Freeze! Hand over the stash.


Robbery victim wants marijuana back

By Tom Sheridan

Police-Smoke-Marijuana-TooThe victim of an armed robbery that led to a high-speed chase which ended in a crash on an Interstate 15 onramp says medical marijuana gathered by police from his vehicle after the incident has yet to be returned.

John Szwec — who operates a medical marijuana cooperative, Diamond Star Remedies — said he was making a delivery on Monday night when he was robbed outside the Denny’s restaurant in Temecula. Szwec said the two men got away with an ounce of marijuana and approximately $400.

But Szwec said the Riverside County sheriff’s deputies who responded after the crash confiscated the medical marijuana he had in his vehicle that night, and will not return it.

“They have all my supply,” Szwec said. “That’s pretty much illegal.”

Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Albert Martinez, a spokesman for the department, said Wednesday that “the marijuana has been entered as evidence.” He said it was considered the “fruit of the crime.”

Police said that a large quantity of marijuana as well as hash and hash oil were taken from Szwec’s vehicle.

Initially, Szwec said police were “ecstatic” that he had helped lead them to the two robbery suspects — Eduardo Torres, 20, and Jonny Nie, 20. Torres, the driver, was arrested at the scene. Nie was arrested a few hours later at his house in Murrieta, according to a news release.

Both men were booked into Southwest Detention Center in French Valley on suspicion of robbery and conspiracy, according to jail records. Torres also was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, and was released after posting bail Tuesday, jail records show.

When the men drove away from the Denny’s on Rancho California Road after the robbery, Szwec gave chase in his pickup.

The pursuit continued through a neighborhood off Lincoln Avenue near Shivela Middle School, and ended when Torres lost control of the car and crashed on the southbound I-15 onramp at California Oaks Road. Riverside County sheriffs deputies arrived quickly, Swec said.

He said the officers ultimately confiscated the medical marijuana he had in his car that was intended for members of the collective, even though he showed them his papers of incorporation, seller’s permit and tax ID number.

And when he went to the station in French Valley to claim the marijuana the next day, he said he was told they were going to hold on to it, and that they considered it evidence of a crime.

Szwec said he could understand why the ounce that was stolen would be retained as evidence, but not the rest of the marijuana that deputies took from his vehicle after the chase ended.

Late last year, Szwec opened a medical marijuana dispensary on Los Alamos Road in Murrieta, but quickly closed it. The city of Murrieta has instituted a temporary moratorium on store-front dispensaries as the courts sort through numerous lawsuits dealing with the issue in California, where the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

Szwec now operates the business as a delivery service.

In Temecula, the city sought to close a medical marijuana operation and received an injunction in 2011 prohibiting the operation from selling, making available or providing marijuana to its members within the city limits. In response, the operation coordinated deliveries outside the city limits to avoid violating the injunction.