The case against Nature’s Harvest and several of its employees for allegedly selling medical marijuana and running a criminal enterprise continued Thursday.
It was the first case management conference since prosecutors arraigned the business, its founder and an employee.
A grand jury indicted Nature’s Harvest founder and director Sheelah Golliglee last month for running a criminal syndicate and selling marijuana. She was the only person taken into custody Feb. 8 when officers from the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office conducted a surprise raid on Nature’s Harvest offices in Payson and Lakeside and Golliglee’s homes. She later posted bond and was released.
The raid came after a six-month investigation that included undercover stings where officers reportedly bought medical marijuana from both clinics, including from Golliglee and her executive assistant, Stacy Johanna Palace, said Chief Deputy James Molesa with the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office.
He said Nature’s Harvest was charging patients for medical marijuana, but passing it off as a consultation fee.
“This is not whether or not you believe in the medical marijuana law, it is people capitalizing on somebody else’s pain and addiction to make a profit.” Molesa said. “We actually bought marijuana after giving (Golliglee) $65.”
At the time of her arrest, Golliglee maintained her innocence and said she was operating within the scope of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Law passed by voters.
Later, on Nature’s Harvest Web site, Golliglee wrote that “No one ever bought marijuana from me and there has NEVER BEEN A CHARGE for any educational, anything for $65.”
She wrote that the only people capitalizing on somebody else’s pain and addiction were pharmaceutical companies with patients addicted to synthetic narcotics.
Days after the raid, Nature’s Harvest patients received a telephone recording from Golliglee stating Nature’s Harvest would reopen within a few weeks.
Golliglee would not say whether the facility had reopened when the Roundup called her for comment. She also refused to comment on the investigation, saying she was upset at the Roundup’s description of her outfit when she was arrested.
On Feb. 28, Palace appeared for arraignment in Navajo County Superior Court on a charge of selling marijuana from the Lakeside Nature’s Harvest office, according to court documents.
A grand jury also indicted Nature’s Harvest as an enterprise on five charges, including selling marijuana and a narcotic drug, said Jason Twede, Navajo County deputy attorney.
A doctor who worked at the facility was also indicted for forgery and fraudulent schemes, but has not appeared for his arraignment, said Twede.
Nature’s Harvest opened in Payson in September as a wellness center and place to help patients acquire medical marijuana cards through the state’s program.
In an interview with the Roundup in July, Golliglee described the process patients go through at Nature’s Harvest. She said if they don’t already have a medical marijuana card, they can fill out an application and meet with the doctor at Nature’s Harvest for a recommendation. After turning in their paperwork with the state and getting a card, they meet with her for a consultation. Based on their condition, a cannabinoid is suggested to best treat their ailment. She said she brings patients together with caregivers, people that can legally grow medical marijuana for patients that do not live near a licensed dispensary. There is currently no dispensary open in Gila County.
The only money exchanged between patients and Nature’s Harvest is for the wellness consultation and education, she said.
The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office alleges money was exchanged for marijuana at Nature’s Harvest. Calling it a consultation fee or donation still makes it illegal because Nature’s Harvest is not a state-licensed dispensary, Molesa said.
During the search of Nature’s Harvest office, officers confiscated patient medical records. This has raised some concern among patients regarding confidentially.
Molesa said the search warrant specifically let investigators take medical records, which he says the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows.
He said the records are being protected like any other piece of evidence.