Hearne: Coffee Wonk Bests Cops in ‘Fake Pot’ Trial

cc41_5694943.tYou win some, you lose some…

Today Coffee Wonk owner Micah Riggs won a big one. For two and one half years the 30 year-old Midtown businessman has been battling prosecutors and Kansas City Police who busted him for allegedly selling illegal “incense” in 2010.

That after police responded to a call from Riggs shop to investigate a robbery. One thing lead to another and the cops ended up busting Riggs and confiscating his supply of SYN- a legal substance, he insist and the court today upheld – that had replaced the recently banned synthetic pot known as K2.

On and on the government dragged things out until Riggs finally got his day in court this past Monday. The jury delivered the verdict today.

“I just got out of court and I won!” Riggs says. “I had two counts against me and on the main one I won. On the second count, which was the minor one, the jury couldn’t decide. They felt they didn’t have enough information, so it was a hung decision.

“The first count was the Class B felony for possession with intent to distribute and selling SYN incense out of my coffee shop,” Riggs adds. “And the ruling was not guilty – we proved our case. It’s been two and one half long years and it’s good to have that off my back.”

What turned the tide in Riggs favor?

“We didn’t hear any answers from the jury,” Riggs says. “It was a very hard case for us to defend because we had lab work demonstrating that (SYN) was free of any of the compounds that were scheduled. And the state’s position was it was illegal no matter what was in it.

“And they said it tested dirty, but half their tests more or less said it was free of JWH018 which had just become illegal and was one of the original K2 compounds. And half their tests said it was there, so we got it tested by a third party who said it had like .05 percent, a trace amount. But their own chemist admitted that for that small an amount it was definitely not there intentionally and could have been from cross contamination, possibly from their own labs. So it was clear (the government) was grasping at straws.

“We couldn’t bring that up but the fact that so much of it tested negative I think gave us reasonable doubt. I mean, I was in a roomful of police officers and I was still selling it to customers, so if I thought I was doing something illegal I sure wouldn’t have been doing that.”

IMG_2027Which brings us to Riggs latest bust right before the trial last month.

“They came in under the guise of being Regulated Industries, but Regulated Industries has no jurisdiction over incense and potpourri, that’s not what they do. They investigate cigarettes and alcohol. I spoke to a woman at Regulated Industries and she said, ‘That was not us.’ And the (police) said they didn’t need a warrant because they were with Regulated Industries.

“I’ve got the October bust on video and it’s just sad. They questioned my friend who was working there without Mirandizing him and took all my money and product to test or something like that. They didn’t even know what it was and they said it was illegal under Federal guidelines. They’re going to have some real problems with this case, because our police department shouldn’t act like vigilantes and operate above the law or outside the law to achieve what they want.”

The $64 million question being, will Riggs reopen Coffee Wonk?

“Yes and no,” he says. “My favorite day of the year has always been St. Patrick’s Day, so I’m going to open up for one last day on St. Patrick’s Day. We’re not going to sell any potpourri, I just want to go out on a positive note and everything will be completely free. We’ll take donations and then give the money to Alcoholics Anonymous.”

Riggs’ bottom line on this entire adventure turned misadventure:

“I don’t flaunt the laws, I’m just against these substance laws that enable corruption. I think they enable people to to abuse their power. Like law enforcement and politicians that are so afraid of looking weak on crime instead of trying to be smart on crime. This is it. I can’t be open anymore – it’s not safe. The police came in in October brandishing drawn weapons. I can’t take a chance on putting my customers in danger of the use of excessive force. Because anything could happen. Thank God my customers reacted the way they did the last time, but anything could have happened.”


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41 Responses to Hearne: Coffee Wonk Bests Cops in ‘Fake Pot’ Trial

  1. paulwilsonkc says:

    Too bad they don’t spend this amount of time on things that matter; East of Troost violence, illegal immigrants, et al.

    • balbonis moleskine says:

      Trust me paul, this is a brave new world of research chemicals that you dont really understand.

      For someone your age the best analogy I can think of is that he opened a “brown acid” store and told people it was Sunshine.

      I put in a more descriptive post below but dropped a s bomb so it is temporarily stuck in limbo…

      • Libertarian says:

        His customers were grown ups, and knew damn well what they were purchasing from Mr. Riggs. They voluntarily bought the ‘brown acid’ as you call it.

        Micah didnt lie to anyone.

        • balbonis moleskine says:

          actually he didn’t let them know the chemical content of what they were ingesting at all. That’s totally false

          • MomofaK2drugaddict says:

            My son was not an adult when he purchased it…he has been doing it since he was 16…and they know exactly what they are selling. NOT POTPOURRI.

          • Leslie says:

            Mr. Riggs sold a product manufactured by another company. Why is it his responsibility to ensure the product he contracted for was actually provided to him? Do storekeepers test products such as Comet, Windex, etc. to ensure the product is what they say it is?

          • Some "Mother"... says:

            Mother of a K2 addict, your son didn’t buy from Micah because Micah never sold to people underage. He even made people show an id if they looked young. If they didn’t have an id or were to young they were told they couldn’t buy any. That rule was law. Why? Cause kids are dumb and Micah was afraid they would misuse the product. I was a regular at Coffee Wonk and saw people turned away all the time because they looked young and didn’t have an id. One time some old guy bought it and Micah saw him give the incense stuff to a guy who looked underage and Micah went outside and took the product back!!! He gave the old guy his money back and told him to never ever enter his store again. Besides, nobody makes your son use whatever the hell he uses so stop placing the blame on everyone else.

    • John says:

      I’m with you buddy.

      These cops and DA think they can make their own rules and laws by charging people with whatever THEY think is wrong. As this case proves, they had nothing on Mr. Riggs, but they wanted him gone, so they treated him like a criminal before he ever had a day in court. And guess what, when he did have his day in court he was found innocent. Shocking…

      It is not the DA’s or cops’ job to make laws, they are supposed to ONLY enforce laws. Unfortunately, in KCMO this DA thinks they have the power to make their own laws (by trying to convict innocent people and then using those convictions to convict others). This is not how the system is supposed to work. If a DA wants to change laws they should go to Washington and be a politician. Until they go to Washington, they should stick to only enforcing the law.

      We should not stand for corrupt DAs that waste our tax dollars convicting innocent people because they think they are law makers.

  2. Leslie says:

    My full respect is with Micah…and the jury has helped restore my faith in the justice system. I don’t know much about the product and have no desire personally to use it…but Mr. Riggs showed real tenacity in his battle for justice. There are a few new heroes in town…Mr. Riggs and the jurors. I’ll be there, celebrating this St. Patrick’s Day.

  3. They love Jesus and so will you or else! says:

    Justice finally prevailed! There should be a lot of questions being asked in K.C. about their police department and D.A. What a witch hunt they put on harassing a fine young business owner and contributor to his community. Now, he has to go out of business anyway because of lingering fears of a corrupt system. I’m proud of you Micah for standing your ground and getting your day in court. At least you and most of your jury of peers understand the true meaning of democracy…it was a good day for that anyway.

  4. Libertarian says:

    And the best part-the cops and prosecutors responsible for this farce of an accusation will NEVER have to admit they f’d up, and will probably go on to commit the same wasteful act again.

    Congratulations Micah. Too bad your accusers wont be punished or fired for screwing up.

  5. chuck says:

    I would like to hear what balbonis has to say.

    That said, the war on drugs is, has been and will continue to be a loser waste of money that criminalizes and marginilizes citizens who, were it not for this misguided effort would, in my opinion, not be criminals.

    • balbonis moleskine says:

      The only reason why he won is because he is literally spraying “research chemicals” (chemicals which have not been tested, even on animals and are for research purposes only) so instead of some synthetic cannabis chemical analog like k2 (which may be harmful as well, we have NO IDEA…roll the dice) you get poopy stuff like piperazine, lsa, 2ce, 4mmc, metedrone, etc that hasnt been tested in any significant way either anecdotally or scientifically.

      All under the guise of being safer.

      As idiotic as doing cocaine or amphetamine or opium is at least you know the effects, safe doses, etc. And hundreds of years worth of data (90 or so for amphetamines).

      They don’t even know the LD-50, much less what a safe(ish) dose is!

      This guy may be the most evil person in kc. He is setting back the legalization movement and endangering people.

      Legally correct, morally wrong in this case.

      Legalize and tax marijuana. It puts jerks like this out of business and is a viable hard drug use reduction strategy (see portugal, switzerland).

      They literally had people cooking these research chemicals above coffee wonk like little walter whites. They weren’t buying it in packaged form.

      I won’t be shocked to hear this guy is/was a narc either. He seems so bold and inviting. Notice too, he’s got the Pitch in his pocket.

      • chuck says:


        That is horrible.

      • Tom F says:

        You are so full of it…

        You either know you are full of it, or you do not know you are full of it. Either way, you are full of it.

        Coffee Wonk never, I repeat, NEVER sold any of these products that weren’t bought and sold SEALED from a separate supplier. This non-sense about them making there own stuff is complete hearsay created by the cops. Yes, there was research done on the products at Coffee Wonk, but NO PRODUCTS were ever created or sold by Coffee Wonk. Get your facts straight. The prosecution even said the upstairs of Coffee Wonk was not being used for anything at the time they entered it. The “Lab” was a few empty beakers that weren’t being used for anything. Did you not read about this case? Or did you decide to just comment on where without knowing what you were talking about?

      • Leslie says:

        Mr. Riggs did not produce any product. Mr. Riggs did not spray chemicals on anything and sell it. Mr. Riggs purchased a product from a manufacturer and resold it in his store.

  6. MomofaK2drugaddict says:

    If you only saw first hand what K2 can do to someone. My 20 year old son has been addicted for 4 years…it has caused brain damage and twitching and is probably the worst thing I have seen affect young people in a very long time. It is incense mixed with things that we do not have a clue about. So…this man is selling it to our young people and it is killing them. Do a little research about synthetic marijuana…it’s so scary.

    • chuck says:

      Wow. That is a terrible story.

      Please don’t take my comments in the wrong way.

      I think the Hippie Lettuce should be legalized because it is impossible to stop folks from smoking it. Like booze.

      I have no idea what K2 is, but I would think that if Hippie Lettuce was legal folks would just get high and eat Fritos.

      So, so sorry to hear of your difficulty.

      I have never read anything about K2 addiction.

      My prayers.

      • MomofaK2drugaddict says:

        K2 and Marijuana are completely different things. Marijuana is a natural plant grown from the earth. K2 is incense laced with chemicals. It is cheap and easy to get…my son has been purchasing it at shops like that since he was 16. $5 a bag … He can’t go 30 minutes without smoking it…all day and everyday. He has been in rehab, jail, slept on the streets all because of this crap. I will not support anyone who is selling it…and they know what they are selling…trust me!!!

        I appreciate your prayers. Please don’t stop. For all the young adults who have become addicted to this crap. Please remember…it is not the same thing as marijuana…hence the name synthetic marijuana.

        • the dude says:

          Yeah, the inventor of the original synthesized MJ stated that it was never intended to be smoked and zero testing concerning the smoking of it was done. He strongly recommended against smoking it, period. And these other synthesized chemicals that baloney talked about are pretty scary, they are on the bath salt level of our understanding of them. All these chemists know about these concoctions are that they affect the brain and get the user high. They have no idea of the long term effects on the body of a frequent user.

    • John says:

      Wow, is “MomofaK2drugaddict” a fake handle or what?

      You’re fake, it’s obvious. Here’s why: if your son has been buying “K2” for 4 years, were is he buying it? K2 has been outlawed for 3 year. Hmmmm…. Coffee Wonk hasn’t sold it in over 3 years because they were ALWAYS compliant with the law (proven in court). Who are you? What’s your badge number?

      Stop lying to people. Stop posting fake comments on websites. Stop harassing innocent people. If you want to change the law, hang up your badge and go to Washington, become a politician.

      • MomofaK2drugaddict says:

        Well…I’m not a fake. And I am definitely not saying he bought it directly from Coffee Wonk. I am saying he has bought it for over four years. Do you really think that because something is outlawed…they don’t sell it? How does any drug addict get drugs???

        I simply commented that I have a son who is addicted to K2. He started using at the age of 15 and like most people who get addicted to drugs…had no idea it was something he would become addicted to.

        You are an angry person…I am not a fake…just a very worried mother. He does make his own choices at this point and he is definitely suffering the consequences from it.

        So John…before you become so mean and angry at someone…have a little compassion.

    • Leslie says:

      It’s tragic about your son and I hope he improves. However, what makes you think that Mr. Riggs sold to minors? He instituted a strict policy of not selling to minors.

      • MomofaK2drugaddict says:

        I actually appreciate reading this comment. That makes me happy he has some morals. I wish this incense crap was just not available at all. Since it does cause so much damage…just take it off the market.

        • Senior.in.KC says:

          Well, I tried to get this story out of my head, but realized that wasn’t happening so I spent a good amount of time this weekend looking into some specifics of this case and the shop owner. And in some respects I came away impressed with the guy. Based on interviews he’s given over the years, he was using these products as a means to make the bigger point that cannabis needs to be legal. It’s actually a clever strategy. Through the various laws that have passed, he has been able get a challenge in higher courts to the constitutionality of scheduling cannabis as a schedule I controlled substance. It is also refreshing to see he did not sell to minors and was pushing regulations on what should and should never be used in the making of these products. I agree with you that these products should go away and I don’t think this shop owner would disagree with that. I am not a personal fan of cannabis, but it’s effects have been observed for thousands of years and has been studied academically for over a century, it’s time for the government to give it up and allow regulated cannabis to be sold. By doing that these products would go away just as fast as they came onto the scene here in Kansas City. Whether the government likes what he did or not, his lawful business in no way justifies them to violate his fourth amendment rights by forging his signature on a consent to search form (which a hand writing expert testified to in court) and entering his unit upstair without permission under the guise of it being an emergency for them to do so as they claim. I hope your son gets treatment to help him kick his addiction. The best way to do that is to find out what compounds are being used in the products you are buying. For not too much money you can have any reputable forensic lab test the product to identify its chemical makeup, with that data an addiction specialist can have a much more clear idea on how to go forward with treatment. There might even be something in there that is not a cannabinoid at all, but a different type of compound that is the stronger culprit here. Good luck to you ma’am and God bless.

  7. Senior.in.KC says:

    Synthetic-of, relating to, or produced by chemical or biochemical synthesis; especially : produced artificially (2) : of or relating to a synfuel

    I have tried to take a neutral view of this subject matter, but these negative comments are just too much. First lets get over the word synthetic, it should not carry a negative connotation in any way shape or form. Your vitamins supplements, aspren and prescription drugs are all synthetic. Just because something is synthesized has no bearing in and of itself on whether a compound is harmful or not. While I am not going to defend the guy this story is about, I have to point out that it is improper to compare all “k2” or whatever it is called as being similar to one another. One places may be much better (lower risk) than another places. In my work I deal with determining standards, things like these products lack standards since there is no regulation on them. If the government was smart they would legalize cannabis because it is better understood, but they refuse to do than therefore these controversial products exist. If I had to form any opinion, I guess I would have to put the blame on the government, these things don’t need to exist, but do because the government refuses to do the intelligent thing here and decriminalize or out right legalize regulated cannabis. The last point I wanted to make is in the earlier part of my career I worked with a synthetic cannabinoid. At the time it was not known that it was a cannabinoid, we just knew it helped relieve many people’s pain. This cannabinoid is called Acetaminophen (know known to be an analogue of AM 404), better known as Tylenol. Peace to all.

    • Leslie says:

      Mr. Riggs called for regulations and standards of the product and even asked government officials to reconsider the ban on marijuana as it has returned to its historic place as a natual medicine in some states. I personally have never tried marijuana or any illicit drug…but this case has caused me to pause and think about the issues more carefully. I’d love for our community to gather and really start talking about the issues and embrace a wise and workable solution that does not criminalize good people.

  8. Brian says:

    I’ve been following this case for a long time, and the article above doesn’t even scratch the surface of the impropriety on the part of government officials. They get away with it because of the negative media attention that stems from the sudden outbreak of random unregulated chemicals over the last few years. Every person running a self-regulated, tested business in plain sight is contrasted by a lot more who are just trying to cash in. People are always going to misuse something (the number 2 drug of choice in Africa is glue), and the statistics we have stay pretty constant all the way back to Roman times. If your kid is hooked on random shit he’s buying in random places, you won’t want to hear it, but chances are that’s what your kid was destined for. There is no synthetic marijuana… there are herbs with any number of chemicals on them. They only proliferate because people will take the easiest route they can find for recreational substances. Anyone shouting at someone trying to make the best of an unregulated, dangerous marketplace should demand better options. Shout at the FDA for approving deadly medicines… shout at drug companies that bury detrimental research.

  9. Peaches & Cream says:

    I am getting the feeling that some of these negative comments are coming for cops. If they would forge a signature on a search warrant then they would do anything……

    • Smothered says:

      I think you mean that the police forged Riggs name on a consent to search form. Anyway I have to agree with you about some of the negative comments are probably coming from cops posing as regular people. Whether you agree with Riggs on this issue or not, police should not take the law into their own hands and do what they want.

      • Leslie says:

        All improper acts that treat people unfairly under the law and downgrade the status of our heroic law enforcement officers (yes, there are some exceptional officers in our community) should be thorougly investigated and corrective action taken where wrongdoing is determined. It was disappointing that our public leaders have not called for an investigation. However, the same day as the jury decision was announced, the Mayor asked that oversight of the police department return to Kansas City. Apparently, the State took over due to allegations of corruption and wrongdoing? Very interesting.

  10. Kosh by Gosh says:

    First off, I’d suggest that some of the earlier posters on this article work on their reading comprehension levels ASAP. Also another aside, to “Mom” you might wanna change your handle to just “Mom of an addict” as you describe someone with an addictive personality disorder that would have gotten them addicted from anything possible from Nintendo to KitKat Bars. As you’ve also described an adult he’s a big boy and responsible for his own actions, and foisting off his irresponsible activities onto a total stranger is disingenuous at best and a straw man at worst.

    That being said, lets move on to the heart of the matter…There was no “K2” sold at the Coffee Wonk, it was perfectly legal Potpourri Incense. Said potpourri was not sold to minors and was clearly marked as not containing any illegal substances and not meant for human consumption. Also the Potpourri was stringently tested by an independent lab that also provides testing for the DEA (Drugs Enforcement Agency) and was found to be completely free of any illegal substances.

    Not only was said potpourri being sold at the Coffee Wonk, it was also sold at businesses throughout the Kansas City and Metro area as well as numerous businesses in Midtown and its environs.

    Mr. Riggs is not the bad guy, nor is he a “narc” as the bilious Balbonis would have you believe. Micah Riggs is a savvy entrepreneur who’s business acumen allowed him to not only create The Coffee Wonk, but 3 other businesses that included a Conde’ Nast rated Restaurant, a Recording Studio and a retail space. Mr. Riggs provided employment in the Midtown area, that now sadly will no longer be available to his Midtown neighbors.

    The real question to any local Kansas City business person is how can a County Prosecutor and police department be so corrupt and dangerously vindictive to take advantage of the armed robbery of a local business to lie to said business owner, forge a signature on a search warrant, and go on an illegal search and seizure of said business owner’s legal wares, in an attempt to single out Mr. Riggs without also as aggressively pursuing all the other businesses in the area engaged in offering the same legal wares?

    This should be a wake up call to all business in Kansas City, that if they are victims of crime that reporting to the proper authorities may too also result in their being falsely accused and even having their business destroyed in the aftermath.

    Also Kansas City’s crime victims should also be asking about the use of the city’s Crime Lab resources that were diverted from more pressing investigations such as murders and worse so one local prosecutor and a duplicitous police department (still under the auspices of the State of Missouri due to the continuing corruption that the KCPD is world famous for) could repeatedly harass a innocent businessman and deprive him of his rights under the color of law.

    Again Mr. Riggs was the victim here plain and simple, and as we are still a Constitutional Republic, he should be able to peruse his dreams unfettered by the local constabulary. To equate Mr. Riggs as anything but an asset to his community is to give carte blanche to those who would use their hobnail boots to trample upon the innocent. Any negative assertions about the KCPD were well proven by their actions and have earned the public’s acrimony.

    Thank G-d that justice has prevailed, and that Micah Riggs rises from this into even bigger and better things, G-dspeed sir.

    • Kosh by Gosh says:

      that should read “Consent to Search Form not Search Warrant”

    • Leslie says:

      Touche…athis is a wakeup call to our community.

    • MomofaK2drugaddict says:

      I agree with your post 100%. I appreciate your comment. My only response is that this incense is not made for human consumption…but that is what it is being used for. Just like bath salts are not being used for baths anymore. I appreciate Coffee Wonk being diligent about who they sold to and what they sold.

      I love that this discussion actually came up…there are so few people who know anything about K2.

  11. chuck says:

    This is one of the most interesting threads I have ever seen on kcconfidential.

    Hearne, ya gotta do a follow up.

    I am still confused as heck.

  12. Leslie says:

    It was great to see Mr. Riggs back at the Coffee Wonk, serving beverages and snacks to people of all ages. The place looked great. I’m proud of Micah.

  13. mike says:

    I don’t smoke pot. I have never smoked pot. I don’t like being around people smoking pot. Having said all that, the laws against it have not stopped anybody from getting it. All they have done is create a multi-billion dollar criminal industry similar to what prohibition did in the 1920s. In both cases it did way more harm than good. Ruling against the will of the people always has and always will.

    • chuck says:

      Mike is right in my opinion.

      The article and the comments are really great, but I really still wonder who sold what, when they sold it, what it actually does and is it illegal?

      Not to mention a time line.

      I wish the best for the K2Mom of addict.

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