At least 10 people have been arrested, two of whom could be facing life sentences for drug trafficking after a raid on what was supposed to be a compliant medical marijuana conference for licensed caregivers and patients.
Over the three day Hempcon Las Vegas event, which ran from last Friday to Sunday, a joint task-force of local Metro police, Henderson PD, and the DEA arrested 10 people and cited three more on charges including schedule 1 drug trafficking, conspiracy to distribute, and possession with intent to sell.
Authorities utilized undercover police, a S.W.A.T. van, and a drug K-9 unit in their raid, according to reports in the Las Vegas Review Journal and from Instagram Users. Cannabis, concentrate, seeds, edibles and psilocybin mushrooms were seized.
Vendors feel mislead and betrayed
Shawn Collins and Alicia Beuter, vendors for California’s InfusedEdible, are being threatened with charges of drug trafficking, intent to sell, conspiracy to distribute, and could be facing life sentences, according to InfusedEdible’s owner Christopher Cross. (Note: This should not be the case for the amount Collins and Beuter were found with, according to DEA sentencing guidelines found on the DEA’s website, but we don’t have all the facts that either law enforcement or the defendants have.)
We found Cross through his Instagram account, which is sponsoring a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Collins’ and Beuter’s legal defense. Both of them were released from custody on Wednesday, but retain their felony charges. (Their crodwfunding site is currently down do to technical issues. We’ll provide a link as soon as it’s available.)
“We felt conned at Hempcon,” Cross told us. “Anybody who read the contract had the same questions as us.” There is a legal medical marijuana program in Nevada, but it is not legal to sell cannabis without a state-issued dispensary license. And this was stated in the Hempcon booth-holders’ contract. Out-of-state vendors like Infused Edible were concerned about that, but Cross said he was told by Hempcon that this rule was a “technicality.”
“It was the same thing [at Hempcon] in San Francisco, but vendors were not harassed. They brought that to our attention,” said the edible company owner.
Cross said they were “not mislead,” but “straight up lied to” by Hempcon and iBudtender, who mediated the sale of vendor space at the event. “I could have not had marijuana products, but I was convinced otherwise,” he said.
He was meant to be at the event himself with his mother, but was hospitalized with a serious head injury after a skateboarding accident. Collins and Beuter, two friends and co-workers, went in their place.
Cross said his friends were wary of the legal situation and did not bring in their cannabis products right away. Then they were approached by iBudtender staff, asked why they had no medicated products at their booth, and assured that there would be no legal consequences for distributing them. Shortly after Beuter and Collins brought their edibles and concentrates out, they were arrested and their products seized.
Hempcon outraged at local authorities
A Hempcon representative told us the company was “blindsided” by the incident. Tony Z., Senior Business Relations for Hempcon Cannabis Events, said in a phone interview, “Shame on the authorities for conducting something [against]… what Nevada and LasVegas has basically voted pro, has basically voted law.”
Mr. Z. is correct. There is a state medical marijuana program in place and Las Vegas has a history of hosting events (including last year’s HempFest) where vendors were permitted to do basically the same thing they were arrested for doing here, even with a police presence. But “basically” might be the key word here. Something basically being legal, and actually being legal are two different things, and might be interpreted two different ways by law enforcement agents.
Mr. Z. said no one at Hempcon had any idea of the severity of charges that could be levied against their vendors. When asked about the organization’s communications with authorities before the event, the representative refused to comment, and directed me back to their official statement, which reads as follows:
We deeply regret the unfortunate police activity during Las Vegas Hempcon over the weekend of May 15-17. It was a blow to our Vendors, the attendees, the Community as a whole, and to us as well. It is sad that our industry is subject to such indiscriminate and prejudicial behavior by law enforcement. But we as a Community will PRESEVERE persevere and not let our forward momentum be derailed by them.
- Hempcon Staff
Hempcon is not currently facing any charges in regards to last weekend’s event. Hempcon San Francisco is still scheduled for this August, and another event, called Dab Massive, will be held in San Jose this September.
Who’s at fault?
Our calls made to representatives at the Medical Marijuana Establishment Program, which supervises caregiver licenses in Nevada, were not returned. We’re still missing some pieces, but whatever happened, there was clearly a serious breach in communication between authorities, event coordinators, and vendors. Right now, among the people paying the price for this miscommunication are licensed caregivers who believed they were serving certified patients in a legal medical marijuana zone, but are now being charged as criminals.
Photo: Hempcon Los Angeles 2010, courtesy of InsaneTwist.com