Lake Elsinore Medical Marijuana Collective Re-Opens After Arrests; Owners Say They’re Not Hiding From Law Enforcement

“We are not fugitives.”

That’s what Lake Elsinore-area resident Luis “Carlos” Stahl had to say today about word that police are searching for both he and his son, Eric Stahl, in connection with alleged illegal medical marijuana activity in the city.

“I slept at home last night (in Lakeland Village), and I will be there tonight,” Luis said, speaking by phone late Thursday afternoon.

According to a Lake Elsinore sheriff’s station report, both men are being sought and once apprehended “will be charged with conspiracy as well as possession, transportation, and cultivation of marijuana for sale.”

As of midday Thursday, no warrants had been issued for either man’s arrest, according to a sheriff’s department spokeswoman.

Earlier this week, search warrants were served and three arrests made by sheriff’s deputies in connection with a four-month long investigation of 420 Hitters, otherwise known as Lake Elsinore Medical Collective. The medical marijuana operation located at 31760 Casino Drive is co-owned by the Stahls.

Among those arrested this week was Luis’s wife and Eric’s mother, Carol Stahl. According to police reports, she was arrested for “conspiracy as well as possession, transportation, and cultivation of marijuana for sale.”

“She was baking brownies,” Luis said, contending that his wife’s role in the operation is making edibles that contain cannabis. “This whole thing is erroneous.”

She is currently free on $50,000 bail.

“I bailed her out,” he said. “I bailed all three out. If they (the police) are really after me, why haven’t they tried to get me?”

During the searches this week, eight pounds of marijuana, 2.5 ounces of hash, 378 marijuana plants, and $1,900 were confiscated as evidence, according to the sheriff’s report.

Meanwhile, Eric Stahl was at Lake Elsinore Medical Collective today, which was open for business. As a steady stream of members trickled into the quiet strip center building to pick up their medicine, Eric made no attempt to avoid this reporter’s questioning.

“Why should I hide?” he said. “We aren’t doing anything wrong. We have strict state guidelines and we follow them.”

Under California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and the subsequent Medical Marijuana Program Act that became law on Jan.1, 2004, qualified patients and their primary caregivers are permitted “to use, possess and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes without criminal prosecution.”

In 2008, then California Attorney General Jerry Brown issued medical marijuana guidelines that state, “Under California law, medical marijuana patients and primary caregivers may associate within the State of California in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes.”

Lake Elsinore Medical Collective currently has approximately 5,000 members, according to Luis. The operation does grow, transport and sell medical marijuana to its members, but does not make a profit, he said.

While state law is clear that medical marijuana is legal, there is no clarity on the constitutionality of local medical marijuana bans, and that’s what the Stahls are up against.

In December 2009, Lake Elsinore City Council voted to approve a moratorium on marijuana manufacturing activities in the city.

“We did open while the ban was in place,” Luis admits, but contends that his business license did not explicitly prohibit him from selling medical marijuana.

“I got one (business license) in 2009 and then again in 2010, and no where did it state ‘no marijuana,’” he said.

Since that time, Luis said the city has revoked Lake Elsinore Medical Collective’s business license and code enforcement has tried on several occasions to shut him down. He said he has filed a lawsuit against the city, contending that Lake Elsinore Medical Collective, under state law, has a legal right to operate in the city.

“The moratorium is illegal. We have followed the letter of the state law,” Luis said, adding that he believes the city is harassing him and is acting in a vindictive manner.

“They don’t want us in their city,” he said. “They have ransacked my business and my house. Why don’t they just let the courts decide? Why do they have to resort to this?

“We’ve never had an altercation with members inside our operation or in our parking lot,” Luis continued. “We don’t cause problems.”

While Luis admits that he knowingly opened while the city ban was in place, he’s not giving up the fight.

“I am an old decorated war veteran,” he said. “I served this country honorably, as a Marine, and I don’t give up. When I bite into something, I hold on tight like a pit bull.”

Meanwhile, Luis said he’s living day to day.

“We’ve been fighting this for a while because we believe people should have safe access to medicine,” he said. “It’s another day for us.”

via : Patch

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