The South Coast Interagency Narcotics Team (SCINT) confiscated an estimated 50 pounds of marijuana from a unit rented by the owners of South Coast Dispensaries in Brookings Wednesday.
The investigation caught the attention of many in the community as the SCINT, local police, sheriff’s deputies and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) descended on the store at 1025 Chetco Ave.
According to Kenneth Francis, part-owner of South Coast Dispensaries, the marijuana was stored in totes in a unit separate from the dispensary in anticipation that he and co-owner O’Donnell Doyle would obtain a producer’s license from the OLCC.
That type of license allows a dispensary to make other products with marijuana, including concentrates and edibles, said Capt. Cal Mitts, with the SCINT.
Francis said the marijuana belonged to Doyle and is not associated with the dispensary other than it was being stored in a unit rented by the two dispensary owners.
The two Brookings men had originally applied for a producer’s license through the Oregon Health Authority, but when the legalization of recreational marijuana went into effect Jan. 1 and its jurisdiction transferred to the OLCC, the two men abandoned their OHA medical-marijuana application in pursuit of the other license.
Mitts sees it a little differently.
“They were taking steps to start this part of the business — without a license,” he said. “They had a lot of marijuana in a back location that was not in the metrics system (the state’s tracking system) that was basically illegal.”
The dispensary was closed for five or six hours Wednesday and reopened before its regular closing at 9 p.m. Francis said. It was open again Thursday, as well.
Mitts said it’s hard to place a value on the pot.
“If it’s reduced to butane honey oil, say, or into a concentrated form of hash, or they could use the entire plant or just sell the bud,” he said. “I would say safely, $100,000.”
Doyle has not been charged with a crime; the information has been referred to the District Attorney’s office for consideration.
Doyle and Francis submitted their application to produce edibles and other products about two months ago, Francis said. And the marijuana has been sitting in the separate unit since it was delivered months ago.
He doesn’t think this presents a problem, he said.
“It is licensed — just with the OHA, not the OLCC,” Francis explained. “My bet is that we’ll get all that back. The only reason they took it was because (Doyle) was mailing product and they didn’t want that to continue. That’s what started the whole debacle.”
According to Francis, Doyle allegedly tried to ship marijuana products to his sister in California who is battling cancer. The shipping center thought the package was suspicious and alerted Brookings police.
“They turned it over to the police department, and that started the whole investigation,” Francis said. “They searched the dispensary because (Doyle) is a partner, went through all the paperwork …
“He did it on his own; they verified that yesterday,” he continued. “They searched his house and vehicle and properties — everything he owns or has anything to do with. But it’s better for them to investigate first, determine later. It might not become anything. If they deem what he was mailing, or allegedly mailing, has THC in it, that becomes a problem.”
Doyle didn’t want to comment on specifics in the incident, but said he focuses on the healing aspect of marijuana extracts and pointed out that CBDs and terpenes are legal in all 50 states. Terpenes are essential oils prevalent in many plants, including marijuana.
“It’s all new,” he said of the industry. “It’s two big oceans colliding at once. It’s new for law enforcement and new for states.”
Francis said he was advised by OLCC officials to preemptively remove Doyle’s name from everything involved with the dispensary.
To even work at a dispensary one must go through extensive background investigations; the slightest past mishap can result in a denial of an application.
“You can’t do that kind of stuff,” Francis said. “The state has the authority; they’re very strict on that. You can’t have any violations, arrests.”
“Obviously, the DA will have to decide if Curry County wants to shoulder the expense for something that’s legal,” Doyle said of any possible charges against him. “But we’re going to carry on. My whole cause is to heal people with CBDs.”
Transporting marijuana in Oregon is tricky, at best.
A licensed grower must notify the OLCC through a “metrics system” that records how much marijuana goes where, with whom and when, and is again reported when it arrives and accepted at its destination.
“It’s such a gray area right now, on everything,” Francis said. “It’s tough to stay up with everything; they change the laws continuously. It’s not an easy thing to stay in compliance with unless you really follow the reports, the memos and have a good understanding of where they’re trying to go with this.”
The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug — alongside heroin — and mailing it through the U.S. Postal Service is a federal offense.
And marijuana cannot be transported across state lines; even a Josephine County grower would have to take the long way around to Brookings instead of dipping into California on Highway 199.
Francis said people can ship through private companies items that do not have THC, the active ingredient in pot that gives people a feeling of well-being. Other products have had the THC removed, and are called CBDs, after the active ingredient, cannabidiol. They are made to alleviate pain without the heady highs of THC. And they are legal to ship, Francis said.
Mitts said the products turned over to Brookings Police that Doyle was allegedly trying to ship included “dabs” and concentrates that typically have THC in them.
“We were all by the book,” Francis said of the dispensary. “They were so far up my backside, you could see the flashlight in my mouth. If they’d had any questions, if there was any doubt in their minds, I might have been out of the equation.
“They have to do their job,” he continued. “They were professional, courteous and nice, just doing what they had to do. It was an unfortunate situation, but I’m not opposed to what they did.”
For Mitts, the confiscation is an example of the “continuation of the abuse of marijuana laws adopted in Oregon, the abuse of the program,” he said. “People see it as a quick way to get rich. It’s something I wish we didn’t have to utilize our resources for. They will prosecute people — they can lose their licenses, their property, assets.”
Only the OLCC has the power to shutter a business.
“They’re probably open,” Mitts said, “but they’ll probably be facing sanctions, up to and including revocation.”
“It was a bit nerve-wracking, a little scary,” Francis admitted, of the arrival of all those authorities. “But I’d rather be honest and upfront with everyone and tell everyone what happened. It’s just the right thing to do.”
“It’s sloppy,” Mitts said. “People who try to take advantage of the system … this is what happens.”