Federal agents raid marijuana shop

September 26, 2006

Adam Ashton, Modesto Bee

Federal drug agents raided Modesto's only cannabis club Wednesday morning, arresting its two directors and two employees.

The agents did not identify the people they arrested. Details are expected to be released at a press conference today.

Officers broke into the California Healthcare Collective on McHenry Avenue and spent several hours gathering evidence. They hired a locksmith to get into the clinic's safe.

Federal Drug Administration agents and the Modesto Police Department also raided seven homes associated with clinic owners and employees, DEA Agent Gordon Taylor said.

One of the homes belonged to Luke Scarmazzo, a clinic director. The other director is Ricardo Montes.

The raids came a day after the Modesto City Council discussed ways to shut the clinic, which opened in late 2004. They wanted to amend a previous law they passed that failed to close the clinic.

James Anthony, an attorney who represents the clinic, said it appeared to him that Modesto turned to the federal government because the city couldn't dislodge the collective.

"They got beat in the state legal process so they go to the DEA to bully people out of existence," Anthony said. He declined to say whether he had spoken with his clients today.

California's Proposition 215 allows chronically ill people to use the drug even though federal law prohibits it.

Council members said they did not want to allow sales of the drug in the city, though they indicated they would not crack down on people who grow the drug for medicinal purposes in accordance with state law.

Some clinic patients walked up to the collective during the raid. They said they were dismayed to discover they would have to find medicine elsewhere, possibly from street dealers.

"It's too bad the city has to harass people like this. It's not a nuisance," said Patrick Clements, who has bought pot from the clinic. He had a medical marijuana card, but he declined to say why he sought a doctor's recommendation to use the drug.

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