Puna man faces numerous pot charges

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A 58-year-old Mountain View man is facing 31 charges for allegedly operating an unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary out of his Fern Acres subdivision home.


A 58-year-old Mountain View man is facing 31 charges for allegedly operating an unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary out of his Fern Acres subdivision home.

Police executed a search warrant Thursday at the Pikake Street home of Michael “Mike” Doyle Ruggles and confiscated 134 marijuana plants, 49.3 pounds of dried processed marijuana, 1.2 pounds and 357 capsules of suspected marijuana concentrate, 5.5 pounds of marijuana edibles, $1,846 in cash for forfeiture, a loaded pistol, a loaded shotgun and a 15-round magazine for a pistol.

On Friday afternoon, Ruggles was charged with five counts of commercial promotion of marijuana, seven counts promoting a harmful drug, four counts marijuana possession, 14 counts of possessing drug paraphernalia and one firearms charge.

Ruggles’ bail is $84,500 and his initial court date is Monday.

Ruggles operates the Alternative Pain Management Pu‘uhonua Collective, which he has maintained is a legal way for medical marijuana patients to obtain their medicine but which law enforcement officials have said basically constitutes running an unlicensed marijuana dispensary.

“That’s the theory; that’s the investigation, right,” Lt. Mark Farias, who commands the police Hilo Vice Section, said Friday. “Whatever it was called by him, basically it was him operating a dispensary.”

The state Legislature approved a medical marijuana dispensary bill this past session, and the Big Island could have four legal, licensed dispensaries next year.

Police say an undercover officer purchased 48.2 grams of processed marijuana and a vaping device, like an electronic cigarette, with a vial of marijuana concentrate from Ruggles on Sept. 5.

Farias said the undercover officer had a letter from a physician stating he had started the process to obtain a medical marijuana card. Farias said the application was made using the officer’s undercover identity, not his real name.

“The officer does not possess a marijuana permit or a marijuana letter; it’s the character that he (portrays),” Farias said.

Ruggles registered his collective on Oct. 23, 2013, with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Business Registration Division. A note on the agency’s website Friday stated: “This business is not in good standing.”

Ruggles narrated a YouTube video he posted in June which is essentially a commercial for the collective. He is seen in a room with numerous labeled jars of what appears to be marijuana on shelves, with a whiteboard price list with the headline “Consignment Medicine Available for Transfer.” The list has prices for marijuana strains, marijuana seeds and BHO (butane honey oil) marijuana concentrates.

“We want to point out, now that we’ve been open for six months, that we’ve got a lot of different kinds of strains and we’ve got everything a medical cannabis person would need,” Ruggles said. “And we feel like a collective is the way to go, because you get safe, medical-grade cannabis in all its various forms. You get, as you can see, a lot of variety, and we keep it fresh.”

While narrating the video, Ruggles held up a sheet of paper with an underlined headline reading: “Alternative Pain Management Pu‘uhonua’s Collective is Now Open.”

“All you need is a valid ID and a valid cannabis certification,” he continued. “And you can see what we have to offer — access to an uninterrupted supply of medical cannabis in all forms. Safe disposal of excess medicine for compensation.

“You guys come on down, make use. Here’s the phone number right here. Call and make an appointment.”

As of Friday, Ruggles’ video had 566 views.

Ruggles, a veteran marjuana activist, has filed numerous lawsuits against the county and police. One lawsuit alleged the county ignored the 2008 voter-approved initiative making enforcement of personal possession and use of marijuana by adults the lowest law enforcement priority. The Hawaii Supreme Court last year nullified the initiative, ruling it conflicts with state laws that make marijuana possession illegal.

He also has an active lawsuit claiming police entered his property without a warrant on June 14, 2012, and illegally confiscated his medical marijuana under the guise of a “compliance check.” Police have denied his allegations.

A friend of Ruggles, who asked not to be identified, lamented the police raid and said, “Today a man that cares goes down.”


See video online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VV4tneMYbmE

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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