Plea Deal Offered to Man Facing 77 Years for Medical Marijuana Collective

A hearing held was held for Mike Ruggles, the man facing 77 years for attempting to start up a medical marijuana collective, this morning, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at the courthouse in Hilo on Hawai‘i Island.

The hearing consisted of a Motions to Compel, a Motion to Dismiss Due to Prosecutorial Misconduct as well as a Frye Hearing, in which the state offered Ruggles a plea agreement.

The state of Missouri prosecutors offered Galin Edward Frye two deals while seeking his conviction for driving while his license was revoked, but his lawyer never told Frye about the offers. Frye pleaded guilty to a felony charge and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Frye appealed, saying his lawyer should have told him about the previous deals. A Missouri appeals court agreed. Prosecutors contend that not knowing about the deals they offered doesn’t mean that Frye didn’t know what he was doing when he decided to plead guilty.

Prosecutor Rick Damerville spoke to Big Island Now after the hearing and explained the process of the Frye Hearing and how it is pertinent to this case.

In a written letter from the prosecutors office, Deputy Prosecuting Damerville offered the following plea:

Dear Mr. Ruggles:
Re: State of Hawai‘i v. Michael Doyle Ruggles, CR. No 15-1-0391

Pursuant to Rule 11 of the Hawai‘i Rules of Criminal Procedure, and a recent suggestion by the Court, the State of Hawai‘ij makes the following plea offer in the above styled case:

  1. Mr. Ruggles may conditionally plead guilty of no contest (for civil liability reason only) to:
  2. Count 3, the lesser included offense of Commercial Promotion of Marijuana in the Second Degree (knowingly possessing marijuana (cannabis) having an aggregate weight of two pounds or more, in violation of Section 712-1249.5(1)(a), HRS; or
  3. Count 5, the lesser included offense of Promoting a Harmful Drug in the Second Degree (knowingly possessing 50 or more capsule, and/or tablets and/or dosage units containing one and/or more of the marijuana (cannabis) concentrates, in violation of Section 712-1245(1)(a), HRS; or
  4. Count 6, the lesser included offense of Commercial Promotion of Marijuana in the Second Degree (knowingly possessing, cultivating, and/or has under his control fifty or more marijuana plants in violation of Section 712-1249.5(1)(c), HRS);
  5. and stipulate the forfeiture of the evidence recovered in this case, unless the State agrees to the return of specified items of evidence; In return, the State will agree to recommend 30 months of probation pursuant to Section 706-622.5, HRS and expungement provided Mr. Ruggles complies with the terms and conditions of his probation.  The State reserves the right to ask for up to one year in jail as a condition of probation; further the parties agree that a PSI will be conducted in this case.  If the PSI writer recommends a lesser amount of jail, the State will concur with that recommendation.  The State Reserves the right for other reasonable terms and conditions of probation including drug testing.
  6. Further, Mr. Ruggles may condition his plea of guilty or no contest reserving in writing the right on appeal from the judgement, to seek review of the adverse determination of the specific pretrial motions listed below, and if Mr. Ruggles prevails on appeal he shall be allowed to withdraw the pleas: (1) An adverse ruling on Ruggles’ motion to quash the warrant filed on February 2, 2016; (2) An adverse ruling on Ruggles motion to dismiss for vagueness and/or on the grounds of entrapment and/or for constitutional violations filed on February 2, 2016; (3) An adverse ruling on Ruggles motion in limine no. 1 to assert the affirmative defense of medical cannabis at trial.
  7. Should Mr. Ruggles enter a conditional plea guilty or no contest as described above, the State will agree to stay any sentence imposed pending appeal should Mr. Ruggles elect to ask for a stay.
  8. If Mr. Ruggles accepts this offer by pleading guilty or no contest as described above and then pending sentencing, inexcusably fails to cooperate in the preparation of the PSI report, or commits a new crime pending sentencing, then the State will not be bound to recommend the sentence described above and can ask the court to impose any legal sentence including up to ten years in prision.
  9. As part of this plea agreement, the State will dismiss the remaining counts of the complaint.
    This offer will remain open unless withdrawn in writing before acceptance.

Thank you for your cooperation,
Very truly yours,
Ricky R. Damerville
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

Interview with Man Who Faces 77 Years in Prison for Medical Marijuana Collective

Mike Ruggles is shown outside Hilo’s courthouse. Courtesy photo.

Fern Acres resident and medical marijuana activist Mike Ruggles will have a court hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, in the Hilo Third Circuit Court in front of Judge Nakamura. Ruggles is charged with running an “un-permitted medical marijuana dispensary” and is facing 77 years in prison.

After the police arrested Ruggles on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, the collective has since closed.

Ruggles daughter, Councilmember Jennifer Ruggles, posted the following to her Facebook account:

“Collectives are like farmers markets while dispensaries are like Walmarts for medical cannabis. I believe patients should options,” said Councilwoman Ruggles. “Come help support the man fighting so our island can have Collectives in addition to Dispensaries. Collectives are patient owned and supported, and support local patients and caregivers by allowing patients to transfer among themselves while Dispensaries are run by the rich for the rich,” she added. 

Supporters of Ruggles set up a crowd funding page where 70 people so far have contributed over $3,500.

Ruggles stated on Facebook, “I opened Hawai‘i’s first medical marijuana collective modeled after successful collectives in California, and we were raided a few months ago. While I’m facing 77 years in prison, this is an opportunity to set precedence for medical marijuana collectives in Hawai‘i.”

Big Island Now spoke to Ruggles at his house today in Fern Acres:

The following is a release that was sent to media following his arrest while he was still in jail:

Michael Ruggles, 58, a medical cannabis patient and activist who operates the Alternative Pain Management Pu`uhonua’s Collective out of his home in Fern Acres, was raided and arrested on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015.

Ruggles’ private medical cannabis collective provides a means for members to dispose of excess medical cannabis via transfer to other members who have also been authorized to use medical cannabis. Ruggles’ collective allows members to comply with the quantity restrictions set forth in Hawai`i’s medical marijuana laws and maintain an uninterrupted supply of safe medical cannabis.
The police served a search warrant and seized all the medical cannabis being cultivated on the property registered to multiple patients and caregivers, in addition to several Collective member’s excess medical cannabis in its various forms.

All business and tax records, members’ files containing protected health information, electronic devices, fine jewelry, professional music recording gear, other property resident firearms, his daughter’s college text book, a greeting card containing a personal message and some food were also confiscated from the collective. No property receipt was left by the police for the seized items.
Ruggles is being charged with 30 violations for allegedly operating an unauthorized dispensary even though the Pu’uhonua is operated as a collective. Bail has been set at $84,500.

The numerous collective medical cannabis patients who relied on the collective as a safe means to obtain their doctor approved medicine are now being forced to turn to the black market or go without.

The raid was based upon an undercover officer who presented a false doctor’s written certification that stated he was in the process of obtaining a medical marijuana card under an alias and was allowed to be processed as a member.

Under HRS 329 Medical Use of Marijuana Laws, conditions of use are defined and specify that patients must have a written certification under a physician to use medical cannibis and does not require the patient to register with the Department of Health and Department of Safety as a condition of use. It was under this premise, that the undercover officer was allowed to acquire medical cannabis according to a collective volunteer and member.

Ruggles’ is currently being held at a Hilo police cell block and his first court appearance is on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015 at 1 p.m. Friends who recently visited Ruggles say that he is in high spirits and prepared to defend the rights of medical cannabis patients to safely dispose and acquire medicine within the confines of the law.

Waimea Town Meeting to Focus on Medical Cannabis

California State University file image.

Representatives of Hawaiian Ethos have been invited to a Waimea Community Association (WCA) Town Meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, at 5:15 p.m. to provide an overview of their plans to cultivate and dispense medical cannabis to Hawai‘i Island patients.

Medical cannabis has been legal in Hawai‘i since 2000, but access to medical cannabis was challenging. Initially the Hawai‘i law enabled patients and caregivers to legally grow their own plants within certain parameters. Then in 2015, the State Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law Act 241, which became codified as Chapter 329D of the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, to establish a dispensary licensure program to make medicinal marijuana products readily available for registered patients while balancing the health and safety of patients and the public.

Today in Hawai‘i, eight licensees have received permission to operate dispensaries for licensed medical cannabis patients. Two such licensees have been authorized for Hawai‘i Island – including one group that will source its flower from Waimea. One of the companies, known as Hawaiian Ethos, has plans to open their first dispensary in Kona in the Spring and a second dispensary in Hilo later this year. Both dispensary locations will offer the full range of products that are allowed by Hawai‘i State regulations including flower, tinctures, tablets and capsules in a variety of dosages.

The Hawaiian Ethos team is led by Interim CEO Luis Mejia and COO Zachary Taffany.

Representatives of Hawaiian Ethos have been invited to a Waimea Community Association (WCA) Town Meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, at 5:15 p.m. to provide an overview of their plans to cultivate and dispense medical cannabis to Hawaii Island patients.

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Assurance has regulatory responsibility for Hawai‘i’s dispensary licensure program to ensure patient safety, public safety, and product safety and to ensure licensee comply with state law. This includes statewide oversight of the laboratories that test the safety and quality of the cannabis and manufactured cannabis products, and onsite inspections and monitoring of licensed dispensaries that grow, manufacture and sell medical cannabis products to qualifying patients.

There is no charge to attend the meeting although membership in the association is urged and dues for 2018 are due. Annual WCA membership is $15 for individuals and $25 for families, and because the organization is a not-for-profit, dues are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

The program will begin with Hawai‘i County council members providing an update on council business and Community Policing Officer Kelena Ho‘okano reporting on recent incidents and community safety concerns.

The spotlighted community non-profit for the evening will be North Hawai‘i Community Hospital’s much needed emergency room expansion project which seeks to raise about $1 million from the local community to be matched with $24 million from other public and private sources, including $1.5 million from the 2018 State Legislature. As has become a monthly custom at town meetings, attendees will be encouraged to make a tax deductible donation to this not-for-profit organization.

Starbucks will provide steaming hot coffee and the association board will provide cookies.

The meeting will be located at the Waimea School cafeteria, 67-1225 Mamalahoa Highway in Kamuela.

For more info see the website, Facebook, or call Patti Cook at (808) 937-2833 or email cookshi@aol.com.