December 10, 2018
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Feds seize 110 lbs of pot during raids of alleged Maine trafficking ring

Andree Kehn/Sun Journal via AP | BDN
Andree Kehn/Sun Journal via AP | BDN
Law enforcement officers pile marijuana plants outside of a warehouse on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 in Lewiston, Maine. State and federal law enforcement officers coordinated in a multi-location drug raid on Tuesday morning.

More than 110 pounds of marijuana, 2 pounds of glass-like cannabis concentrate and six Mason jars of butane hash oil were among the haul from a series of raids by state and federal agents Tuesday.

The sweep was part of an investigation into a marijuana trafficking operation that has been operating in Androscoggin County under the cover of Maine’s Medical Marijuana program, according to court documents.

On Tuesday, a battery of law enforcement agencies executed 20 search warrants at properties in the Lewiston-Auburn area, seizing bales of pot and arresting and charging a local man with possessing marijuana and manufacturing hash oil with the intent to distribute them, a court complaint states.

The bust came less than two months after Maine’s top federal prosecutor said his office would focus on prosecuting traffickers of “hard drugs,” not marijuana users. Last year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed an Obama administration policy that said the federal government would largely not pursue marijuana possession cases.

The arrested man, Richard Daniels, of Lewiston, made an initial appearance in a federal court in Portland Tuesday afternoon. The 52-year-old was dressed in all black and shackled at the hands and waist.

“Did they go after the dispensaries today,” Daniels immediately asked his court-appointed attorney, Neal Stillman, upon entering the courtroom. The lawyer said he didn’t know.

Prosecutors alleged that Daniels grew marijuana in a series of warehouses and distributed it to people who were not participants in Maine’s Medical Marijuana program, some of whom lived out of state. He also operated a “butane hash oil laboratory” in his garage, the court complaint states.

In Lewiston, officers were seen Tuesday carrying large pot plants out of buildings and preparing two luxury cars — a Lamborghini Huracan and a late-model Nissan GT-R, each valued at more than $150,000 — to be towed, according to the Sun Journal.

Daniels told Magistrate Judge John Rich III that the only cars he has title to are a 2015 Toyota and a 2005 Ford.

If convicted, Daniels faces as much as 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine’s office. He is being held without bond in the Cumberland County Jail until a Friday hearing to determine probable cause and set bail.

In a 2016 referendum, voters legalized recreational marijuana in Maine, although state lawmakers are yet to work out a regulatory framework around the sale of the drug.

Daniels told Rich that he would retain the court appointed lawyer for the initial court appearance but may be interested in switching an attorney who specializes in Maine pot law.

Don Clark, a spokesman for the the U.S. Attorney, said he could not provide further information about the raids.

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