An epic battle is shaping up in California as Mendocino County resists efforts from the federal government to get a hold of records relating to a now-defunct program that registered medical marijuana growers in the county.
Last year – under federal pressure – Mendocino County officials stopped the registration program which allowed growers to grow up to 99 plants if they paid a registration fee. Then last fall the feds came back, this time wanting all sorts of information about the program and the growers who registered.
“The message this sends to people across the state trying to comply in good faith with medical marijuana regulations is that they should operate below ground,” said Adam Wolf, a San Francisco attorney representing two groups, the Emerald Growers Assn. and Americans for Safe Access, who are helping to fight the feds. “That’s the last thing the government should do.”
This is something the federal government can never seem to grasp. The more they attack and threaten medical marijuana, the more it shifts to the black market, which only helps cartels and other assorted violent criminals.
“The program drew a clear line between those who were doing everything to be compliant with local and state laws and people who were outlaws,” county Supervisor John McCowen said. “The marijuana industry was completely out of control, and the permit program was an effort to bring order out of chaos, and it was working.”
So the federal government, thinking they know what’s best for Mendocino County, started raiding registered growers. Then came the threats to Mendocino county that halted the program.
McCowen said he doesn’t understand why prosecutors are focusing on the county’s registered growers. “When you’ve eliminated all those outlaw, trespass growers, then come talk to us about our legally compliant 99-plant growers.”
The answer probably lies in the fact that the registered growers are the easier targets. Raids help justify the bloated budgets of agencies like the DEA; the more growers they can raid, the bigger their budget will be next year. Bigger budgets mean bigger salaries and more expensive toys, like helicopters.
Agencies like the DEA don’t care about underground growers, they would rather get more info on some easy busts and confiscations.
Kristin Nevedal, who is the chairwoman of the Emerald Growers Assn., said her members are worried about the subpoena from the federal government seeking the county’s records. “All these folks who got involved in the zip-tie program really felt they were doing the right thing following state law.”
But they were all violating federal law, even more reason for the feds not to have their information; information that will likely be used against the growers, many of whom probably still grow.
- Joe Klare