Medical Marijuana License Fees That Saved Cops' Jobs at Risk in Mendocino

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CNBC
Sheriff Tom Allman of Mendocino County
The one-of-a-kind cooperation between medical marijuana growers and the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department -- which legitimized cannabis cultivation in the eyes of the law and saved the jobs of deputies facing layoffs -- is at risk, pending the outcome of a court case.

Since 2010, Mendocino County marijuana growers with a doctor's recommendation have been permitted to license plants with Sheriff Tom Allman's department, under chapter 9.31 of the Mendocino County Code. Growers wishing to cultivate up to 99 plants must pay the Sheriff's Department an inspection fee and a $50 per-plant permit fee. In return, growers receive zip-ties that mark each of their 99 plants as certified legal, and the promise that the inspected medical marijuana crop won't be raided by local law enforcement.

But a court case out of Southern California could invalidate the program --  the first and only of its kind in California, according to Mendocinco County Counsel Jeanine B. Nadel. 

In its opinion on Pack v. Long Beach, the state Court of Appeals ruled that state and local governments cannot issue permits for medical marijuana dispensaries or grows because in doing so, the government would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act.

"If the Pack decision stands, I think we would have issue with our permitting procedure," Nadel told SF Weekly shortly before the new year. "Our permit for 99 plants might be in jeopardy."

The state Supreme Court is expected to decide if it will hear an appeal from the city of Long Beach on the Pack decision sometime in February. If an appeal is heard, the 9.31 program can continue as normal while the case is in the courts, Nadel said.

If "the Supreme Court doesn't review it, or doesn't depublish [the lower court's decision], I think the county will have to look at re-evaluating the permitting portion of 9.31, because that's what Pack talks about," said Nadel, who added that she believes the voluntary zip-ties would be able to continue.

Growers with a crop of up to 25 plants are not required to obtain zip-ties, but may voluntarily choose to do so for $25 per plant.

The Pack decision has led cities and counties across the state to delay, rethink, or cancel outright laws permitting dispensaries and cultivation sites. In San Francisco, all new dispensary permit applications are on hold pending Supreme Court action.

A total of 91 growers participated in the Mendocino zip-tie program in 2011, according to Sergeant Randy Johnson, who oversees the program. That was good for $600,000 in revenue for the department, up from $60,000 in 2010, Johnson said.

The money saved the jobs of seven sheriff's deputies whose positions were identified for layoffs, Allman said last year. Most of Mendocino is unincorporated rural land, which means the Ukiah-based Sheriff's Department is the only law enforcement presence for an area about the size of Connecticut.

As much as two-thirds of Mendocino County's economy depends on medical marijuana, a 2009 CNBC documentary estimated.

Growers in Mendocino County were first informed of the Pack decision's potential impact in December, according to Chris Van Hook, an attorney who works as a third-party inspector for the 9.31 program in Mendocino County.

"It hasn't been suspended at the moment, but right now, everybody's paused," he said. "We're optimistic we can be up and running this year."

County supervisor John McCowen, who authored the law, did not reply to telephone messages seeking comment. Reached via cell phone, Allman declined to comment to SF Weekly.

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Lin
Lin

The most important part of saving those seven jobs is that the Sheriffs Dept was able to concentrate its enforcement efforts on illegal grows on public land, targeting those taking water from creeks and rivers and dumping herbicides and fertilizers into water courses. It's hard to overestimate the damage from these illegal grows--every form of life suffers, and the amount of trash left behind is gargantuan. Taxpayers shoulder the clean-up costs.  Legit growers phoned the sheriff with GPS coordinates when they saw soil being trucked into BLM and park land. If you care about the environment, you report illegal grows and pay for your zip ties, voluntary or not. We need to be responsible for law enforcement, for wildlife, and for our water.

Matthew Barnes
Matthew Barnes

Regulate Marijuana Like Wine in circulation right now seeks to legalize marijuana by regulating in the same way the wine industry was to break the first prohibition. It also demands that the state defend the law and the people from federal prosecution. It stops the federal crackdowns and addresses the Pack decision. It will herald the end to the drug war.

Hughhempner
Hughhempner

How is this not extortion by the police department. Cops on the take......pay my police department and we'll leave you alone. So what happens if you don't pay????

Shane Hickman
Shane Hickman

"The money saved the jobs of seven sheriff's deputies whose positions were identified for layoffs, Allman said last year. Most of Mendocino is unincorporated rural land, which means the Ukiah-based Sheriff's Department is the only law enforcement presence for an area about the size of Connecticut."

not true. the money came from federal loans. the program fails, or at least did for the first year. think about it. plus i heardd dis shit along time ago

No O
No O

In 1937 in the United States, the Marijuana Transfer Tax Act was passed, and prohibited the production of hemp in addition to marijuana. The reasons that hemp was also included in this law are disputed. Several scholars have claimed that the Act was passed in order to destroy the hemp industry,[95][96][97] largely as an effort of businessmen Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the Du Pont family.[95][97] With the invention of the decorticator, hemp became a very cheap substitute for the paper pulp that was used in the newspaper industry.[95][98] Hearst felt that this was a threat to his extensive timber holdings. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in America, had invested heavily in the DuPont's new synthetic fiber, nylon, and considered its success to depend on its replacement of the traditional resource, hemp.[95][99][100][101][102][103][104][105] The claims that hemp could have been a successful substitute for wood pulp have been based on an incorrect government report of 1916 which concluded that hemp hurds, broken parts of the inner core of the hemp stem, were a suitable source for paper production. This has not been confirmed by later research, as hemp hurds are not reported to be a good enough substitute. Many advocates for hemp have greatly overestimated the proportion of useful cellulose in hemp hurds. 

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

I guess it was all the paper produced from hemp over thousands of years that fooled them. Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. The US Constitution was also drafted on hemp paper.

Cody Curnutt
Cody Curnutt

Everyone should hope this goes to the supreme court it could sever as a test case for total legalization of Mj for medical purposes. It has been proven to help cancer patients survive the chemo which is more deadly than the cancer itself.

Rigg Kennedy
Rigg Kennedy

It would be right-wing, fascist, idiotic Republican obstructionist folly to deprive the county of Mendocino  and the people who live there in a  northern California  county as big as the state of Connecticut. The $600,000 supplied from taxes on the medical marijuana industry's golden egg  Medical Marijuana  sales is very well-needed for  the police officers whose protection is rather stretched  in such wide-open spaces. They have much land to patrol which was impossible with the previous $60, 000 they suffered before this symbiotic arrangement between law officers and growers. Now because of DEA pressure , plutocratic greed and gross selfish agenda the vulnerable, unarmed citizens of that area are literally without police protection from REAL CRIME!!!!! Go figure! BETTER YET, REPEAL THAT INSIDIOUS, STUPID, EVIL, FEDERAL  1-%-ER- FINAGLED  LAW AGAINST MARIJUANA BEING USED FOR ITS GREATEST POWER AND FUTURE POTENTIAL FOR HEALING MORE THAN CANCER AND OTHER RELATED DISEASES! MAY GOD LET REASON AND CARE FOR THE PEOPLE REIGN IN ANY AND ALL UNENLIGHTENED CONSIDERATIONS OF SUCH NONSENSICAL MISJUDGEMENTS!!!  RIGG KENNEDY

Headinthebuds
Headinthebuds

Cant believe it took until December for growers to realize the Pack decision impacts the county inspection program.

wm97
wm97

Much ado about nothing. Simply rewrite the ordinance so that the "fees" are called "penalties."

Rewrite the ordinance so that everyone who follows certain rules gets greatly reduced sentences. Thus, if you have less than 99 plants, don't bother your neighbors, etc., then the maximum penalty is a fifty dollar per plant fine. If you don't follow the rules, then you are eligible for tougher prosecution.

It would be the same result, except that the fee would be called a penalty and there would be no "license". Instead, the grower would get a receipt for having paid a ticket.

For the sake of convenience, let growers come in and pay their fines in advance.

Therefore, there would be no "license" and no conflict with Federal law. According to the law, growing mmj would still be "illegal". It just wouldn't be heavily punished as long as the rules are followed. Thus, no conflict with the Feds.

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

Pack is in direct conflict with at least 2 other appellate court rulings. It's doubtful that the California Supreme Court will uphold this ruling because it deviates significantly from precedence.

The problem with your plan is Courts recognize de facto law and ignore such legal gymnastics. But it really doesn't matter because the alleged "conflict" with State law only exists in fantasy land. I've never really understood why no one appears to care about the conflict with Article 3 Section 3.5 Paragraph C of the California State Constitution. The Feds don't fund California State Employees paychecks, California does.

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