(BIVN) – Mike Ruggles, the man who was arrested in 2015 for operating his medical cannabis Alternative Pain Management Pu’uhonua Collective in Fern Acres, was found not guilty after a trial in Hilo court.
His daughter, former Hawaiʻi County Councilwoman Jen Ruggles, and supporter Sara Steiner, spoke outside the court room shortly after the verdict.
“I think they really felt my father’s heart,” Jen Ruggles said of the jury’s decision, “and his real purpose was not to hurt anybody.”
“He’s a compassionate man, trying to help people,” Ruggles said. “The majority of the people that he was helping were actually hospice patients, that passed in the 4 years [since] he was arrested. A lot of them had passed not able to get cannabis, not able to get their medicine.”
Mike Ruggles introduced Big Island Video News to his Alternative Pain Management Pu’uhonua Collective in July 2015. It was said to be the first of its kind on Hawaii Island. At that point, the collective had been open for six months, at a time when medical marijuana dispensaries were about to become legal in the state of Hawaiʻi. Governor David Ige signed the legislation within that same month. But Ruggles said his Pu’uhonua Collective was not a dispensary, and he said his collective was operating within the confines of the law.
In September 2015, police arrested Ruggles and charged him with 31 counts after a narcotics search warrant was served on his Fern Acres property. Police took 134 marijuana plants, and about 50 pounds of cannabis.
Years later, after numerous delays and changes of counsel, Ruggles got a jury trial. The night before the trial began, all but two charges were dropped.
Ruggles defended himself in the trial. Ruggles’ friends and medical cannabis patients showed their support by attending the proceeding.
“My faith in the justice system has severely declined,” Jen Ruggles reflected, “however, my faith in people has not. My faith in people has really gone up. We’re just so grateful that the jury was able to see through the smoke and mirrors and see that my father is an innocent man.”