Two men who owned and operated marijuana dispensaries in Long Beach and Orange County were convicted today of a dozen criminal counts.
The Long Beach Superior Court jury deliberated about a day before returning its verdict against Joseph James Byron, 50, and Joe Matthew Grumbine, 45.
Deputy District Attorney Jodi Castano said the men were operating the businesses for profit, which is prohibited under the state law passed by voters allowing marijuana to be sold for medical treatment with doctors' prescriptions. Medical marijuana dispensaries are legal as suppliers for patients with, for instance, cancer, glaucoma and other ailments that don't respond to pharmaceuticals.
"This case is not about whether people have the right to medical marijuana," Castano told the jury at the start of the trial last month, according to the Press
Telegram story on the verdict. "This case is about two wolves in sheeps' clothing. It's about two men who were out to line their pockets ... with millions of dollars."
The defendants, Castano told jurors, attempted to camouflage the nature of their businesses with fake names and stealing electricity from neighbors so as not to attract attention to the large amount they were using to grow plants indoors. They also failed to fully report their sales tax for two years, making themselves $2 million, the newspaper reported.
Byron also was convicted of two counts each of grand theft of electricity and filing false state tax returns in 2008 and 2009.
Judge Charles Sheldon allowed the two men to remain free on bail while awaiting sentencing, which is set for Jan. 11.
The two were charged a year ago following an undercover investigation by the Long Beach Police Department, in which a dozen undercover buys were made at the dispensaries, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Supporters of the pair have expressed outrage that they were being criminally prosecuted in a campaign against medical marijuana to undermine the state law, and frequently demonstrated with picket signs around the downtown Long Beach courthouse.
--with reports from City News Service