Feds Get Mendocino County to Turn over Medical Marijuana Records

Friday, October 18, 2013

After more than a year of resistance, Mendocino County has agreed to turn over to a federal grand jury information on pot growers who signed up for a medical marijuana permit program in 2010 and 2011.

It’s not known how many people or what type of information is involved, but as many as 500 people paid $830,000 to participate in the landmark program, which had, at the time, assurances from the county that their participation was lawful. But that was before the federal government began a crackdown on dispensaries and growers in California at the end of 2011.  

The county passed an ordinance in January 2010 allowing medical marijuana collectives to grow 25 plants—up to 99 with a special waiver—if they acquired a permit from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. Collectives paid $1,500 for special permits, as well as $500 monthly inspection fees and $50 per plant for tags that identified authorized plants.

California gave medical marijuana a green light in 1996 with passage of the Compassionate Use Act and authorized non-profit coops to sell it in 2004. But federal law has criminalized pot since the early part of the last century. Federal officials, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, indicated as late as early 2011 that they would not be cracking down on medical marijuana use, but that abruptly changed at the end of that year and Mendocino growers and sellers came under heavy pressure.

The county abandoned its permit program in January 2012 under threat of a federal lawsuit. One year ago, a federal grand jury began issuing subpoenas to county officials, demanding “any and all records” of growers. County officials resisted, but in April they struck a deal with the U.S. Attorneys Office to release the records after editing out personal information, including names, addresses and parcel numbers.

That deal apparently did not hold up, and on Wednesday the county announced it was complying with new grand jury subpoenas to release unredacted information on a more limited number of growers. Mary Callahan at the Santa Rose Press Democrat reported that county and federal officials were not saying how many growers are being targeted. A press release from county Supervisor Dan Hamburg characterized the new subpoenas as being “much more narrowly drawn.”

The Mendocino subpoenas come on the heels of a newly-released poll by Tulchin Research (pdf) that shows 65% of Californians support the outright legalization of marijuana, with 46% strongly in favor. 32% oppose legalization, 27% strongly. Although the strongest support for legalization was among people 18-29 (85%), even folks 65 and older gave it a 63% thumbs up. Almost three-fourths of Democrats and 71% of independents are in favor, while just 47% of Republicans support it.

Republicans showed the least support among a broad range of demographics, including ethnicity, age, gender and geographic location. The next lowest was people who had never smoked marijuana, and even 52% of them were in favor of legalization.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Mendocino County to Turn over Medical Marijuana Records (by Mary Callahan, Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

More Pot Records Released to Federal Grand Jury (by Tiffany Revelle, Ukiah Daily Journal)

Mendocino County Battles U.S. Subpoena for Medical Pot Growers' Records (by Peter Hecht, Sacramento Bee)

Another Big Medical Marijuana Dispensary Operator Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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