Trial for two local men charged with using a medical marijuana collective as a cover for illegal drug sales is expected to begin in mid-July, authorities said Tuesday.

Defendants Joseph Grumbine and Joseph Byron appeared briefly at the Long Beach Superior Court Tuesday for a trial date setting.

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The pair are scheduled to return to court on May 14, and their trial is scheduled to begin within the next 60 days, according to court staff.

This marks their second trial, with the first ending in mistrial earlier this year.

They had already been convicted on all counts when motions by the defense for a new trial were granted because the judge handling the original trial erred and sent a congratulatory letter to the prosecutor before sentencing.

Police and prosecutors said the defendants used the collectives as profit-driven drug dealing operations run like stores with frequent flier cards, specials and discounts offered inside the businesses.

The defendants, authorities charged, tried to hide the businesses by using fictitious business names. They were also accused of stealing electricity from neighboring businesses to hide the large amount of power needed to grow the plants. Bills were paid by money order to eliminate paper trials. And the defendants, police and prosecutors argued, underreported their sales tax for two years, pocketing more than $2 million.

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The defense maintains there was no illegal activity at the cooperatives, two of which were in Long Beach and one in Garden Grove.

Supporters insist the charges were nothing more than an attack by zealous police and prosecutors in violation of the state’s medical marijuana law and accused authorities of fabricating evidence.

News Hawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Author: Tracy Manzer
Copyright: Los Angeles Newspaper group
Contact: [email protected]
Website: Trial set for this summer for Long Beach medical marijuana collective operators