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Feds In Vegas Charge 15 With Storefront Pot Sales

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Feds in Vegas charge 15 with storefront pot sales

By OSKAR GARCIA, Associated Press


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Federal authorities in Nevada have charged 15 people with selling marijuana through several Las Vegas storefronts, violating medical marijuana laws and marketing themselves as providing a health service while simply selling the drug for profit.

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden in Las Vegas announced the charges Thursday as part of an effort to crack down on commercial sales of marijuana in the state.

"Nothing in the Nevada Medical Marijuana Act permits the establishment of such commercial enterprises in Nevada," Bogden said in a statement. "Yet drug intelligence information indicates there are currently 45 to 60 of these marijuana trafficking enterprises operating unlawfully in the Las Vegas Valley alone."

Nevada's medical marijuana law passed in 2000. In all, 15 states and the District of Columbia allow it.

But advocates say Nevada's law makes it nearly impossible to legally smoke pot. Patients can't buy or sell marijuana and can only grow seven plants for personal use. Nevada's health department regulates medical marijuana but tells patients it cannot provide information about how to grow cannabis.

Authorities said 11 people were arrested Thursday in Las Vegas and one in Los Angeles on charges including marijuana distribution, money laundering and weapons possession. The cases were filed Dec. 17 and unsealed on Thursday.

The defendants were expected make initial court appearances on Friday.

Authorities said those charged included: John "Mr. Happy" Birmele, 36, of Las Vegas; Kelly Birmele, 36, of Las Vegas; Laura Rhoades-Yokoi, 36, of Henderson; John Allen Youngblood, 40, of Los Angeles; Timothy Hough, 31, of Henderson and Michael Ellsworth, 57, of Henderson.

Also charged from Las Vegas were: Pierre "Dr. Reefer" Werner, 39, Reynalda Barnett, 59, Clyde Barnett, 21, Ron Teston, 57, and Kristen Krusyna, 21.

Authorities said Las Vegas residents Michael McAuliffe, 53, and Katree Darriel Saunders, 30, were also charged, along with 26-year-old Chad Uhl of North Las Vegas and 49-year-old Caroline Dellaville of Henderson.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney said all defendants had been arrested except for Kelly Birmele, Saunders and Uhl.

Authorities named five businesses in the complaints: The Happiness Consultant, the Nevada Compassionate Center, Dr. Reefer, LV Fingerprinting and Organic Releaf.

Attempts to reach the businesses by The Associated Press were not immediately successful. A woman on a recorded message at Organic Releaf said the business was closed because of a "family emergency."

"Hopefully we will reopen tomorrow," the woman said.

Werner told The Associated Press recently after his Dr. Reefer shop was raided that he thought authorities would leave them alone.

"No one should go to prison for a plant," he said.



Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/01/06/state/n133235S13.DTL#ixzz1ALRFU7oD

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