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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)

easy solution - decriminalize now.
(I dont smoke pot but I hate spending my tax $ on this and jails and indirectly supporting drug gangs)

The status of marijuana today still makes it an astronomically priced item. The stuff is as easy to grow as tobacco. pot should cost about what cigs cost, even with plenty of taxation. The current $30-40 per eighth ounce for medical weed is what is causing the criminal element to be involved, and the resultant violence, fraud and trashing of our public lands for secret plantations.
People are gonna smoke no matter what. Let it be more affordable, freeing up peoples income for other things, add to the tax coffers, redirect the billions in resources now used for the war on drugs. It's time to come out of the dark ages.
Yeah it makes most people stupider than they already are, but no more than alcohol does.

Regulate the sale of cannabis to adults via legalization & the criminals will have one less way to make a living. Lay the thousands of people murdered squarely at the feet of prohibitionists who've made it so profitable for thugs to kill over the non-lethal cannabis plant.

Go back to your desk Baca. This is an obvious attempt to undermine the impending vote in november. liguor stores get robbed... supermarkets get robbed... cigarettes still get hijacked...clothing, razor blades, soda... do you get it yet? mary jane, illegal or otherwise, will still be attacked by criminals... it's the folks that use mary jane that need to be protected from criminal prosecution. you have people sitting in jail because they smoke mary jane. Again, go back to your desk and supervise your "troops" and go after real criminals that threaten innocent human lives you d.o.p.e.!

And this pro-drug crowd wonders why voters have paused to reflect on the consequences. It's a drug from a plant. Plain and simple. Perhaps a drug with with benefits, but essentially a feel-good drug that acts on the brain like any narcotic.

And we're supposed to feel the pro-pot crowd has the situation under control?

The only reason things like this happen is because of prohibition. To me, it's so incredibly obvious that I find it hard to believe that others, like Sen. Feinstein, can't understand it. It needs to be legalized all across this supposedly free country since prohibition clearly causes more problems than legalization ever could.

Also, note that marijuana does not make you stupid, but some stupid people smoke it. And, not everyone that endulges smokes huge quantities of it every day. I like to smoke a small amount in my own home about once a month on the average. Not everyone that smokes is a stoner or pothead or whatever other racist name you want to call us any more than everyone who drinks alcohol is a drunk! I'm offended when people refer to marijuana smokers using those kinds of dehumanizing names.

Ever wonder why marijuana is considered a gateway drug? Because you have to go to a criminal drug dealer to get it, and that criminal drug dealer can't always get you pot, but they can get you crack, heroin or any other number of hard drugs. They don't care what they sell you, they only care about the money. It's a gateway drug because prohibition makes it so.

It will cease to be a gateway drug when there's a legal way to procure it.

Poll numbers bothering some people huh? Getting close to voting time isn't it?

Baca uses the death of a few people involved in illegal activities to support his case that regular folk going to the dispensaries is wrong? Like no one ever dealt any other medication by selling their RX? Is he going after CVS next?

Give me a break! He is pissed that instead of busting people on posession charges (easy as pulling someone over and searching their cars) he and his crew now have to do REAL police work and hunt for murderers.

I have noticed in the past 3 weeks, the amount of "weed busts" stories both on Television news, and in printed papers (This one included) have more than tripled. There is a daily "news" story about cartels supposedly infiltrating marijuana growing in Cali, and stories that seem to place the blame of the operations or "violence" associated with them on the plant itself, or entirely on marijuana users.

It is no shock that the anti-marijuana brigade, along with the deep pocket lobbies, are working full force right now to make sure any marijuana initiative loses. The media is culpable in the constant playing up of these "busts" as well.

If it was legal, the underground black market dissappears, along with any violence or crime associated with it...BUT at the same time two huge industries lose out on easy money:

1st- The Prison industry complex and police unions lose what is ultimately easy money from these tickets, "busts", and overtime hours for prison guards. (our prisons are full of non-violent marijuana offenders, while the gangs are allowed to flourish in this trade).

2nd- The Pharmaceutical industry, looks to lose billions of dollars in a "weed" they can't regulate and sell because anyone can grow it. Ambien, Lunesta, and countless other sleep aids at $100 a bottle no longer can compete with a safer natural God made plant.


Let's legalize murder while we're at it. Imagine how we'd fix overcrowding in jails, and allow law enforcement to focus efforts on other crimes such as burglary and robbery.

It's never the fault of the perp, it's always the law that makes it illegal and harmful!

Way too many bloggers here who obviously been smoking way too much dope.

LOL, Mary, all that stuff already happens! I saw a woman hit a pipe at the drive thru window at In and Out. You are crazy if you think all that stuff doesnt happen already. Aside from your sensational ideas, this bill isnt even related to kids.

The LA Times is spewing this scaremongering drivel almost every day, echoing the desperate grab for power by the Prohibitionist establishment which is profiting from our suffering, but your readership is wise to your propaganda.

Why do you hate freedom, LA Times?

Yes on 19.

Let's see.

Drugs + Money + Users = Crime

Legalize it all you want. Weed is still bad for our society. All this energy being used to try and legalize it should be going into helping kids not to ever do it.

yes, prop 19

Also we all must be aware that Monsanto wants a piece of the action, everyone must breed their own seeds, we can't allow Monsanto to replace the cannabis strains with their "terminator seeds"

Vote "YES" on Prop. 19!

I've been reading the LA Times for 30 yrs. In all that time, shootings and killings and crime have overwhelmed South Central LA while places like Beverly Hills remain relatively calm and safe. Baca and the LAPD are failures. They protect the rich and let the poor kill each other. They are phony police people. Real police would have the guts to try and stop the violence. They don't. The War on Pot is their latest fallback (retreat) position. They're cowards and the LA Times, which used to be just stuffed shirts full of BS are abetting them with phony journalism. Cowardly media, phony cops, and you call yourself professionals.

@Mary - Just because marijuana would be legal does not mean that driving under the influence would be. Come on, get a real argument. Just because you can legally buy alcohol does not mean that you can drink and drive. Why would marijuana be treated any differently?

@Keith - Grow up man. "Flood the market with everything else"?? Those markets are already flooded. Everyone who wants cocaine or heroin or whatever already has access to it.

The ignorance of people astounds me. Prohibition failed. It failed so epicly that it gave rise to Al Capone and the mob. Marijuana prohibition has failed so epicly that it is giving hundreds of millions of dollars a year to criminals because they are selling a plant that anybody can grow in their backyard.

What is it with adults trying to tell each other what to do? If you don't want to smoke weed, don't smoke weed. For those who do want to smoke weed, tax them and generate some revenue.

Maybe instead of using the limited resources on the Mitrice Richardson type pot busts, the funds would be better spent going after these type killers. This murder is not the fault of medical marijuana, its the fault of the people making the bad decisions about how to enforce and administer the law.

"He said the criminal element has flooded the business because of the outrageous profits to be made."

The criminal element was flooding the business before MMJ

and prop 19 will take the profits away from cops and judges who have enjoyed
search an seizure based on "smelling cannabis " ie probable cause

Thanks Sheriff Baca. There are thousands of us from all different walks of life and backgrounds who worry about just this kind of problem.

Baca is totally right. I voted in favor of medical marijuana, and I regret it. I thought I was helping people with cancer to get some pain relief - but it turned out to be just drug dealers making enormous profits selling pot to obnoxious kids and whiners - with lots of violent crime in the mix. (Three armed robberies just in my neighborhood alone, but fortunately no murders here - yet.) If these are the people involved in pushing Proposition 19, you can be sure I will be voting No. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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