Police seize 296 pounds of pot from South Lake Tahoe home | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Police seize 296 pounds of pot from South Lake Tahoe home

A South Lake Tahoe man was arrested Thursday morning when authorities served a search warrant at his Fresno Avenue home and discovered approximately 296 pounds of marijuana trimmings. Dwayne Allan Crenshaw, 36, the primary resident at 3121 Fresno Avenue, was arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sale and manufacture of a controlled substance. Crenshaw was later released on bail, according to county jail records. Law enforcement agents with the South Lake El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team searched the house at about 7 a.m. The marijuana trimmings were being used to create concentrated cannabis oils through several methods, including butane fuel extraction, according to a press release by the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office. Agents found 180 expended and 65 partially-used butane fuel canisters. They seized nine extraction tubes and about 10 ounces of concentrated cannabis in addition to the marijuana trimmings. Extraction of THC from marijuana plant material using a chemical catalyst such as butane is a felony crime under California law, and is also a volatile process that can result in serious explosions, the sheriff's office said.

Police: Explosion caused by THC extraction

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A 22-year-old man was arrested Wednesday night after allegedly causing an explosion while attempting to make a concentrated form of cannabis from marijuana plant parts. Around 7 p.m. Samuel Frangella was allegedly using liquid butane to make “honey oil” from parts of a marijuana plant at a hotel on the 1200 Block of Bonanza Avenue when the butane exploded and blew out the windows of the room, said Jeff Catchings, task force commander of the South Lake El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team. Frangella, a South Lake Tahoe resident who recently moved from Illinois, was arrested on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance, arson and child endangerment following the blast. The child endangerment allegation arose from the presence of a young child in a nearby apartment, Catchings said. No one was hurt in the explosion. Glass from the windows was sent as far as 100 feet from the building and Frangella was lucky to escape injury, Catchings said. Frangella remained in custody in El Dorado County Jail in South Lake Tahoe Friday afternoon. It is unknown if he has an attorney.

Drug operation in South Lake Tahoe causes explosion

Schuyler VanFleet, 22, was taken into police custody and Barek Madden, 23, was flown to UC Davis Medical Center with third-degree burns on his face, arms and upper body on Wednesday after their drug operation at Forest Manor Apartments reportedly went awry. “They were in the process of cooking and preparing hash, and it got away from them,” South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Brian Uhler said. VanFleet told police he was visiting Madden’s apartment in unit one and that they had been using several cans of butane fuel to cook marijuana into a concentrated form called hashish. The fire started in the apartment accidentally, he said. Around 3:15 p.m. the butane the two young men were using caught fire, causing an explosion, Uhler said. They brought the container outside, where it flashed quickly and lit Madden on fire. Pedro Vargas, who lives in the apartment building behind Forest Manor at the corner of Forest and Wildwood avenues said he heard a sound like a balloon blowout and saw flames coming from the lower level of the apartment building. About 10 firefighters and four law enforcement personnel responded to the fire, evacuating the six units in the building. No other buildings were affected. Firefighters confirmed the presence of about a dozen cans of butane in the apartment. The extent of the damage to the unit is unknown, and according to a city press release, criminal charges against Madden may be pending. VanFleet has already been arrested for unlawfully causing a fire and for operating a drug lab, both felonies. The South Lake El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team has taken over primary investigative reporting at this point.

Marijuana ordinance heads to council Thursday

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Medical marijuana advocates are getting organized ahead of a Thursday meeting where the South Lake Tahoe City Council could approve an ordinance regulating cultivation of the controversial plant. The second reading of the city’s cultivation ordinance is scheduled for the consent agenda portion of Thursday’s meeting agenda, meaning it will only be discussed if a council member or person from the public requests it. The City Council tentatively approved the growing regulations at a sparsely attended July 27 special meeting. Approval on Thursday would allow the regulations to take effect after 30 days. The council meets starting at 9 a.m. at Lake Tahoe Airport, 1901 Airport Road. Under the proposed ordinance, outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana would be banned, indoor cultivation would be limited to 50 square feet per residence and lighting would be restricted to 1200 watts. The use of commercial property, extension cords and gas products like carbon dioxide and butane in the cultivation of medical marijuana would also be banned. The proposed ordinance would require cultivation areas to be inspected by a building official, who “may require additional specific standards to meet the California Building Code and Fire Code, including, but not limited to, the installation of fire-suppression sprinklers.” Renters would be required to obtain written permission from a property owner prior to growing medical marijuana. The permission would need to be notarized and filed with the police department, according to the proposed ordinance. Growing medical marijuana in an industrial area would require a special use permit, and cultivation on parcels adjacent to schools or public parks would be prohibited, according to the proposed ordinance. An unspecified application fee will also be required and qualified growers must have a materials storage, handling and disposal plan under the ordinance. A violation of the law could result in a misdemeanor charge, a fine of $1,000, six months in county jail or both. Violators could also face civil action by the city, according to the proposed ordinance. Medical marijuana advocate Shelly Arnold encouraged patients to attend a Wednesday night meeting at Tahoe Wellness Collective to organize public comments regarding the cultivation ordinance, as well as a proposed ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at 3445 Lake Tahoe Boulevard, Arnold said. Arnold said she supported regulating growing operations to keep them safe, but said the regulations should not impede growers ability to produce medical marijuana for qualified patients. The South Lake Tahoe Planning Commission is expected to discuss a potential ban on dispensaries at a meeting Sept. 9, following direction from the City Council last month.

Four arrested after hash-oil explosion at Truckee apartment

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Four people were arrested Sunday on suspicion of drug manufacturing and child endangerment following a chemical explosion inside a Truckee apartment. Police and fire officials responded to a reported grease fire at about 2:30 p.m. at the Truckee Pines apartment complex at 10100 Estates Drive, according to the Truckee Police Department. Authorities determined the fire was caused by a small chemical explosion "when several subjects were trying to make hash oil from marijuana," police said in a statement. One of the apartment's occupants, Anthony Thomas Garner, 20, of Truckee, suffered moderate burns and was treated at Tahoe Forest Hospital. He was medically cleared and arrested on suspicion of manufacturing drugs, child endangerment, criminal conspiracy and maintaining a residence for manufacturing drugs, all felonies. His bail was set at $35,000; as of Tuesday, he had been released from jail. Three more of the apartment's occupants — Kiev Watson-Akright, 22, of Truckee; Yvenel Casseide, 21, of Tampa, Fla.; and Austin Michael Coton, 21, of Tampa, Fla. — were unhurt. They were arrested and booked in Nevada County Jail in Truckee on suspicion of various drugs, child endangerment/cruelty and conspiracy charges. Bail was set for each at $35,000, and they remained in jail as of Tuesday. It wasn't immediately known if the suspects had an attorney. A 1-month-old girl who was inside the apartment was not hurt, TPD Sgt. Robert Womack said Tuesday. The infant was released to her mother, who also was in the apartment at the time of the incident, but was not arrested because she was "not directly involved," Womack said. Officers also recovered a "quantity of marijuana" at the residence, he said. Damage to the unit was minor, Womack said, and was mainly due to water from its sprinkler system. No other units in the complex were damaged, and none were evacuated. Making hash oil, or hashish, has reportedly become common in recent years among marijuana users looking for stronger THC content. The process involves using butane fuel to cook low-quality marijuana. "One of the things about hash oil, you don't use the good stuff to do this," Womack said.

Suspected drug related explosion causes damage to apartment

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — A suspected small honey oil lab, a substance made from marijuana plants, caused a minor explosion that blew out the windows of an apartment in a small complex Tuesday night on Larch Avenue near Pioneer Trail. "I see the windows start inflating like balloons and then before you know it they burst, 'pop! Boom!' I run to the street and once I looked back everybody was outside," said Erick Lopez, who lives directly above the apartment where the explosion occurred. Lopez was standing by a tree with his dog about 15 feet in front of the window when the explosion occurred at about 8:30 p.m. He sustained minor scratches on his face from the flying glass. He was the only one outside when the explosion occurred. "It sounded like they threw a grenade in there," Lopez said. The South Lake Tahoe fire and police departments responded simultaneous to the call, but the investigation was later turned over to the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office SLEDNET unit, after first responders found evidence of honey oil production, including butane gas containers, EDSO Sgt. Tasha Thompson said Wednesday. Thompson said it did not appear anyone outside of the apartment was injured. Police are searching for two men in connection to the explosion. Lopez said two men ran out of the apartment moments after the explosion and had not returned as of Wednesday morning. Authorities asked area hospitals to report any injuries that may have been caused by the explosion, but none had been reported as of Wednesday morning, Thompson said. It was unclear if the two men were injured in the explosion, though it was possible. At the scene, a two-man cleanup crew was picking up shattered glass scattered all over the common area of the small complex. Two large side-by-side windows at the front of the apartment had been blown out and the window frames were damaged. Out back, at least one window had been boarded up. Inside, at least one butane gas container was visible from the window. Thompson could not comment on whether any drugs were recovered from the scene. The investigation is ongoing, Thompson said.

Season’s ‘weed’ing: Nevada City woman arrested with presents full of pot

NEVADA CITY, Calif. – A Nevada City woman spent Christmas in jail in Missouri after being stopped with a bundle of gifts in her car – boxes allegedly packed full of pot. Brooke Molina, 28, was driving a rented Ford Escape with Nevada plates near Joplin, Mo., when she was stopped early Tuesday morning by a Missouri Highway Patrol officer, allegedly for speeding. During the traffic stop, the state trooper smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the minivan. “She said she had a joint in the ashtray that she had smoked before leaving California,” said Nevada County sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Smethers. “That gave him probable cause to search the vehicle.” Troopers allegedly found numerous wrapped Christmas presents in the cargo area containing 20 one-pound bags of processed marijuana. Molina and her passenger, Brianna N. Berban, 22, of Santa Maria, were charged in Jasper County Circuit Court later Tuesday with felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. But Molina’s troubles didn’t stay in Missouri. Missouri State Highway Patrol contacted the Nevada County Sheriff’s Narcotics Task Force with information pertaining to their investigation and a home address for Molina in the 13000 block of Borrelli Road. Armed with a search warrant, the local narcotics task force members went to Molina’s residence and allegedly found an indoor marijuana garden with 20 plants, about 40 pounds of processed marijuana in one-pound bags packaged for sale, 18 Rubbermaid totes containing marijuana bud on the stem, and marijuana shake – bits of leaves left over from trimming the buds. The totes contained another 30 to 40 pounds of marijuana on the stem that hadn’t yet been trimmed, Smethers added. Deputies also found evidence of both indoor and outdoor marijuana cultivation, he said. “The inside of the garage was split into four separate rooms. They had built new walls,” Smethers said. One area had starter plants, and two other areas had more mature plants; investigators also found evidence of an old outdoor garden. And, Smethers said, they found Christmas wrapping paper that matched the boxes found in Molina’s car in Missouri. The task force frequently gets reports from out of state involving local residents allegedly transporting marijuana, Smethers said. “We get contacted from everywhere – New York, Florida, Texas, Arizona,” Smethers said. “They’re intercepting cars coming from Nevada County or coming back to Nevada County, carrying large quantities of processed marijuana or currency.” Molina may face charges of illegal cultivation of marijuana and possession for sale in Nevada County, Smethers said.

64 pounds of marijuana seized

More than 64 pounds of marijuana were seized from a couple traveling through Bridgeport on Tuesday night. Driver Mark Bishop, 55, of Claremont, Calif., and Heather Davis, 25, of Alta Loma, Calif., were southbound on Highway 395 when they were stopped at 9:15 p.m. by Mono County deputies. According to the Sheriff's Office, the couple were en route from Lake Tahoe to Rancho Cucamonga. Deputies reported that there was an overwhelming smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle as they approached it. Both Bishop and Davis got out of the car. Deputies asked if there was any narcotics in the vehicle, and Bishop said there was marijuana in the vehicle, but that he had a medical marijuana card. He said he had legal documentation that showed he was permitted to transport the marijuana. Deputies searched the vehicle and found four large trash bags containing 64 pounds of marijuana buds and trimmings, a white plastic bag with 2.5 pounds of processed marijuana, a white plastic bag with 10.4 ounces of concentrated cannabis and a plastic bag belonging to Davis containing cocaine. Deputies examined Bishop's documents authorizing transport of the marijuana and determined they were fictitious. Bishop was arrested for possession of marijuana for sale, possession of concentrated cannabis, and possession of marijuana over 28.5 grams. Bishop posted bail and was released from the Mono County Jail. Davis, 25, was arrested for possession of marijuana for sale; possession of a narcotic controlled substance; possession of concentrated cannabis; and possession of marijuana over 28.5 grams. As of Thursday, she was in custody in the Mono County Jail. All charges are pending with the Mono County District Attorney's Office.

LSD gummy bears part of drug bust

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – LSD laden gummy bears were part of a South Lake El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team bust last week that included psilocybin mushrooms and more than 90 pounds of marijuana. Law enforcement officers arrested John Morrissey, 29, May 19 after receiving complaints about a marijuana growing operation at two storage units on the 2100 block of U.S. Highway 50, said Task Force Commander Jeff Catchings. SLEDNET agents were watching activity at the storage units when Morrissey left about 7 p.m. Morrissey was then stopped by a California Highway Patrol officer on Emerald Bay Road for allegedly driving 50 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone, Catchings said. Officers allegedly discovered 6.5 pounds of marijuana inside the vehicle and arrested Morrissey. SLEDNET agents then obtained search warrants for the storage units, as well as Morrissey’s home on the 1800 Block of Guadalupe Street. At the storage units, agents reported discovering 658 marijuana plants and 84 pounds of processed marijuana. At Morrissey’s home agents found two LSD infused gummy bears, about 30 grams of psilocybin mushrooms and an extraction lab used to create concentrated marijuana known as honey oil, Catchings said. Morrissey told SLEDNET agents he was legally growing medical marijuana for South Lake Tahoe collectives, but he did not have medical recommendations and was out of compliance with California’s medical marijuana laws, Catchings said. He was arrested on suspicion of transporting a controlled substance, illegally cultivating marijuana, manufacturing a controlled substance and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, Catchings said. Morrissey remained in custody at El Dorado County Jail in South Lake Tahoe Thursday afternoon. His attorney, Lori London, did not return a request for comment Wednesday. A second man wanted in connection with the marijuana growing operation was also taken into custody this week. Jonah Shanks, 35, turned himself into police officers Thursday morning, Catchings said. He remained in custody Thursday afternoon, according to El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office records. It is unknown if he has an attorney.

‘Green Goddess’ heads to Cannabis summit

A South Lake Tahoe provider of medicinal marijuana heads Thursday to Vancouver, British Columbia, to the International Medical Cannabis Summit. Shelly “Green Goddess” Arnold wants to learn more about caregiving at the summit. She already provides medical marijuana to 25 people at South Lake Tahoe who suffer from breast cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, migraines and chronic fatigue, among other illnesses. She makes butter, oil and an alcohol extract with donated marijuana. Then she doles out the medicine for free, mostly in the form of marshmallow krispie treats, to those in need. One of the people she supplies is Ryan Landers, a Sacramento man who helped pioneer Proposition 215, the 1996 law that makes it legal to use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Landers is terminally ill with AIDS and takes four medications, other than marijuana, for his illness. “I eat considerably less in the summertime because of the heat. I have a great deal of trouble eating anything including something laced with marijuana,” he said. “But I do go through quite a bit of Rice Krispies Treats and they help me control nausea and cramping in my stomach I get from the pills I take.” Landers said late summer is the most difficult time to get hold of the drug because supplies are limited from last year’s growing season. Marijuana grown outdoors is harvested in the fall. “It causes me a lot more pain and discomfort when I don’t have it and there’s also the stress of wondering,” he said. “You get down to a pound and you worry about what’s going to happen. It becomes a huge issue and is a huge stress factor.” Right now, there is no easy way for people such as Landers to legally obtain marijuana. In May the U.S. Supreme Court ruled marijuana has no permissible medical use. The effect of the Supreme Court ruling is unclear, since states handle most drug prosecutions. Still, Landers said it has had a chilling effect on an already tight medical marijuana market. “With the Supreme Court decision being so misinterpreted on so many levels, it’s become difficult,” he said. “Doctors are more afraid and a lot of law enforcement feel (Proposition) 215 has been thrown out. The only thing the Supreme Court addressed is the medical necessity defense for a distribution case in federal court. It did not change state laws.” As part of a broader solution, Landers and Arnold both plan to attend the upcoming international summit as representatives from the American Medical Marijuana Association. The organization, formed last winter, fights for patient advocacy, patient rights and support, and is expected to gain nonprofit status in September. Landers has assumed a post with AMMA as its head of political affairs. Arnold is also a board member who heads caregiving for the organization. “We’re real,” she said of AMMA. “We realized we had go through the proper steps to change the legislation. The medical need for this is pretty obvious. What we need are the guidelines and leadership so we can feel more comfortable to do what we need to do.” Landers said organizations like AMMA are part of the answer because for too long people have been battling on their own. “It’s about the organization, the cooperation of people,” he said. “The hardest problem is fighting the politics of the issue. Too many people have been standing on their own trying to do their own thing. We really need to come together.”