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Salem Police Ransack Medical Marijuana DispensaryBonnie King Salem-News.com
Smokey's Lounge is a private club for legal medical marijuana patients.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Many people in South Salem were witness to the police action on 13th Street Tuesday at Smokey's Lounge. For hours, police had the driveway blocked and were seen in and around the building taking photographs and by some accounts, intimidating onlookers.
The small building serving as a medical marijuana lounge is not much of a hot spot. It is unassuming and quiet, even with patients coming and going. On the front door is a posted note, explaining that one must have an Oregon Medical Marijuana Permit and picture ID to enter. It is a private club.
Patients that are state-sanctioned to legally use marijuana (or Cannabis) must acquire their medicine from a source outside the accepted pharmaceutical industry. That is the way the State of Oregon has it set up.
A patient with a chronic medical condition may have a doctor who believes Cannabis will do them some good, perhaps to keep them off hard drugs, or to reduce the amount of dangerous prescription drugs necessary. Once their doctor has signed the application for a medical marijuana permit, the patient sends the information in to the state- with $200. This process is repeated every single year, making Cannabis the only medicine that patients must pay a tax in order to take.
In Oregon, patients who decide to use all-natural herbal medicine are responsible for either growing or reimbursing someone else for the expenses to grow their medicine. For some people, both are very impractical ideas.
The elderly and infirm are rarely able to accomplish the task of gardening, and must rely on others to supply their medicine. Some say that there are not enough gardeners available for patients, and have a difficult time in finding one. Rightly so, people are careful about trusting others in this arena. That is where the medical marijuana dispensary comes in.
Dispensaries have been opening up around Oregon increasingly since 1998, and in 2010 there was an intense effort to regulate them (Measure 74), but voters rejected the bill. The campaign to change the availability of medicine statewide continues. This is a "burr in the saddle" for the U.S. Attorney General.
Many dispensaries complied, instantly defeated. Some contacted their attorneys and warily continued. Some insisted they were already complying with the law, and refused to close.
Medical marijuana clubs or lounges in Oregon operate under the propriety of not making any medicine available to sell; they are disallowed from "selling" completely. A patient is allowed to donate (toward utilities, water, fertilizer, etc) and receive some medicine. It is a simple answer for a great many people. It is compassionate.
Whether or not AG Holder's promise to disrupt the lives of thousands of Oregon patients was behind the efforts on Tuesday is not clear, but it does appear to be a factor.
Tuesday morning started out with the police responding to a broken window at Smokey's Novelties Gift Shop in downtown Salem. At 6:30 a.m. morning walkers saw the aftereffects of an alleged robbery, with police surrounding the store for hours.
Something prompted police to obtain a search warrant, apparently via "Probable Cause" and proceed to the owner's other properties for a fine-tooth-comb going over.
This brought them through the closed door of Smokey's Lounge. What they did and what, if anything, they found there is still undetermined.
At 12:10 p.m., owner Edward Lara was booked into the Marion County Jail on eleven counts. General Manager Lupe Espinoza is being held on the same eleven charges. They were both arraigned this afternoon, and each assigned a half-million dollar bail. Their pretrial hearings are 8:30 a.m. March 16 (Espinoza) and April 2 (Lara), respectively.
The charges include Delivery of Marijuana, Endangering Minors, being too close to a school, and, surprisingly, possession of cocaine. The details on Lara's arrest and the story behind each of the charges has not been revealed, though the cocaine charge is a shock to many that know Lara.
At about 7 p.m. Tuesday, I spoke to an officer on the scene. Another stood close by, shining his flashlight in my vehicle while I inquired about the nature of the investigation. The first officer told me that there were police inside, and no one else. I asked if there had been a robbery, which seemed to surprise him, and he clearly said, "No, we have a search warrant. Everything is being searched, they're closed." He didn't offer any other information, or seem to know that this event had reportedly began with a robbery.
Edward Lara, or Smokey, is a renowned glass blower from the Salem area. He's been in business since 2002, an artisan entrepreneur who found his calling. His arrest was unsettling for scores of regular clients and patients, their faith in Oregon's justice system brought into question combined with confusion about the many charges. Lara is well-known and respected in the canna-business community and has carved out a name for himself with an inventory of quality products.
Salem Police have not returned our request for a statement or produced a press release at this time.
Smokey's Novelties gift shop downtown was not open for business on Wednesday, but the employees seemed hopeful that they would be reopening soon.
The future of Smokey's Lounge however, is definitely more up in the air. For many Salem patients, that is a grave disappointment.
________________________________________Bonnie King has been with Salem-News.com since August '04, when she became Publisher. Bonnie has served in a number of positions in the broadcast industry; TV Production Manager at KVWB (Las Vegas WB) and Producer/Director for the TV series "Hot Wheels in Las Vegas", posts as TV Promotion Director for KYMA (NBC), and KFBT (Ind.), Asst. Marketing Director (SUPERSHOPPER MAGAZINE), Director/Co-Host (Coast Entertainment Show), Radio Promotion Director (KBCH/KCRF), and Newspapers In Education/Circulation Sales Manager (STATESMAN JOURNAL NEWSPAPER). Bonnie has a depth of understanding that reaches further than just behind the scenes, and that thoroughness is demonstrated in the perseverance to correctly present each story with the wit and wisdom necessary to compel and captivate viewers.
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