Medical pot dispensary raided by DEA agents

September 26, 2007

Niesha Lofing, Sacramento Bee

Federal authorities raided a medical marijuana dispensary Wednesday in Sacramento as employees, customers and medical marijuana advocates protested out front.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration served a federal search warrant around 9 a.m. at River City Patient Center at 1512 El Camino Ave., along with three other locations associated with the dispensary, said Gordon Taylor, the agent in charge of the DEA office in Sacramento.

Search warrants also were served at a storage facility near the dispensary, a home in Wilseyville and a home in Acampo, he said.

DEA agents seized a total of several pounds of processed marijuana, 45 marijuana plants, an undetermined amount of cash, $32,000 from four bank accounts, marijuana-laced food, computer information, documents and indoor marijuana-growing equipment, Taylor said.

The business is owned by William Pearce, Taylor said. Five employees at the dispensary were detained and questioned, but released. Pearce also was detained Wednesday, Taylor said. No arrests have been made.

The operation Wednesday was the result of a more than yearlong investigation.

Taylor acknowledged the conflict between federal and state law, which permits medicinal use of marijuana, but said state law "is simply not working" and is creating a permissive environment for marijuana use.

"I think the situation in this state has gotten really out of hand," Taylor said, adding that the DEA is increasingly seeing marijuana being sold for medicinal purposes to able-bodied young people. "I don't think the general public really knows what's going on behind the doors of these medical marijuana dispensaries and if they did, they'd be outraged."

Internal Revenue Service officials also were on the scene Wednesday investigating the dispensary's finances. Seizure warrants had been served on several bank accounts associated with the dispensary, Taylor said.

Kim Stabnau, 27, a dispensary employee, stood outside the business near other protesters late Wednesday morning, handing out pamphlets. Stabnau was among the employees who were questioned by DEA agents.

Stabnau said the dispensary has thousands of customers, whom she referred to as patients, who will be without medical marijuana due to the raid.

"It affects a lot of people's lives in many ways," she said.

Steve Sallagoity, 46, is a dispensary customer and frequents the business two or three times a week. He is a cancer survivor and is diagnosed with hepatitis C, and he began using medical marijuana in 1996. He said the raid will force him to buy marijuana on the black market or from another cannabis club.

"It's very upsetting because there's people out there doing meth and they are stopping people that actually need medical marijuana," Sallagoity said. "They need to quit harassing medical marijuana patients."

The raid on River City Patient Center is the fourth DEA raid on a Sacramento-area medical marijuana dispensary in three years, Taylor said.

Kris Hermes, legal campaign director of Americans for Safe Access, said River City Patient Center is part of an association of medical marijuana collectives in the Sacramento region, established to "spread and protect good business practices around medical marijuana dispensing."



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