In what critics called a medical marijuana shakedown, federal drug agents on Friday arrested four individuals following a daylong raid at a historical warehouse in Detroit, hauling away several large bags filled to the brim with a leafy green substance.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration would not disclose the names of the four taken into custody.

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The raid took place at the Russell Industrial Center at Clay and I-75, a popular spot for many local artisans who rent space in the sprawling complex. The building also is home to several festivals and the Russell Bazaar. It turns out marijuana growers were drawn to the place, too, authorities and tenants said.

Of the 150-plus commercial tenants in the complex, several were growing marijuana, authorities said. And the federal agents had no trouble sniffing them out.

“You could smell it in the parking lot,” said one woodworker who rents space in the complex, and asked not to be identified. “Most of the tenants knew that there was a medical marijuana operation going on. And there were some mixed feelings.”

Grosse Pointe Park attorney Tim Dinan, who represents both medical marijuana patients and caregivers, said the medical marijuana operation at the Russell Industrial Center was no secret.

“A lot of people who had gone through there complained about the stink, that was nothing new,” said Dinan, noting that none of his clients were involved in the industrial center operation. “There’s no doubt about what was going on in there.”

The DEA, which conducted the raid along with Detroit police, would not comment on how many units were raided, or on how many marijuana plants were seized.

“It’s an ongoing investigation, and we can’t comment further,” DEA spokesman Rich Isaacson said.

Attorney Michael Komorn, president of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, said he didn’t know who was the target of Friday’s raid. He said that he learned of the raid through a Google alert on his phone — and he was less than thrilled.

“My first reaction was, ‘I hope this doesn’t throw some more negative publicity or attention to the medical marijuana community.’ It’s been struggling enough these past few years,” said Komorn, who is concerned that illegal marijuana dealers are giving legitimate growers a bad name.

Komorn noted that where marijuana is concerned, the federal government is interested in growers with 100 plants or more. Those are the kinds of operations that federal agents have been raiding elsewhere in the country, such as in California, he noted.

Friday’s raid came 10 months after federal agents conducted a daylong raid that targeted numerous sites, including medical marijuana dispensaries, a strip joint, a restaurant and the home of prominent business owner Romel Casab.

Authorities said Friday’s raid is not connected to the April 2010 raids.

According to state records, the Russell Industrial Center is owned by Dennis Kefallinos, who owns numerous properties in Detroit, including the Bouzouki Greektown adult entertainment club. He could not be reached for comment, nor could his lawyer, Margaret Andrews.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents haul plants from the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit on Friday. Attorney Tim Dinan, who represents both medical marijuana patients and caregivers, said the medical marijuana operation at the complex was no secret.

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Source: Detroit Free Press
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