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Sheriff Baca says state's medical marijuana program has been hijacked by criminals, citing triple slaying

Sheriff Lee Baca said Wednesday that the recent triple murder in West Hollywood during an illegal sale of medical marijuana is another example of how the industry has been taken over in part by enterprising criminals.

“The medicinal marijuana program that voters authorized years ago has been hijacked by underground drug dealing criminals who are resorting to violence in order to control their piece of the action,” Baca said.

He said the criminal element has flooded the business because of the outrageous profits to be made. “There are predators armed and seeking easy dollars in sales of marijuana,” Baca said.

Baca said his detectives have found marijuana collectives buying from cartel sources and selling to people in large amounts. In the triple slaying case, two of the dead men did business with at least four dispensaries.

A man charged Wednesday with capital murder in the slayings confessed to the crime during an interview with detectives, investigators said.

Harold Yong Park, 31, told investigators he previously bought and sold marijuana from two of the men and that a dispute erupted when he came to the West Hollywood apartment Thursday evening, where the victims were shot to death.

Sheriff Lt. Pat Nelson said Pirooz Moussazadeh and Bernard Khalili had bought high-grade medical marijuana from local pot dispensaries -- some in L.A. and two in West Hollywood -- and then resold it. In this case, Park had stolen 4 to 5 pounds of high-grade hydroponically grown marijuana after killing the trio.

The third man killed, Shahriar Moussazadeh, was not involved in the drug deal and was a man in the wrong place at the wrong time, Nelson said.

He said Park did not bring enough money to the deal to buy the drugs he wanted. But detectives are not certain when he decided to kill the men. Nelson said Park has a prior drug conviction and worked previously for a marijuana collective.

Park is expected to appear in a Beverly Hills court Wednesday on murder, robbery and burglaries charges. He is being held without bail. He was arrested Monday in Lomita after his license plate that had been entered into a wanted car database was spotted using a sheriff’s patrol car with an automatic license plate reader.

Meanwhile, the campaign to defeat Proposition 19 announced Wednesday that Baca and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will head up the effort to defeat the marijuana legalization measure on the November ballot.  

-- Richard Winton

Comments () | Archives (92)

Hmmm, "criminals" are involved in the MMJ trade? Wow, Sheriff Baca, you're just brilliant! Perhaps it's because MARIJUANA IS STILL ILLEGAL???

What a colossal "duh" that statement deserves.

Legalize pot in November and the criminal element will be neutralized. Prices will fall as retail stores take the place of drug dealers.

We saw this happen when Prohibition was lifted, and this is the same situation.

Vote YES on Prop 19 in Novemeber

This is a very good example of why we need to pass Proposition 19. Anti-Medical Cannabis forces are going to take isolated examples and use them as reasons to re-criminalize medical cannabis. Anti-Medical Cannabis forces are working, right now, in 2 other states to do exactly that. Since Prop. 215 passed, these forces have done absolutely everything they can to make LEGAL Medical Cannabis all but unavailable.

I know that this allegation that collectives buy from the cartels is fabricated, because the cartels only produce garbage quality cannabis that few people want, but they sell plenty to the general public with no prescription because it's much cheaper than medical quality cannabis. If a Medical Cannabis collective presented their patients with that quality of product, nobody would buy it!

It's getting closer to the election. Watch as the prohibitionists start executing their dirty tricks to derail Prop. 19. Don't underestimate them - they are very clever.

Stop the scare tactics.

Yes on 19.

Any MMJ patient with a brain could have noticed the seedy characters running some of these dispensaries. Many of them resembled gang members and probably were, in some cases. The fact that so many dispensaries "disappeared overnight" after the city announced it was cracking down seems to reinforce this inference. In my visits to some of these dispensaries, I noticed on several occasions some suspicious activities that looked an awful lot like organized crime activity, e.g. the paying of "protection money."

Truthfully, this is no different from mobsters getting involved in gambling, extorting bar owners for "protection," etc. The only difference is that because the city of LA failed to adequately regulate the dispensary system, the criminals got a serious foothold in the 'MMJ game'.

If the city council had brains, they'd go after the criminal operators and leave the law abiding operators alone. However, they have instead opted to try and shut every single operation down with their strange ordinance. This is a bad idea that is really what the criminals want; it pushes all the MMJ money back into their hands because patients will get their medicine from illegal sources if they must.

Obviously, the smarter move is just to legalize recreational use (Prop 19) and watch the cartels and gangs move on to other illegal substances. However, this makes too much sense and people like Lee Baca and the policemen's unions don't want to lose an easy part of their job (busting nonviolent potsmokers). Naturally, the politicians are worried about elections so they take the easy, "hard on drugs" stance. The result is the status quo, even though the status quo is maddeningly foolish.

"Meanwhile, the campaign to defeat Proposition 19 announced Wednesday that Baca and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will head up the effort to defeat the marijuana legalization measure on the November ballot." This is another bullshit story made up to denounce the Medical Marijuana bill in November! Baca and Feinstein are funded by special Interests groups, and stand to earn a whole lot of constituents if they succeed. Come on..a Sheriff and a Senator together, where there is smoke, there's fire!

That is no news, just wait, if that proposed legislation passes regarding marijuana use, this state will see all kinds of problems. Imagine we deal with drunk drivers now because of alcohol, we will have teenagers driving cars while high, attending school high, men and women driving buses, cars, machinery airplanes, etc., all while high on grass. We will become the Netherlands, ugly people walking the streets and ruining the parks all while drunk.

Check out the non-anglo names in this story.

Seems to me like that would be all the more reason to legalize. More players in the market would increase competition, thus increasing supply and creating lower prices. The sheriff even said it himself, it's the outrageous profits that drive the activity, the risk/reward model applies to drug sales as well.

Criminals wouldn't waste their time on marijuana if the market were flooded and the profits were modest like any other legitimate business. This guy's criticism reeks like job protection more than actually caring about the root cause of the murders - prohibition and all the problems it creates. The law enforcement opposition smells more and more self serving as time goes by. I'm sure glad these guys are out there, to serve and protect.....their jobs. Vote yes on Prop 19.

This is exactly why we need to legalize marijuana. Vote yes on 19!

Too bad its impossible to account for all the murders that never occur as a result of moving a large percentage of marijuana transactions away from classical street drug dealing to the semi-legal marijuana dispensaries.

Uhhh... EXACTLY Baca! What on earth do you imagine the point is; to create a stable form of regulation is all about?
Like the feds tracking firearm manufacturing to sales, to final destination, regulating the process of dope for the legitimately ill (OR the dopes) will/should stop the influence of professional criminal enterprise. Probably not entirely, but those licensed to dispense would certainly think twice before going off the rails and losing their license for a few measly extra bucks.
Legalizing would also go a long way to remove the incentives for robberies and killing over dope.
Legalize it, and move on! Your degenerate society will never quit smoking and doping anyway... not ever!

Legalize it all the way and this won't happen. Did we NOT learn the lessons from prohibition? Apparently not.

The reason that these criminals have penetrated the medical marijuana industry is due to the illegality of the substance for those not ill, along with a poorly written law and knee jerk political reaction to decriminalization. This issue has historical parallels to prohibition and will not be solved by putting more people in Baca's jails. Education, treatment and tolerance can work to reduce the demand for this substance. In countries where use is legal, consumption has dropped dramatically. Baca's remarks are generalized and without figures to back the claims, sound political. Sen. Feinstein's stance would seem to be counter-intuitive as the polling done to date, has shown the Democratic base supporting this measure. Let the voters decide.

The cartels sell marijuana illegally. So stopping legal sales will only increase their business. They can thank Baca and Feinstein for the increase in revenues.

This is exactly why it should be legalized to decriminalize marijuana use. Keeping it illegal will only increase the illegal profits to be made.

So criminals have taken over the medical marijuana program, and Baca and Feinstein's argument is to keep marijuana illegal, thereby insuring that criminals continue to be the one's who profit? Here we have a perfect example of the hypocrisy and lies that surround pot. The definition of insanity is to keep repeating the same behaviour, but hoping the outcome will change. Pouring more money down the rathole that is the war on drugs does not work.

Our leaders have an agenda that is very different from the will of the people. I will be voting YES on prop. 19

If Baca and Feinstein (whose husband makes megamillions in the War Industry) is so concerned about the profits in the marijuana business, he should support full, complete L-E-G-A-L-I-Z-A-T-I-O-N.

It's a plant, Baca. Don't hold it against the weed that its IQ is higher than your own.

Doesn't this example just bolster the pro-19 argument? If you could grow your own pot, why would you have to buy it or in this case, kill for it?

And what label is he giving the Los Angeles City Council for going against the votes of Californians in 1996? Patriots?

And what label is he giving the Los Angeles City Council for going against the votes of Californians in 1996? Patriots?

Sheriff Baca needs to keep in mind that life has it's "bad apples", such is the case which involves that idiot and rotten apple Park.

Marijuana is not the culprit or the criminal....greed and the inability to master it are the problem. Let's remember that there are "bad apples" in law enforcement too Mr. Baca, I know this by personal experience.

YES to the legalization of medicinal marijuana for California.....

Oh my gosh! The criminal crowd has brought it's violence and lawlessness to medical marijuana!! Say it isn't so!! So much for that legalize it and all the problems go away BS.

And before all the other pro-dope idiots get on here and talk endlessly about how legalizing pot will break the back of the cartels, all of you smart people out there think about this. If you actually succeeded in taking away 60% of the profits from vast groups of bloodthirsty, lawless international criminal groups, what do you think is going to happen? Poor old Juan Valdez gives up his Rolls Royce and goes back to growing coffee beans with that pathetic donkey? Heck no, they will vastly increase their efforts to flood the US with cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and ecstasy to make up for the lost profits. Make the pie smaller and the violence will increase a hundred fold. The only solution is to close the borders and really stop the flow of drugs coupled with meaningful punishment on this side of the border. Oh but ending prohibition destroyed the mafia, waah, waah, no it didn't you dumb jerks. It forced the mafia to pursue with much more vigor violent crimes such as extortion, labor racketeering, robbery, hijacking and drug dealing to make up for the lost revenues. Putting them in jail for life through the RICO statutes is what finally crippled the mob.

I agree with motodude. This ridiculous war on drugs has now claimed more life. Once legalized a good ounce should go for about $50. That should get these violent cartels flipping burgers for a living.

How can Baca site this as an example to support the attempt to defeat Prop 19?? If marijuana was legalized and made more accessible, these men may still be alive.
Have we learned nothing from history, especially Prohibition? Baca is just trying to ensure that more tax dollars are spent on the drug war. Recall Baca!

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