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Feds Raid Pot Clinic in Long Beach


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LONG BEACH - Federal agents served a search warrant at a local medical marijuana dispensary on Tuesday, seizing cannabis and money and arresting one individual, authorities said Wednesday. Tuesday's raid was the first of its kind in Long Beach since the 1996 passage of state Prop. 215, the Compassionate Use Act that legalized marijuana for patients with certain medical conditions.

Although state laws authorize the distribution of medical marijuana in certain circumstances, federal law still prohibits distribution of the drug for any purpose, Special Agent Jose Martinez, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Los Angeles Field Division, said Wednesday.

Tuesday's warrant was served by DEA agents at about 11 a.m. at Long Beach Compassionate Caregivers, located at 342 E. Fourth St., authorities said. No one at Long Beach Compassionate Caregivers could be reached for comment on Wednesday. There was no reply to knocks at the dispensary's door and a sign posted out front read "closed indefinitely."

Agents seized an undetermined amount of marijuana and cash from the dispensary and one person was arrested in connection with federal drug charges, Martinez said. That person's name was not available Wednesday, he said. Formal federal charges have not been filed and the investigation is ongoing, Martinez said. Control of the dispensary was returned to the proprietor once the search
he said.

"A federal search warrant was served on the basis of probable cause," Martinez explained Wednesday. "We believe they are in violation of federal law."

Based on their investigation, the DEA may refer the case to the U.S. Attorney's office, which would then decide whether the case qualifies for federal prosecution, Martinez explained. Under federal law, conviction for conspiracy to distribute marijuana carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Federal authorities have carried out a series of search warrants in California cities this year, but Tuesday's warrant marked a first for Long Beach, authorities said. So far, owners and operators of four marijuana dispensaries across the state - Morro Bay, Corona and two in West Hollywood - have been indicted on federal criminal charges alleging they conspired to distribute and sell large quantities of marijuana for large profits, according to the U.S. Attorney's office and the DEA.

In one indictment, two men - Larry R. Kristich, 64, who is believed to be in Costa Rica, and James Carberry, 51, who is believed to be in Arizona - were charged with operating a chain of marijuana dispensaries in seven different cities in California, all of which operate under the name "Compassionate Caregivers." The indictment against Kristich and Carberry alleged sales of marijuana and THC-laced products that totaled more than $95 million over a four-year period and that Kristich used profits from marijuana sales to purchase expensive automobiles and real estate in Costa Rica. The indictment further charged that Kristich, with business associate James L. Ealy, 40, of Tujunga, set up non-drug-related businesses to launder those profits.

In another indictment, Charles C. Lynch, 45, of Arroyo Grande, was accused of selling more than $2.1 million in marijuana in just one year at the Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers dispensary in Morro Bay. Lynch and his employees were charged with selling marijuana to 281 minors during that year. Also charged in the indictment was Dr. Armand T. Tollette Jr., 45, of Culver City, who is accused of writing marijuana recommendations for payment, including recommendations for minors with no medical examination.

Martinez said Wednesday it was not known if Long Beach Compassionate Caregivers is connected to any of the dispensaries included in the two indictments. "It's still under investigation," Martinez added. "Our guys are looking into it."

Source: Press-Telegram
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Newspaper group
Contact: rich.archbold@presstelegram.com
Website: Press-Telegram - Feds raid pot clinic in Long Beach
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