic in and out of the store, neighboring business owners complained they were losing customers," said Waters. "It's not in my council district but I was approaching it from an ecomomic standpoint."

Waters also noted that in 1999, the city passed an ordinance that any medical marijuana dispensary must get a special use permit. When he checked out the business and found no use permit, he says he passed the information along to the Sacramento Police Department who then contacted the DEA.

When he learned about the $48,000 in cash allegedly seized at the store, Waters said, "That begs the question. What's all this money doing in the place?" Waters is a former Sacramento County Sheriff and retired city police officer.

While state law allows medical marijauna, possessing, selling or distributing marijuana, even for medical reasons, is against federal law.

"People that run these kind of distribution centers, they're rolling the dice with their freedom," said Taylor.

Within a couple of hours of the raid, a small group gathered outside the storefront to protest the DEA raid. It's unclear if the store owners will attempt to reopen the business.

"We have a half a dozen clubs operating in the city, operating very quietly as you see here," said Landers. While Taylor said the lack of signage shows how these businesses "operate in the shadows," Landers said, "We don't stick out like sore thumbs. We're serving people who need medicine."


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