By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A Puna woman accused of operating a sophisticated underground bunker marijuana growing operation allegedly told police the product she and her partner cultivated is “totally gourmet.”
According to an affidavit filed by prosecutors, 67-year-old Linda Stallings described the marijuana she and 60-year-old Charles “Chuck” Lanham grew in the 40-by-80-foot underground bunker on Kokokahi Road in Glenwood as top medicinal grade. The document accompanies a forfeiture suit seeking to seize $4,994 in cash, a 2008 GMC Acadia sport-utility vehicle, a 2002 GMC Sierra 2500 four-wheel drive heavy-duty pickup truck, a backhoe, trailer, three diesel
generators and other tools. Prosecutors valued the items for forfeiture at about $76,000.
Officers reportedly recovered more than 500 marijuana plants between 3 and 4 feet tall, about 10 pounds of dried marijuana and a small amount of hashish from the bunker and surrounding property.
Police said that the setup of the operation, which used two large diesel generators to power the bunker’s fans and lights, posed a significant risk of fire and potentially, a large explosion. Officers enlisted the assistance of the state Narcotics Enforcement Division and the Hawaii Fire Department’s Hazmat Team to dismantle the pot-growing operation.
Stallings and Lanham have both pleaded not guilty to several charges, including first- and second-degree commercial promotion of marijuana. They were arrested after the property was raided on Feb. 28 by police and the state Narcotics Enforcement Division. The first-degree commercial promotion charge carries a possible 20-year prison term.
Stallings is scheduled for trial on Monday before Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara, but the defense has filed a motion requesting a postponement, so it is unlikely to happen then. Lanham is scheduled for trial on Oct. 14 before Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura. Both are free on $35,000 bail each.
Stallings told officers she believes that Hawaii “will be following Washington State in the legalization of marijuana in the near future,” the document states. She reportedly said that she believes that the U.S. has “some really bad” laws, and that there are “much worse things” than marijuana, such as methamphetamine, cocaine and crack.
She reportedly told police that she and Lanham “used a good portion of their life savings” to build the bunker but that they “are very good at what they do,” prosecutors wrote. She reportedly told police that Lanham took care of the construction and maintenance of the bunker, the generator, lights and irrigation, and that she tended to the plants. She said the bunker took a year-and-a-half to build and even longer to set up. She said before they set up the bunker, she and Lanham grew pot under their home and the operation there was also powered by a generator.
The document states that Stallings told officers a firearm found in the residence was hers and is registered to her. She reportedly said she is afraid to live in the forest without a gun.
Lanham also talked to police, prosecutors wrote. He reportedly said the underground bunker took almost four years to build and that he and Stallings had operated the bunker for about five years when the raid occurred. He told officers that he spent more than $500,000 to build the bunker and equip it, according to the document. He also reportedly spent $15,000 for the Quonset hut that covers the bunker.
Lanham described himself as a “pot seller,” allegedly telling officers that he doesn’t sell marijuana to teenagers and the age of his clientele is mostly 40 to 60. He described his marijuana as a “dirty widow strain” which he imported from Alaska about 15 years ago.
According to the document, he told officers that he spent between $11,000 and $12,000 a month for diesel fuel for the generators and that he would truck it in, himself, in bulk.
The document states that he told police he could get $4,000 a pound for his marijuana a couple of years ago, that he was grossing between $350,000 and $500,000 a year, and that he would sell most of his product in Kona. He said that prices have come down since then and that as of late, he had a hard time getting $2,000 a pound. He said the lower prices were due to cheaper marijuana being imported from California.
Lanham reportedly told officers his net take-home pay was between $65,000 and $75,000 a year. He said he paid taxes and claimed approximately $50,000 a year in income, and that he was living comfortably but not extravagantly.
The document also states that Lanham told police that he had the biggest and most sophisticated indoor marijuana growing operation of anybody he knows and that at one point, his farm could have been featured in High Times magazine.
“You’re a police officer and you wanna be the best police officer you can be,” he reportedly told officers. “I’m a pot grower. I wanna be the best pot grower I can be.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.