Joseph Erich Pearson, S.F. Dispensary Cofounder, Arrested After Marijuana Grow Burns in Sonoma
Joseph Erich Pearson, 34, co-founder of the award-winning Mission Street dispensary San Francisco Patient and Resource Center (SPARC), was arrested Monday near Guerneville, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported this week. He and two others -- Alexander Pearson, 33, and Timothy Crites, 32 -- will appear in Sonoma County District Court today.
Pearson and his attorney declined to comment when SF Weekly called them on Thursday. Sheriff's deputies could not be reached for comment.
The trio was arrested Monday after an electrical fire broke out late Sunday in a barn on a Mays Canyon Road -- property Pearson owns. The barn contained grow lights and nearly 1,000 plants, police told the Press-Democrat. The cause of the fire remains unknown, but fire officials say it was probably an overloaded electrical circuit, according to fire officials.
The men were arrested on suspicion of cultivation and possession for sale as well as renting, leasing, or making available a building for drug use, according to the newspaper.
However, there were enough medical-marijuana recommendations on site to render the grow legal, sources told the Press-Democrat. State law regarding cultivation limits are ridiculously vague, which means it's entirely possible that Pearson would not have been charged with a crime if the grow were in San Francisco (though if it were in San Diego, things could also have been different).
Pearson is well-known within Northern California's medical marijuana movement. He is one of the state's most successful legal cultivators, and he was a principal at a short-lived cannabis consulting firm, CannBe, with Stephen DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center, which is the nation's biggest medical marijuana dispensary.
But that's not to say he is necessarily well-liked. Several years ago, Pearson gained a bad reputation after he told other dispensary owners that he knew just how to put them out of business. He told them that he knew how to grow cannabis at cost for $600 per pound -- much less than the $5,000 per pound other profiteering dispensaries were selling pot for. His threat became more of a reality when San Francisco Patient and Resource Center sold quarter-ounces of high-quality outdoor cannabis for $50, which would cost $90 at most dispensaries.
When contacted, other members of the Medical Cannabis Task Force didn't want to speak unfavorably of Pearson. "I want to wait until we know all the facts," one told us. Suffice to say nobody, save perhaps Sonoma County sheriffs, is celebrating the bust.
According to John Stample, who was quoted in the Press-Democrat as a local resident on the isolated country road, the barn had been the source of noise stemming from "late-night parties."
"It's been a real problem," he says.