Marijuana Dispensaries Raided In Santa Clara County, California

Santa Clara County, California authorities have detained several people who they claim were involved in illegal cannabis sales and money laundering at MediLeaf medical marijuana dispensaries across the county.

More than 50 officers with the County Special Enforcement Team served search warrants and held several people Thursday following an eight-month investigation that police claimed “established probable cause” that illegal marijuana sales and money laundering took place at eight MediLeaf stores in the county, reports Action News reporter Felix Cortez at KSBW.
 
Task Force commander Danielle Ayers said agents shut down the clubs and confiscated marijuana, documents and computers, reports Sean Webby at the San Jose Mercury News.
Ayers claimed the investigations and raids came “at the request” of police chiefs in the county who thought the proliferation of dispensaries was “getting out of hand.”
Investigators claim the dispensaries are “selling marijuana to people under false pretenses” and are somehow “at risk of being taken over by organized gangs.”
Ayers claimed that dispensary owners are subverting the idea of helping seriously ill people. “All they are doing is providing people with the ability to buy marijuana at street-level prices in a storefront facility,” she claimed.
Around noon, narcotics agents with search warrants hit two MediLeaf stores in San Jose and related properties in Gilroy and Morgan Hill, officials confirmed.
The alleged illegal activities were done under the umbrella of California’s medical marijuana laws, according to Gilroy police.
Several people are in custody as a result of the investigation.
The raids shook already nervous and angry South Bay medical marijuana supporters, who quickly mobilized to protest, standing outside MediLeaf’s shuttered clinics with signs reading “Our Meds, Our Rights” and “Go Raid A Meth Lab.”
 
The raids had an ironic aspect because Goyoko “Batzi” Kuburovich, 50, owner of MediLeaf, leads a San Jose group promoting “best practices” to prove to police and politicians that the clinics are safe and abiding by the law.

“This is crap,” said Kuburovich, who closed his Gilroy operation because of legal action from local authorities. “They are trying to scare everybody out through intimidation and fear.”
“We have been transparent from day one,” Kuburovich said. “We hope to bring to light the transparency of what just occurred so everybody is held accountable. We look forward to being vindicated.”
“They’re really good people,” said Hank Provost, the owner of Simply Romance, an adult store at 1329 First Street, a few doors down from the former MediLeaf store in Gilroy.
“I seriously doubt that,” Provost said when told that Kuburovich was accused of money laundering and illegally selling marijuana. “Batzi is just a really good guy. From what I understand his father was ill and medical marijuana was helping him. He passed away and (Kuburovich) wanted to make it available to others.”
 
The foot traffic MediLeaf was bringing to the area was good for Provost and other local business owners, too.

“We’ve all talked about it here, and we consider MediLeaf a positive thing, not a negative thing,” Provost said. “Business has clearly dropped off since they’re not open anymore. Since California legalized medical marijuana, I don’t see the problem; it’s a matter of an individual city… letting things be.”
MediLeaf stores operated in Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Jose, according to KSBW.
Law enforcement refused to release the names of the six people who were being sought, but Lindsay Bryant and Blair Tellers of the Morgan Hill Times report that they are Batzi Kuburovich; Patricia Kuburovich, 46; Kristel Kuburovich, 21; Neil Forrest, 58; Bruce Ziegelman, 53; and Kevin Keifer, 54.
According to Gilroy Police Department Sgt. Chad Gallicinao, as of 4 p.m. Thursday, no one had been booked into county jail, but the investigation is “active and ongoing.”
Police claimed that county law enforcement is committed to protecting the rights of medical marijuana patients who are in accordance with state law, and that the investigation into MediLeaf was directed at people who police claim sold marijuana illegally for a profit to those who had no medical ailments.
 
City Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, who supports regulation and taxation of dispensaries and opposes banning them, showed up at MediLeaf’s Meridian Avenue location for a few minutes after Thursday’s raid.

Oliverio had no comment on the raid, but he said that any theory that accepting money for marijuana made the clinics illegal is “a farce.”
“Meth is much more tragic and destructive to people’s lives than medical cannabis,” he said.
“Santa Clara County is in the middle of a war,” said Erika Taylor Montgomery, a medical marijuana patient and spokeswoman for the San Jose Cannabis Buyers Collective. “On one side are medical cannabis patients and providers. On the other side is law enforcement wasting taxpayer resources to stop something voters approved in 1996.”
The people behind that marijuana collective — one of the city’s first — are sponsoring a benefit Friday to raise money to sue the narcotics task force. They plan to discuss the raids and to give free medical marijuana to patients.
The event begins at 4:20 p.m. at MedEx Collective on Senter Road. The owner was arrested in a marijuana delivery sting by the task force earlier this year.
As of September 2010, the city of Gilroy had spent $175,529 in taxpayer money for MediLeaf litigation with law firm Berliner Cohen, according to Gilroy Finance Director Christina Turner.
 
via : Toke of the Town
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