DEA seizes pot from medical marijuana operation

September 03, 2004

Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle

Federal agents raided a medical marijuana operation and seized hundreds of plants at the owner's nearby garden.

The Drug Enforcement Agency served search warrants Friday at Richard Marino's home and business, Capitol Compassionate Care, which opened in January. No arrests were made.

'We will collect all the evidence and present the case to the U.S. attorney's office,' said Gordon Taylor, agent-in-charge of the DEA's Sacramento office.

Alan Archuleta, a shift manager, said agents stormed in at 9:30 a.m., guns drawn, and yelling for everyone inside to get on the ground.

'I thought we were being robbed until I saw the badge. For a split second, it was very traumatizing.'

Marino later spoke to The Sacramento Bee by phone from an undisclosed location, the newspaper reported Saturday.

'I thought I was doing everything above board,' he said. 'I still think I'm doing everything above board.'

The conflict between state and federal law regarding medical marijuana deepened recently after two rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that federal authorities do not have the power to go after noncommercial medical marijuana operations confined within the state. The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing the cases to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While Marino is breaking federal law, which holds that possessing and cultivating marijuana is illegal, he is not breaking state law. California voters in 1996 passed Proposition 215, which allows qualified patients to use medical marijuana.

And last year, the Legislature passed a law that enabled the growing and selling of medicinal marijuana. The law broadened the definition of a medical marijuana caregiver and allows for the drug's collective cultivation.

Richard Meyer, special agent in the DEA's San Francisco division, said other medical marijuana dispensaries in California 'should know that they are breaking the law ... they should get out of the business of selling drugs.'

Since early July, Marino has been growing hundreds of marijuana plants on the 5 acres he recently purchased in Newcastle. The plants were surrounded by barbed-wire fencing, and security guards patrolled the property 24 hours a day.

On Friday, federal agents dug up the plants and carried them away. Agents said the marijuana will be destroyed, but declined to say how many plants were seized or what their value was.

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