One neighborhood dispensary masquerades as ice cream store
■ By Chris Smith / Advisory Editor
Local and county authorities raided a number of illegal drug dispensaries in Hemet and San Jacinto during the past two weeks recovering thousands of dollars in illegal marijuana and methamphetamines, cash, and weapons, and arresting several individuals.
In the most recent raid, officers from the Riverside District Attorney’s Office Cannabis Regulation Task Force searched four Hemet businesses Jan. 31 executing warrants and confiscating cannabis and marijuana paraphernalia.
The Hemet businesses raided by the task force included:
• Hidden Gem, 125 E. Stetson Ave.
• Herbs and Essential Oils, 207 E. Mayberry Ave.
• Hemet Healing, 207 E. Florida Ave., and
• Valley Ice Cream, 125 N. Tahquitz Ave.
Six other businesses in Banning, Jurupa Valley, Lake Elsinore, Temecula, and Thousand Palms also were searched after presenting the owners with search warrants.
The Task Force paid special attention to Hemet’s Valley Ice Cream, which it said presented itself as a store that children might visit to buy ice cream since the location featured pictures of super heroes and colorful flags flying outside.
“But it wasn’t ice cream being sold there – it was cannabis at an illegally operating dispensary,” according to John Hall, Riverside County DA’s spokesperson.
The task force confiscated five pounds of finished cannabis and arrested a security guard for investigation of possession of a stolen handgun, authorities said.
“The aim of the task force is not to shut down legally operating facilities but rather to ensure fair business practices and keep criminal activity out of the legal cannabis industry and out of our communities,” Hall told news outlets, including Riverside County News Source, after the raids.
Numerous local, county, state, and federal agencies were involved in the operation.
A week earlier, on Jan. 25, San Jacinto sheriff’s deputies raided a honey oil (concentrated cannabis) lab and confiscated nearly $150,000 worth of drugs, $6,000 in cash, and a loaded firearm and ammunition.
Sgt. Julio Olguin stated that officers confiscated 57 pounds of marijuana, 167 grams of honey oil, a half pound of methamphetamine, and laboratory equipment from a residence in the 100 block of S. Sheriff Avenue in San Jacinto. The location apparently was a dispensary for illegal marijuana among other drugs.
Arrested for investigation of numerous felony violations involving drugs and firearms was Eric D. Stewart, 55, who was booked into the Southwest Detention Center but has since been released on $100,000 bond, according to jail records.