Ex-operator of Roseville medical marijuana dispensary charged in federal court

January 12, 2006

Elizabeth Hume, Sacramento Bee

A federal grand jury in Sacramento on Friday indicted Richard James Marino on 19 counts of drug trafficking and money laundering stemming from a medical marijuana dispensary he set up in Roseville.

Federal officials said at press conference that the charges arose out of an eight-month U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into Marino's former Roseville business, Capitol Compassionate Care.

According to DEA officials, Marino's business grossed about $2.75 million during an eight-month period. Marino, 52, was arrested at 7:15 a.m. Friday at his Fort Bragg residence.

U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said under California law, it is illegal to profit from medical marijuana sales.

"Mr. Marino has attempted to use California's medical marijuana law as justification for his operation of a drug market," Scott said. "What he was really doing was operating a drug market to make money, plain and simple. His actions were illegal under federal law. His actions were illegal under state law. He must now pay the consequences."

Marino, a former electrician, opened dispensary Jan. 22, 2004. The shop at 327 Lincoln St. in historic Roseville was open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Marino became interested in medical marijuana about 10 years ago following back and neck injuries from several workplace and automobile accidents. Prescribed medications left him with allergic reactions and in a daze.

Then he turned to marijuana. Qualified patients are allowed to use medical marijuana in California under Proposition 215 passed by voters in 1996. Though legal in the state, the use of medical marijuana violates federal law.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that federal authorities can prosecute medical pot users in states such as California, where it is legal.

The DEA raided the dispensary and Marino’s 5-acre Newcastle farm in September 2004. Agents seized 250 marijuana plants, 20 pounds of processed marijuana and more than $105,000 in cash. An additional 250 plants were taken at the dispensary.

Marino did not face criminal charges. However, federal agents filed a civil complaint against Marino, claiming he profited from an illegal enterprise.

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