Sohail Hasnani, sits to the right of defense attorney Bob Schroeter, while Zeshawn H. Hasnani, far right, waits in the jury box in Lewis County Superior Court.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Centralia police found an indoor marijuana farm on Seminary Hill yesterday.
A pair of brothers who have rented a home there for the past seven months and were arrested and charged with numerous offenses say they were supplying product to medical marijuana dispensaries around the state, according to authorities.
When the men, ages 24 and 27, appeared in Lewis County Superior Court today, defense attorney Bob Schroeter noted they work in graphic design, have been to college, and called the material in question medical marijuana.
Schroeter pointed out the state has been forced to rewrite the rules regarding the distribution of marijuana.
“We’re in a gray area now,” Schroeter told the judge.
Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke said no, it was basically a for-profit marijuana operation.
Charging papers say they had four medical marijuana authorizations on the premises, but Centralia Police Department Sgt. Jim Shannon said even if it were a so-called collective garden – which allows a maximum of 45 plants – police counted 90 plants when they searched the property.
“These guys are far outside anything allowed under (Initiative) 502 or medical marijuana,” Shannon said.
Zeshawn H. Hasnani, 27, and Sohail Hasnani, 24, were ordered held on $250,000 bail.
While Initiative 502 passed by Washington voters in November has somewhat decriminalized recreational use of marijuana, no licenses have yet been issued to growers, distributors or retailers.
And local governments have kept at bay any legitimate cultivation of medical cannabis in the county via collective gardens through moratoriums and other means.
For the Centralia Police Department, it’s business as usual as far as the same old laws on the books regarding growing or distributing the weed.
According to charging papers filed today: Sgt. Shannon got a tip in early December about the home on the 2500 block of Seminary Hill Road, just east of Centralia.
He discovered a drastic spike in electricity consumption that began when the bill was put in Sohail Hasnani’s name in August. The mailing address for the bill was Boynton Beach, Florida.
Centralia police conducted night time surveillance from a neighbor’s property and not only detected the odor of marijuana coming from the Hasnani’s property, they noted security cameras in multiple locations.
Yesterday, at 1 p.m., a dozen Centralia police officers served a search warrant at the home.
After using the P.A. system for about 10 minutes, they went to the door and ordered the brothers to come out.
“They complied,” Shannon said.
They brought out their two Pit Bulls, according to charging documents.
Shannon said in one outbuilding police found one room for small plants, one room for medium plants and one room for large plants.
Plus another room for drying, he said, where there was a loaded shotgun, according to charging documents.
“There was marijuana littered all throughout the house,” Deputy Prosecutor O’Rourke wrote.
Shannon said police found about three pounds of marijuana in the home; O’Rourke wrote about 12 mason jars full.
Police seized $4,000 cash, a .22 rifle, a pistol and located numerous new, unused electronic items with tags still attached, according to O’Rourke.
The Hasnani brothers were charged today with manufacture, possession with intent to deliver, possession and maintaining a premises for using controlled substances. Special allegations of being near a school bus stop and committing the crimes while armed with a firearm are included.
And they are charged with money laundering.
According to charging documents, the brothers said they have a T-shirt business called Independent Distributors, which O’Rourke alleges is nothing more than a mailbox in Florida.
Their 2011 tax returns shows it generated more than $133,000 in revenue.
They also have another business called “Smoketronics”, according to O’Rourke.
Police also found in the home receipts for packages that have been delivered through Fed-Ex to various other states, according to charging papers.
Shannon said police have been investigating their bank accounts and financial documents. So far, they found more than $40,000 in one account, according to charging documents.
O’Rourke writes the brothers traveled around in the Jeep, with the pistol, to sell their marijuana to dispensaries.
“In the past month, the duo admitted to collecting around $6,000 in cash from these dispensaries,” O’Rourke writes.
Defense attorney Schroeter this afternoon asked Judge James Lawler to release them on $10,000 unsecured signature bonds.
O’Rourke argued for, and got, bail set at $250,000.
“These types of underground black market operations draw violent crime,” O’Rourke said.
The brothers both were found to be indigent and qualified for court appointed attorneys.
They will appear again in court on Jan. 17 for their arraignments.