Proprietors of Hayward medical pot club face federal drug charges

May 31, 2007

Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle

HAYWARD -- The owner and manager of a Hayward medical marijuana dispensary were charged in federal court today with using the business as a front to sell pot for profit.

Hayward residents Shon Squier, 34, owner of the Local Patients Cooperative, and Valerie Herschel, 23, its manager, were charged with distribution of marijuana, maintaining drug-involved premises and money laundering.

Squier allegedly used the profit from marijuana sales to buy a Hayward home on Chronicle Avenue in the hills above Cal State East Bay for $532,107 and a Dodge pickup truck for $40,200, authorities said. Herschel allegedly used $85,853 for a down payment on a home on nearby Parkside Drive.

The two, who were arrested Dec. 11, were named today in a document known as an information, which in federal court typically signifies that a defendant intends to plead guilty. Their attorneys were not immediately available to comment today.

Authorities seized indoor growing equipment, hundreds of plants and cookies, brownies and other food that contained marijuana during raids of the dispensary, located at 22612 through 22630 Foothill Blvd.

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, which allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor's recommendation. Under federal law, possessing marijuana in any form remains illegal.

Local officials recently ordered the dispensary, one of two in Hayward, to close because it had more marijuana on site than the city allowed. In an affidavit, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Kenny Lee cited a newspaper article to show that police had found 30 pounds of marijuana at the dispensary, 10 times the amount as allowed by the city of Hayward.

Agents staked out the dispensary five times in October and November, and saw healthy-looking men entering and leaving the building each time, carrying bags with the word "prescription" on it. Agents believed that the bags contained marijuana, according to the affidavit.

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfchronicle.com.



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