UPDATE: Gilroy part of countywide marijuana sting

Police officers detain a woman Thursday during a joint

Six men and women were arrested Thursday in Gilroy as part of a
countywide undercover police operation targeting illegal marijuana
sales disguised as legal delivery services of medicinal
marijuana.
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Six men and women were arrested Thursday in Gilroy as part of a countywide undercover police operation targeting illegal marijuana sales disguised as legal delivery services of medicinal marijuana.

The operation, which was held at five locations throughout the county, including Gilroy, resulted in the arrests of 22 adults and the seizure of more than 25 pounds of marijuana, nine firearms, 26 high-capacity magazines for assault weapons and 223 marijuana plants that were being cultivated.

Gilroy Police Department detectives and members of the Anti-Crime Team joined officers from the Santa Clara County Special Enforcement Team, the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and several other local and regional law enforcement agencies to conduct the investigation of illegal marijuana delivery services that advertise online and in traditional print publications.

“This was just plain, old drug dealing,” said Stephen Lodge, Santa Clara police chief. “Those arrested have perverted the important role of a caregiver for seriously ill patients for their own financial gain.”

Police staged the Gilroy operation about 2 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot of the Motel 6 at 6110 Monterey Highway. Gilroy police worked closely with the management team at the motel to organize the operation and were thankful to the manager for allowing law enforcement to use the motel parking lot for the sting, said Gilroy Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao.

About 3 p.m., a silver Acura pulled into a spot in the motel’s parking lot. The driver, a young white man wearing a plaid shirt, waited in the car while two undercover agents approached and chatted with him for a few minutes before completing the transaction.

As the two agents began walking away from the car, about a dozen uniformed officers emerged from the motel and parked vehicles and surrounded the driver with their guns drawn. They placed the man under arrest and transported him to the Santa Clara Police Department for booking, Gallacinao said.

About 5:30 a young blond woman with her dog in tow pulled into the motel parking lot in a light Honda Accord. The undercover agents went through the same drill, purchasing an unspecified amount of marijuana before backing away to allow the uniformed officers to arrest the woman.

At least one of the two undercover agents did not have a prescription for the marijuana, yet the two arrested suspects who were posing as medicinal marijuana delivery services sold the drug to them anyway, Gallacinao pointed out.

According to Lodge, the investigation also revealed several delivery services did follow the guidelines of the law and refused to deliver to a nonpatient.

Police arrested four additional suspects later Thursday evening, one of whom brought their 1-year-old child, Gallacinao said.

“We’re not trying to infringe on the rights of people who need marijuana for medicinal purposes,” Gallacinao said. “This has to do with people selling marijuana illegally under the cloak of medicinal marijuana delivery services. These are people that are operating under the guise of delivering medicinal marijuana. It’s not about them misunderstanding the law. It’s about them intentionally trying to get around the law.”

Individuals involved in the cultivation, transportation, sales, possession or possession for sale of marijuana outside the provisions of the law, including the Compassionate Use Act and/or Medical Marijuana Program, are subject to arrest and prosecution, Lodge said. Neither law legalizes any other use of marijuana, nor do they allow anyone to profit from the cultivation, distribution or sale of marijuana, he said.

Passed in 1996 by California voters, the Compassionate Use Act allows patients with a valid doctor’s recommendation and patients’ designated primary caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medical use.

However, “All of these individuals were operating outside the attorney general’s marijuana guidelines and state law,” said Bob Cooke, special agent in charge for the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and a former Gilroy police officer. “This operation is sanctioned by the agency heads and chiefs of these Santa Clara County law enforcement agencies. These cases will be prosecuted by the Santa Clara DA’s Office. When individuals deliver marijuana illegally, they will be arrested.”

“I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg of people who are hiding behind the voter-approved concept of medicinal marijuana to sell illegal drugs on an unprecedented scale,” Lodge said.

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