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Michigan TV station calls Lincoln a hotbed for illegal marijuana

Lincoln police chief says that’s wrong
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln police say Lincoln is not a “known hotbed for illegal marijuana growing operations” as reported recently by one Michigan television news station. The WDIV Click on Detroit article and video segment, “Large marijuana operations foiled at Michigan airport,” was published Feb. 22 and posted at clickondetroit.com. In June, New York residents Yigal Hezi and Kona Barbera were apprehended at the Pontiac-Oakland airport in Waterford, Mich. for transporting by airplane more than 100 pounds of marijuana from Lincoln to Michigan, according to a June 15 complaint filed with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The United States Department of Homeland Security was informed of a “suspicious aircraft” on June 14 by an enforcement aviation specialist, according to the complaint. The specialist said the “flight originated in Lincoln, Calif.,” according to the complaint, and that “Lincoln, Calif. is well-known to law enforcement as an area where marijuana grow operations are very prevalent.” News Messenger calls made to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security inquiring why Lincoln was said to be well-known for marijuana grow operations were not returned by press time. The Click on Detroit article and video segment reported that “Lincoln, Calif. is a known hotbed for illegal marijuana growing operations.” When asked by The News Messenger if Lincoln is a hotbed of illegal marijuana growing operations, Lincoln Police Chief Paul Shelgren said, “Absolutely not.” “We know marijuana is grown in and around the Lincoln area but we are far from the ‘hotbed’ of activity,” Shelgren said. Marijuana grows are in Lincoln and in rural Lincoln for those who grow it for medical use, according to Shelgren. “When you get into Proposition 215 and marijuana cards, the law says they can possess and grow marijuana for their own personal use and there’s no determination of how much,” Shelgren said. “If we determine it’s for personal use and with concurrence from the District Attorney, we have to walk away.” If it’s an illegal marijuana grow and there are “indications sales are going on,” Shelgren said “we take a proactive stance and enforce the penal code.” As for the Michigan news station’s article, Shelgren said, “I think it was a little bit of sensationalism.” “There is no evidence of a major narcotic problem flying in and out of the airport that the reporter decided to put in the story,” Shelgren said. Shelgren said Lincoln’s airport is a “non-secured airstrip” with no security or inspections taking place and that the airport is used “almost exclusively (by) private pilots/aircraft.” “Yes it is possible but we have had not reports or complaints of this kind,” Shelgren said. “Especially among the aviation pilots, they would call it in. They would say we notice something suspicious. We’ve gone out there with the help of pilots with theft reports.” The Lincoln police department has not been contacted by “any law enforcement agencies concerning drug trafficking out of the Lincoln Airport,” Shelgren added. The News Messenger asked Shelgren if Lincoln police would give special attention to the airport after June’s reported drug trafficking. “The only time we would do something is if someone specifically gave us a tip that there was something going on out there,” Shelgren said. If drug trafficking was at the airport, Shelgren said, the case would be turned over to a Placer County joint law enforcement task force that handles narcotics incidents. “They have the equipment and the ability to do more in-depth investigations,” Shelgren said. “We don’t have the resources if it was trafficking in and out of the city to chase them down.” Efforts to reach Placer County for their comment on Lincoln being a so-called “hotbed” for marijuana grows were unsuccessful. Lincoln public services director Mark Miller said the airport “would not be a likely place for inappropriate activity” due to the volume of traffic at the airport. “Someone who is doing illegal activity would choose a far less exposed place to do their illicit activity,” Miller said. “We have public employees out there most of the time, and occasional public employees at night.”