New legal loss for Buds 4 Life

FRESNO, Calif.

Mark and Ryan Bagdasarian pleaded not guilty Friday to the same type of criminal charges a large drug dealer would face. And Action News has learned they've lost one of their two Fresno County dispensaries.

The Bagdasarians are facing possible life sentences, and they've already lost one legal fight. But after entering their pleas in federal court, they didn't have much to say.

"Mark or Ryan, you guys have anything to say?" a reporter asked them as they walked out of the courthouse foyer. The Bagdasarians left without a word, but with the backing of a couple dozen supporters and former employees.

The Buds 4 Life owners pleaded not guilty to drug charges ten days after a raid shut down their businesses. At the time, the DEA compared Buds 4 Life to a black market drug cartel.

"There's a lot of similarities between what this organization does and what any typical drug organization would do," said DEA special agent John Donnelly. "For DEA, we don't see a distinction."

Defense attorney Tony Capozzi represents Mark Bagdasarian, the top executive at Buds 4 Life. Capozzi says his client never thought he'd be a target for law enforcement, even though his dispensary was clearly violating federal law.

"The understanding was that the federal government was not going to be raiding or closing down dispensaries who were following state law," Capozzi said.

But this month's raid was the second time in four months federal agents and Fresno County Sheriff's Deputies targeted the Bagdasarians. They also seized hundreds of thousands of dollars and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana in June.

Still, the Bagdasarians reopened their dispensary in Friant and announced the Tarpey Village location would reopen as well -- although they now claim it would've been a different type of business.

"Nothing to do with selling marijuana or acting as a dispensary," Capozzi said.

"But their website said different," a reporter responded.

"Well, the website wasn't accurate as to what was going to be happening," Capozzi said.

After the second raid, the landlord went to court to have the Bagdasarians evicted. There's no longer any sign of Buds 4 Life in Tarpey Village.

Last week, the U.S. attorney's office announced a stronger stance on medical marijuana. For examples of the types of people in their cross hairs, they specifically named Mark and Ryan Bagdasarian.

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