The owner of a now-closed Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary has been arrested and faces federal criminal charges alleging that he distributed large amounts of cannabis, including to minors, for profit.
Charles Lynch, the former owner of Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers, was arrested at his Arroyo Grande home on the morning of July 17 in a joint effort with federal and local law enforcement agencies that resulted in indictments involving four dispensaries, as well as a Culver City physician accused of writing medical marijuana prescriptions without proper examinations. Lynch was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.
According to a Drug Enforcement Administration news release, the indictment against Lynch alleges that he and his employees sold more than $2.1 million of marijuana at the Morro Bay-based shop in a one-year period and also charges him with selling the drug to minors.
In a release, DEA special agent Timothy J. Landrum likened "these dispensary operators" to drug traffickers: "They prey on people in our communities to make profit."
The Morro Bay shop was raided by federal and county authorities on March 29, an action that eventually led to its closure.
Lynch's attorney, Lou Koory, said his client was following state law, which allows distribution of medical marijuana. He declined to comment on the specific charges.
"Basically you've got a situation where Lynch is a casualty of the federal government's war on medical cannabis," Koory said.
Sgt. Brian Hascall of the SLO County Sheriff's Department noted that the arrest could be detrimental to efforts to open other medical marijuana dispensaries in the county, one of which is being discussed in Templeton.
"Obviously this is a rather large setback for those businesses," he said. "I still feel the conflict between [state law] and federal law needs to be resolved."
Under federal law, conviction of conspiracy to distribute marijuana carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.