By Darren Pai
HONOLULU (KHNL) - The US Attorney's office said a Big Island man tried to use the state's medical marijuana law to hide a drug trafficking operation.
Federal investigators said Richard Velasco applied for a medical marijuana caregiver's certificate in 2004, despite having a felony drug conviction on his record.
"How can it be that he is then given a caregiver certificate by the state," said Ed Kubo, US Attorney.
Last month Velasco was indicted by a federal grand jury for cultivating marijuana plants. Investigators found 222 marijuana plants when they searched his home in September of 2005.
"How can it be that once someone is issued a caregiver certificate, that this certificate cannot be reviewed or revoked after being arrested or convicted of a drug trafficking offense," Kubo said.
Velasco faces a sentence ranging from ten years to life in prison if convicted of the federal marijuana charge.
Investigators said the case is proof some are taking advantage of a loophole in the state's medical marijuana law.
"The obvious absence of state regulations to prevent known marijuana cultivators and traffickers from abusing the medical marijuana law only serves to shield their illegal activities."
Federal and state investigators want to amend the law to prevent convicted drug offenders from participating in the program. Some state lawmakers said they're willing to hear them out.
"I'd be happy to help the U.S. Attorney clean up the loophole, or tighten up the loophole," said Rep. Tommy Waters, House judiciary chairman.
Waters noted the legislature may need to look for creative ways to address the issue.