Herbal Tea & Tobacco Owner Accused Of Selling Marijuana
The owner of Bangor's Herbal Tea & Tobacco head shop is accused of growing and selling pot, along with money laundering.
Christopher Ruhlin, 48, and his employee, Terrence Sawtelle, also 48, of Bangor, have been indicted for one count each of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. Ruhlin is also indicted on two counts of maintaining a drug-involved place and seven counts of structuring bank transactions to avoid reporting deposits of $10,000 or more to the federal government. Federal authorities are in hopes of seizing the Bangor and Frankfort properties where they allege the pot was grown and sold and the cash Ruhlin allegedly made off those sales.
Marijuana is legal in the state of Maine, although commercial sales of pot have been put on hold until next year. Growing and selling marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Ruhlin's attorney Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor told the BDN his client denies all charges and feels that he's being made a scapegoat in the legal tug-of-war between state and federal drug authorities.
Federal drug agents seized about 400 pot plants, nearly 300 marijuana root bulbs, processed marijuana, and other items last year at a property on the North Searsport Road. A few months later, 23 containers of processed marijuana were seized from the 13 Owls Club Lounge, located next to Herbal Tea & Tobacco. While Ruhlin is not licensed to sell medical marijuana, the lounge offers a place for patients to legally smoke outside their homes.
Ruhlin has pleaded not guilty to the charges, while Sawtelle's attorney declined to respond to the BDN. Both men face up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million dollars on the drug charge alone.