DEA pulls shenanigans, raids Sac’s most popular pot club

After shenanigans, DEA raids Sacramento’s most popular pot club

You’d freak out, too, if some two-dozen Drug Enforcement Agency officers showed up in your driveway. Which is what happened on Monday morning, June 11, in just off El Camino Avenue in the parking lot of medical-marijuana dispensary River City Phoenix. Agents prepped assault rifles and battering rams and fit into SWAT gear. And soon, they were ready for action.

Just not at River City Phoenix. Instead of looting the club they geared up near, agents got back in their cars, drove a mile down the road and raided a different city dispensary: El Camino Wellness Center.

The DEA may not have a sense of humor, but, apparently, the agency is not below messing with people.

So went the latest action in the federal government’s nine-month-old cannabis-crackdown effort. Neighbors say the DEA backed a U-Haul-type truck up to El Camino Wellness’ front door around 6 a.m. Officers executed a search warrant at the dispensary, and Sacramento police blocked off the driveway for crowd-control purposes. Simultaneous raids also occurred at the homes of El Camino Wellness Center executive directors.

By 10 a.m., at least five medical-cannabis activists arrived to protest the raid. Neighbors, including Lou Fernandez, who owns a moving company next door on Connie Drive, was surprised. “They didn’t bother me,” he said. “A lot of folks who went in there look like they needed [marijuana]. A lot of seniors.”

El Camino Wellness had a lot of customers, period. All California dispensaries are required to operate not for profit, but sales data from the dispensary acquired by SN&R revealed gross receipts up to of $20,000 in a single day, with upward of 70 percent profit margin on cannabis.

That said, running a dispensary isn’t cheap. There’s a 4 percent city tax, plus requirements to make property upgrades and purchase security. The latter costs might explain the precipitous drop in burglaries and assaults within 1,000 feet of El Camino Wellness since the club opened in September 2008, according to recent Sacramento Police Department crime data.

A press release from El Camino Wellness Center on Monday night insisted the club was operating within the guidelines of the California attorney general, and reiterated a commitment to compassion, citing its free chiropractic, massage and counseling services. Dispensary ownership was unavailable for comment, as was the property’s landlord.

Some protesters on Monday said the raid was simply retaliation. El Camino Wellness Center, along with cannabis patient Ryan Landers, sued the federal government back in November over its latest crackdown. A judge threw out the case in February.