|Mendocino grow room: Puff, puff, pass? Not so fast|
It's not easy being a district attorney, especially in a mostly pot-friendly place like Mendocino County. Whatever law enforcement priorities you follow, it's guaranteed you're going to piss off one group while pleasing another.
Mendocino D.A. Meredith Lintott has gotten a compelling refresher course this week in just how precarious it can be hacking your way through the jungle of competing interests when it comes to enforcing widely unpopular Marijuana laws in northern California.
Limited budgets, limited staffing, limited time -- all of these things are faced on a daily basis by the D.A.'s office. Even though it shies away from using words like "overwhelmed" when describing its caseload, the office could still be excused for having something of a besieged bunker mentality. Every arrest generates piles of paperwork; cumulatively, law enforcement efforts generate what must be an intimidating mountain of bureaucracy-ridden documents.
|County of Mendocino|
Lintott says she was just helping to set work priorities for her office
during a period of short-staffing when she made the decision not to
pursue basic pot cultivation cases -- which she defined as cases
involving fewer than 200 plants or 20 pounds. She says it was a
temporary guideline, never intended to be made public, and wasn't mean
to indicate a new policy for the District Attorney's office.
But a week after an internal memo containing the guidelines was leaked to a Ukiah newspaper
and made public, Lintott is under heavy fire (predictably) from
zealously frothing anti-pot, law-enforcement types and (perhaps equally
predictably) from some of her conservative constituents -- presumably
the same folks who, last year, voted in Measure B
, which repealed a 2000 ballot measure decriminalizing cultivation of up to 25 plants for personal use in Mendocino.
Lintott, who was not happy the memo escaped her office, told the Ukiah Daily Journal that
she wrote the document after losing three experienced attorneys -- one
to retirement, one to resignation and one who was fired -- and having
two more attorneys missing work for medical reasons. The attorneys,
known as "4s," signifying the top level of experience, are the only
ones Lintott says she could use in Marijuana cases. The D.A.'s office
is left with only five "4s" -- three in Ukiah, one in Willits and one
Fort Bragg -- all of whom are busy with murder, rape, and home invasion
memo indicated that if a Marijuana case is rejected by the D.A.'s
office, the attorney can write "Good investigation of incident -
insufficient staff," signaling that the case could be revisited as soon
as staffing permits. She also said that if law enforcement really feels
a particular case should be prosecuted, they can come to her and make
their case. Once she has the staff, according to Lintott, some of the
cases that were rejected could be revisited.
involving firearms, suspects with criminal records, the use of paid
workers, the presence of children, commercial sales or other factors
making the incidents more serious are still to go forward, according to
But all of this, apparently, isn't
enough for the rabid drug warriors in Mendocino law enforcement, who
seem to demand an oath of of fealty to the drug war. Heaven forbid --
apostasy! -- that anyone should ever question the almighty importance
of their War on Pot, no matter what!
Police Chief Chris Dewey didn't miss the opportunity to wave the bloody shirt of drug-related violence -- itself, of course, a product of
prohibition and attendant huge profits -- in front of the good citizens
of his town. "We don't want to have a house that's converted to a
commercial grow station and have the neighbors on either side of that
house be at risk of a home invasion robbery," he darkly told the Press Democrat.
"We're continuing to enforce the rules as we've always done. I don't
want the message to be in our community that it's OK to grow Marijuana."
Bragg Police Chief Mark Puthuff enthusiastically joined the whine-fest.
"I can just tell you that it's been a bit frustrating," he told the
press. "And I have tried not to politicize the issue [yes, he really
said that!], but I can assure you that I and Chris Dewey, we're doing
our part to safeguard our communities and our people, and the mission's
clear for us."
Lintott, aware that she's
stepped into a hornets' nest, has since sent a letter to the county
sheriff and local police chiefs requesting that they "reassure" their
staffs that her office is "committed to prosecuting cases and working
with you to enforce the law."
The D.A. said she hopes to be back to full Marijuana prosecutions -- business as usual -- soon.
Wild guess: That'll happen right around outdoor harvest time.