Police shut down last known pot dispensary in Modesto

Modesto police shut down the last known marijuana dispensary in the city Monday afternoon.

The illegal business had been operating out of a storefront at 112 E. Fairmont Ave., just east of McHenry Avenue by the Tiki Lounge, for about a year, Police Department spokeswoman Sharon Bear said.

Operator Paulo Canto has no city business license and no state dispensary license, Bear said. He had applied for a dispensary permit from the city but was denied, she said.

Modesto is in the process of completing its application procedure for the up to 10 dispensaries it will allow within the city limits.

Three other dispensaries operating within city limits were given notice that they were operating illegally and had to close, Bear said, and they did.

This dispensary was served papers that it must close but ignored them, she said. "That's why this is happening," Bear said of the police action, which included seizing the dispensary's inventory.

After officers visited the Fairmont dispensary on prior occasions and could get no one to open the doors, they made a show of force Monday, arriving with rifles in hand and tools to force open the doors, Lt. Rigo DeAlba said. Faced with a search warrant, Canto opened up.

Before moving to the Fairmont address, Canto operated his dispensary in a space at 1501 Coffee Road that was disguised as a bike shop, police said. The investigation that resulted in its shutdown began when police got an email about a June 2017 armed robbery there that was not reported.

The email came from a person concerned that the robber wielded a gun and employees yelled expletives while children attended a jiu-jitsu class next door, police said.

Officers with the Modesto Narcotics Enforcement Team made a purchase at the dispensary. Canto was arrested on July 5 after a traffic stop that yielded more than 10 pounds of marijuana, edible products and waxes. He was in the process of moving the business, police said at the time.

Resident complaints began again when he started doing business on Fairmont, Bear said.

An undercover officer at the scene Monday said police came with weapons out because the dispensary had been robbed before. And when an illegal business has been robbed, the operators are likely to be armed in response, officers have found.

There was no immediate word on the size of the inventory seized, or the charges Canto will face. DeAlba said the charges likely will be for possession of marijuana with intent to sell.

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