Former medical marijuana dispensary manager in California sentenced to 3 1/2 years

The latest in a long line of defendants charged after a 2007 raid on a Bakersfield medical marijuana dispensary was sentenced to three and a half years in prison Tuesday.

Israel Cavazos, 38, of Bakersfield, worked as a manager for Nature’s Medicinal Inc. in the 300 block of Roberts Lane. He pleaded guilty Jan. 25 to conspiring to distribute marijuana, according to a news release from the Office of U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, Eastern District of California.

“(Cavazos) was disappointed,” said Roger Litman, Cavazos’ Fresno-based attorney.

Prosecutor Kathleen Anne Servatius could not immediately be reached for comment.

Cavazos had faced a maximum of 20 years in prison, Litman said. The former owners of the dispensary, David Chavez Jr. and David Chavez Sr., are scheduled to go to trial Sept. 13.

In California, medical marijuana is legal under state law. But federal law says pot is illegal and the Drug Enforcement Administration can bust medical marijuana dispensaries at any time.

There are certain rules the dispensaries must follow. For example, they can’t make a profit.

The DEA has said Nature’s Medicinal was doing millions of dollars in business a year. Agents seized $50,000 in cash from the premises.

The July 2007 raid resulted in every pot dispensary in Kern County shutting down by mid-August of that year as owners feared being raided and arrested. Since then, however, numerous dispensaries have popped up again in the county.

In October, the number of dispensaries was identified by County Counsel Theresa Goldner as 22, but Sheriff Donny Youngblood has said the number could be twice that amount. The county has put a moratorium on the establishment of new medical marijuana collectives or cooperatives in the unincorporated areas of Kern County while supervisors decide how to regulate them.

As for others arrested during the Nature’s Medicinal raid, three of them have already pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute marijuana and have been sentenced: Timothy Glenn Doolittle, 42, was sentenced to 2 and a half years in prison; Jennifer Diane Brown, 37, was sentenced to a year in prison; and John Shanks, 62, received a 1 year 8 month sentence, the news release said.

Two other former employees, John Wayne Wyatt, 32, and Jonthan M. Chapman, 31, both of Bakersfield, have also pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute marijuana, the news release said. Wyatt is scheduled to be sentenced May 31, and Chapman is scheduled for a June 20 sentencing.

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