Feds arrest 2 at medical marijuana dispensary

December 13, 2006

Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle

Federal agents arrested the owner and manager of a Hayward medical marijuana dispensary Tuesday and accused them of using the business as a front to sell pot for profit.

Shon Squier, 34, owner of the Local Patients Cooperative, and Valerie Herschel, 23, its manager, both Hayward residents, were charged with distribution of marijuana and maintaining drug-involved premises, prosecutors said. They said police seized indoor growing equipment, hundreds of plants and cookies, brownies and other food that contained marijuana.

Local officials recently ordered the dispensary, one of two in Hayward, to close because it had more marijuana on site than the city allowed. No one at the cooperative could be reached for comment Tuesday.

On Oct. 3, 15 people were arrested and nearly 13,000 plants seized by federal agents in a medical marijuana raid at eight locations in San Francisco and Oakland that were affiliated with the New Remedies Cooperative.

Those facilities, and others raided by federal officers, were established after California voters passed an initiative in 1996 legalizing the medical use of marijuana, with a doctor's approval. Federal law bans possession and distribution of marijuana.

In the Hayward case, an FBI agent said in a sworn affidavit that officers staked out the Foothill Boulevard location five times in October and November and saw healthy-looking men entering and leaving the building each time, carrying bags the officers believed contained marijuana.

The only other evidence the agent cited to show that the dispensary was selling drugs to nonmedical patients was a newspaper article saying police had found 10 times as much marijuana on the premises as the city's rules allowed.

E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com.

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