Pot shop owner closes business
August 06, 2007
Jawson Kotowski, Bakersfield Californian
Elation at reopening was replaced with resignation at closing up shop forever for the owner of the last operational medical marijuana dispensary in Kern County.
Jim McGowen, owner of the recently reopened American Caregivers Collective on Gilmore Avenue just off Buck Owens Boulevard in Bakersfield, said he believes Tuesday would be the last day he operated the dispensary. A visit from staff from the Kern County District Attorney's office Tuesday afternoon convinced him it was time to close, he said.
"The D.A.'s office came by and said they didn't want (dispensaries) in this town and they'll do what they can to arrest me and put me in jail if I stay open," McGowen said.
Larry Bentley, chief investigator for the District Attorney's office, said no one from the D.A.'s office had gone to American Caregivers Collective.
Later Tuesday, McGowen said it may have been agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration that came by his store, but he thought they were from the D.A.'s office.
Stephen Peterson, special agent in charge of the DEA in Bakersfield, would neither confirm nor deny that DEA agents visited McGowen's store Tuesday.
"I'm not going to comment on what some drug dealer said," Peterson said.
The issue of medical marijuana has been discussed by county lawmen and legislators over the past few months as the DEA has investigated and raided dispensaries even though the sale of medical marijuana is legal under state law. Federal law, however, says pot shops are illegal and can be busted at any time.
The DEA, with the assistance of local lawmen, raided Nature's Medicinal Cooperative in Oildale in July and arrested the store's co-owners and five employees. McGowen closed his shop for two weeks in the wake of that raid, but reopened Sunday after receiving thousands of calls, he said.
McGowen said he hadn't expected to be targeted since he is in full compliance with state law. The risk of federal charges, however, has him worried enough to quit the dispensary business.
"I believe this is it," McGowen said.