FEDS FILE MEDICAL POT COMPLAINT
The U.S. attorney's office on Wednesday filed a civil complaint asking
for a medical marijuana dispensary owner to forfeit his home and business.
The complaint filed in federal court in Sacramento targets Richard
Marino, whose Roseville store and Newcastle home were raided by the
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Friday.
Officials seized about 250 marijuana plants growing on his five acres
in Newcastle and 20 pounds of processed marijuana, more than $105,000
in cash and 250 plants from his business, Capitol Compassionate Care
in Old Roseville, the complaint states.
Marino learned of the government's effort to take his home and
business when contacted by The Bee.
"I'm kind of in a state of shock right now," Marino said. "I had no
idea this was coming."
Under federal law, the government can seize property used or intended
to be used to violate federal drug law, which holds that dispensing or
possessing marijuana is illegal. State law, however, allows for the
growing, selling and use of medicinal marijuana, and Marino has
maintained that he was fully complying with California's rules.
The conflict between state and federal law deepened recently after two
rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that federal
authorities don't have the power to go after noncommercial medical
marijuana operations confined within the state.
The cases are being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but until they
are resolved, DEA officials say they will abide by federal law.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Door would not comment on the action
taken against Marino on Wednesday.
"The complaint speaks for itself," Door said.
Marino had reopened his store Saturday after DEA agents said there was
nothing stopping him.
"I'm kinda getting mixed messages," Marino said. "They don't file
charges against me. I open the next day. And now all of this has
DEA officials say their message is clear: Marijuana is
"If they are breaking the law, they are in harm's way," said Richard
Meyer, special agent in the DEA's San Francisco division. "We're not
giving way to any drug dealers."
Meyer said a new DEA
strategy emphasizes seizing assets from drug
sales. "It's something we're going to be going after more and more,"
Marino recently purchased his Newcastle home but does not own the
Roseville building that houses his business.
The forfeiture of property is usually pursued when criminal charges or
indictments are filed, though it can be sought on its own in civil
court. In Marino's case, officials said the issuance of an arrest
warrant still is possible.
Michael Vitiello, a McGeorge School of Law professor, said the
forfeiting of property could be a bigger deterrent than an arrest.
"This will get (Marino's) attention," Vitiello said. "Forfeiture has
Marino said he is planning on fighting the forfeiture and has 20 days
to file a response.
The complaint contains observations of his customers, the number of
plants at the store and marijuana prices ranging from $250 to $380 per
ounce. It also enumerates an undercover operation by the DEA.
The store opened in January, and a DEA agent began visiting it in
early March, posing as a potential customer. During the first visit,
the agent gave a store clerk her driver's license and a fake
prescription. The clerk called the doctor's office to verify the note,
but the doctor's staff couldn't find the file and asked the agent to
come to the office. The agent left the store.
The agent returned to the store May 3, after obtaining a medical
marijuana prescription from a San Francisco doctor.
When Marino's clerk called to verify the prescription, the doctor's
office stated it was unable to find the doctor's recommendation.
Marino's employee told the agent she would attempt to verify the
prescription the following day, the document states.
On May 4, the agent returned to the store and paid $15 to join the
"marijuana buyer's club." Marino's clerk gave the agent a temporary
photo-ID club card and a bag containing a gram of marijuana, which the
clerk said was for joining the club, the complaint states. The agent
bought 1 ounce of marijuana worth $280.
When the agent returned May 11, with the intent to purchase 3 ounces
of marijuana, Marino told her she was no longer welcome because she
had previously forged a doctor's recommendation, according to the complaint.
Marino said "it did not matter if the (agent) had a legitimate
recommendation, that because the (agent) had forged the prior
recommendation the (agent) was a liability" to the store, the
The complaint also states that on July 6, DEA officials received an
anonymous call stating Marino had moved to Newcastle and had marijuana
plants growing in his yard and bright lights inside the residence.
Authorities conducted surveillance Aug. 17 and observed about 200
plants surrounded by barbed-wire fencing. A security truck also was
parked on the property, the document states.
Marino's growing of marijuana at his home outraged some neighbors, and
the controversy was covered by The Bee.
Neighbors met with county officials - who told them their hands were
tied because of state law - and wrote and called state and federal
lawmakers. Some were jubilant Friday as news of the raid on the store
and home spread.