Ex-pot dispensary owner indicted for sales at shop

July 17, 2007

Leslie Parrilla, San Luis Obispo Tribune

The former owner of a Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary was indicted Tuesday on federal charges of selling the drug for profit and distributing it to minors.

Charles Lynch was arrested at his Arroyo Grande home Tuesday morning and is being held at the government’s Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, according to Drug Enforcement Administration officials.

He is expected to appear in federal court Thursday for a detention hearing that would determine whether he can be released, said Louis Koory, his San Luis Obispo attorney.

Koory said his client was operating under state law, which allows medical marijuana dispensaries, whereas federal law forbids use of the drug.

“I don’t know who this benefits,” Koory said. “This cannabis cooperative was operating pursuant to state law. This is the federal government making a decision to disrupt and frustrate the democratic process.”

The grand jury indictment accuses Lynch of selling more than $2.1 million in marijuana to hundreds of people over a year from Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers, which shut down May 24 following a raid by federal authorities.

Lynch is also accused by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of distributing marijuana to minors, maintaining premises that were involved with illegal drugs and aiding and abetting illegal marijuana distribution to minors.

Federal agents claim Lynch and about 10 employees grew and sold marijuana for profit from the dispensary at 780 Monterey Ave. in Morro Bay.

Lynch is also accused of accepting recommendations for patients to use medical marijuana from Armond Tennyson Tollette Jr., a Culver City physician who was also arrested Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Tollette wrote medical marijuana-use recommendations for adults and minors without conducting physical examinations and that he accepted money to write them.

The physician is also accused of paying what federal agents describe as finders fees to people who refer patients seeking medical marijuana recommendations.

“Tollette accepted a $150 fee from a confidential source working undercover for law enforcement for providing a signed physician’s statement,” according to the indictment, which also described Tollette smoking marijuana with the informant.

Koory said there was no connection between the dispensary and Tollette.

“We don’t even know who this guy is,” Koory said. “What happens between the physician and patient — that’s between them.”

Tollette is being investigated by the Medical Board of California in connection with the charges.

He has a valid medical license but was cited in 2005 for failing to report a felony conviction.

If convicted again of a felony, Tollette’s punishment could range from probation to revocation of his license, according to medical board spokeswoman Candis Cohen.

Tollette could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Leslie Parrilla can bereached at 783-7645.

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