Medical marijuana collectives raided for proof of profit

FRESNO, Calif.

Officers served search warrants at five collectives -- four in Tarpey Village and one on Friant Road. They also raided five residences and two warehouses connected to the collectives.

Investigators seized a lot of pot, but they were much more interested in something else.

It might not look like much, but an anonymous East Central Fresno strip mall warehouse is actually the ground floor of the local pot business, according to Fresno County sheriff's investigators.

Action News got exclusive access as officers carried out 18 boxes filled with marijuana plants, plus one box of ready for sale marijuana. But the biggest find was a safe filled with cash, and possible evidence of financial cheating.

"We'll be looking for phone records, bank records, and financial information," said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.

Investigators say the pot at the warehouse was destined for the medical marijuana collective Buds 4 or Life, just a few miles away in Tarpey Village. It's one of 12 locations raided by deputies looking for proof local collectives are operating at a profit -- which is illegal under the state's medical marijuana law.

Dozens of patients scattered as some of the 200 officers involved in the operation served a search warrant at Buds 4 Life.

"They didn't handcuff us, but they lined us up in rows and started taking our marijuana," said Ryan Jackson, who was inside as officers raided the collective.

While patients like Jackson complained they'd now be forced to get marijuana from street dealers, neighbors celebrated the raid. They say the collective attracts a criminal element to their neighborhood.

"I'm sometimes scared even to go in the back when they're asleep because there's so many cars parked here," said Melissa Castillo, who lives two houses down from Buds 4 Life. "They do drug deals in front of the house."

The raid was important enough for Sheriff Mims to watch from the sky, and on the ground, but district attorney Elizabeth Egan may eventually play the most critical role.

The biggest news could come further down the road, after investigators go through all the paperwork they seized Wednesday and find out if the collectives were actually turning a profit. If they were, Egan could prosecute them.

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