Prineville marijuana clinic operator arrested

Denies charges; police chief denies political timing

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - A Prineville man who operates a medical marijuana clinic in downtown Prineville has been arrested on charges he sold marijuana to a minor – something he denies, claiming the charges are aimed at hurting his reputation and that of his "clinic/club."

Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team agents arrested Ryan Daniel Cole, 35, of Prineville around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday in front of the Crook County Compassion Clinic/Club – called the 5C – at 421 N. Main Street.

Cole was lodged in the Prineville jail on charges of delivery of a controlled substance "for consideration" (sale) and delivery to a minor, as well as recklessly endangering another person, said Police Chief Eric Bush.

"The arrest was made after a lengthy investigation of illegal drug activity by Cole," Bush said in a news release Thursday, noting that Cole initially was held on $15,000 bail but was released due to overcrowding at the jail.

Back in September, Cole, co-owner of 5C with Robert Mills, told the Central Oregonian newspaper they only served patients with a medical marijuana card and were following all laws pertaining to the drug.

While the downtown site was new, the men said they have been in business in Prineville for two years.

"We just want to provide the safe access without stirring up a whole lot of trouble," he told the paper, adding that their doors were open to law enforcement, who already had visited several times.

Cole contacted NewsChannel 21 shortly after his arrest Tuesday and said he did not believe it was coincidental that his arrest came on Election Day, just hours before the ballots were counted on Measure 80, the proposed marijuana legalization that, as it turns out, was rejected by voters.

"Why wait until 10 minutes before closing time and arrest me in front of the clinic?" Cole said.

"Not one of the charges are true," he said in an e-mail, "and I'm willing to call them out and say show the proof, because there isn't any."

"I have never been convicted of any drug-related crimes and have not had anything more than traffic crimes in 15 years," Cole said. "I'm a family man and do not profit from anyone's pain. Because they can't catch me breaking the law, this is their desperate attempt to destroy my name in Prineville."

Cole claimed the officers involved in the arrest "were laughing at me, acting as if this was to embarrass me in my community. They made smug comments, like these charges are over four years old and they decided tonight was the night to charge me."

Bush told NewsChannel 21 Thursday that the timing regarding the election was coincidental.

"We arrest people for selling drugs to kids 365 days a year," he said. "One had nothing to do with the other."

The police chief declined to give more details, as the investigation continues, but said "delivery for consideration" meant the minor provided "something of value" for the marijuana, not necessarily money.

Bush also said the arrest "doesn't have anything to do with the clinic."

"He's not made any complaints to us about the arrest," the police chief said, adding that Cole "has the right to make all the statements he's entitled to."

Cole said Tuesday the clinic-club has "700 members that are gearing up to picket the courthouse police station."

On Thursday he said he's learned – though he's not an organizer – that a large protest rally is being planned for Saturday afternoon in the park near the Prineville police station, focusing not just on his arrest but a former Crook County Jail inmate's $5 million lawsuit, claiming police brutality, and others with similar allegations.

Interestingly, Cole told the Prineville newspaper earlier this fall that he did not support the marijuana legalization measure -- or making the drug available to minors.

"I think that marijuana should be used medicinally, and only medicinally, and not be in children's hands," he said.

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