Federal agents investigating an alleged unlicensed marijuana delivery business found “substantial” quantities of the drug and cash last month when they raided a residence in Milton and a warehouse in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston, according to recent court filings.
The investigation of the now-defunct “Northern Herb” delivery service was disclosed in a request by federal prosecutors for Google to turn over data related to a Gmail e-mail account and Google Docs account the service allegedly used to accept orders and track payments for marijuana.
The prosecutors, working in the office of US Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling, wrote in the filing that Northern Herb was owned and managed by Deana Caira Martin of Milton. They said agents executed search warrants on the two properties on Aug. 2, uncovering “significant evidence that Northern Herb received packages containing controlled substances that have been shipped interstate, offers controlled substances for sale on its website, and employed numerous drivers to deliver controlled substances to customers.”
Lelling’s office said in the filing it was aware of more than $2 million in credit card transactions associated with Northern Herb, but that the service conducted most of its business in cash. The documents seized from the Hyde Park warehouse include a spreadsheet listing sales, according to the filing. If the average sales shown on the spreadsheet “were to be annualized, it would suggest that Northern Herb would sell more than” $13 million of controlled substances per year, the filing states.
A spokeswoman for Lelling did not return a request for comment.
No charges have been filed against Martin in connection with the Northern Herb raid, but prosecutors said they were pursuing potential money laundering and conspiracy charges against the service and its owners, plus possible drug-related offenses.
In a brief Facebook message, Martin told a reporter that her side of the story “is more compelling than you know,” but cited the pending case and declined to comment further. Her attorney, Brad Bailey, also declined to comment.
Martin has had financial and legal troubles in the past. Wild Flour, a bakery she once owned in Milton, was seized by the state in 2013 for nonpayment of taxes. And in 2017, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ordered Martin and her husband to pay $173,000 to a former employee of their catering business in Charlestown, who alleged they failed to act when she complained about sexual harassment by another employee.
Prosecutors are not seeking the contents or subject lines of any e-mails in the Google account allegedly used by Northern Herb. However, the court filing indicates they have asked for information about the identity of the account’s owners, when they logged in, and the identities of other users who sent messages to, or received messages from, the suspected Northern Herb account. Google did not respond to a request for comment.
The federal government in recent years has rarely prosecuted those who buy and consume modest amounts of marijuana, focusing its enforcement efforts on those who grow, sell, or traffic the drug in large quantities.
While marijuana is legal in Massachusetts, state law still prohibits selling it without a license. Under federal law, marijuana remains illegal, and is categorized alongside heroin as among the most dangerous drugs — those with no accepted medical use and a “high potential for abuse.”
That categorization, made in 1970 and intended to be temporary, is widely derided by medical experts (and cannabis consumers) as inaccurate; the FDA recently approved a seizure-preventing drug manufactured in the UK that is comprised of cannabidiol, or CBD, one of the compounds in cannabis.
Northern Herb’s website is no longer available, but an archived snapshot of the page captured in January includes a menu of various cannabis strains and oils, and indicates the service imposed a $100 minimum for delivery orders near Boston, plus a $20 fee.
Similar delivery services continue to operate today, often openly. Some claim to be legal under the “caregiver” provision of the state’s medical marijuana law, while others claim to be legally giving away marijuana for free alongside other products or services that cost money. State authorities have rejected those interpretations of the law, saying caregivers can only work with one registered medical marijuana patient at a time and that sham “gift” transactions remain illegal, but little enforcement has followed those warnings.
Proponents of marijuana are divided over whether the government should crack down on illicit services.
Owners of regulated marijuana businesses have complained they’re being unfairly undercut by illegal delivery operations that don’t pay fees and taxes.
Activists, however, remain concerned about racial disparities in the enforcement of drug laws, and contend that unregulated marijuana sellers shouldn’t be sent to jail now that the drug is legal. They also say unregulated sellers are satisfying demand in the absence of licensed pot stores, which were scheduled to debut in July but have yet to open amid delays in the approval process.