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February 13, 2012

Fascinating NPR piece on how feds have ended local innovation on pot regulation

Mondecino_pot01_wideDriving home this evening, I heard this terrific segment on NPR concerning battles between local officials and federal authorities over pot policies in one California county. The piece is headlined "Mendocino Snuffing Medical Marijuana Experiment," and it merits a full listen.   Here are some notable excerpts:

Mendocino County in Northern California is expected Tuesday to end an unusual program that put pot growing under supervision of the local sheriff.  It was the first effort of its kind in the nation and proved a success, at least in the eyes of many locals.  But federal officials had a different view.

For years, the county struggled to contain an explosion in pot growing — especially since the state legalized the use of medical marijuana. Two years ago, officials legalized medical marijuana production under strict conditions.

They gave the job to a barrel-chested sheriff's sergeant named Randy Johnson. The program earned the sheriff's department more than half a million dollars and enlisted nearly 100 growers....

But in October, federal prosecutors went on the offensive against California's marijuana industry, closing dozens of storefront dispensaries and seizing properties.

The U.S. Attorney for Northern California, Melinda Haag, says the system wasn't working. "The law has been hijacked by profiteers who are motivated not by compassion but by money," Haag says.

She also warned cities and counties that marijuana-licensing schemes were against federal law.  Soon after, heavily armed Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided a farm in Mendocino owned by one of the county's legal growers.

Former federal prosecutor Joe Russoniello says allowing sick people to use medical marijuana is one thing, but it's quite another for a county like Mendocino to issue permits to marijuana growers and allow them to sell their product around the state. "As soon as you cross county lines, packaging it, suggesting you have a client base or patients or members, you are basically a commercial enterprise for profit and in violation of state and federal law," Russoniello says....

In the end, Mendocino officials concluded they couldn't afford a legal fight with the federal government, and agreed to gut the regulations. They're expected to formally end the program on Tuesday.

All of it left County Board Chairman John McCowen exasperated. "It means it's going to go back underground. It's going to become more dangerous. It's going to become more profitable for the black marketers," he says. "I just don't see that this represents progress."

As I recall, GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney stressed in a debate last month that there is "nothing wrong with profit" and that he was "someone who believes in free enterprise" and that he would "stand and defend capitalism across this country throughout this campaign." And yet, perhaps tellingly, I am not expecting anyone from the Romney campaign (or any other GOP candidates save Ron Paul) to assail the Obama Administration for spending federal prosecutorial time and federal taxpayer money to shut down this local industry in Mendocino County which had the temerity to be interested in making money as part of a local government program.   

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"County Board Chairman John McCowen exasperated" ... he also is sadened because the County will be forfeiting $millions. In the end it's a money thing...the same thing will happen in Wash DC. The city council will be opening these grow centers and the feds will be closing them.

Posted by: DeanO | Feb 14, 2012 8:19:52 AM

"[Medical marijuana] has been hijacked by profiteers who are motivated not by compassion but by money." Well they are in the health care industry.

Posted by: Matt | Feb 14, 2012 11:00:07 AM

Since when was BigPharma motivated by compassion?

Posted by: Bryan Gates | Feb 14, 2012 11:03:32 AM

The feds are shutting down the most compliant medical caregivers first and trying to silence the legalization effort through arrests and threats. Printers and newspapers are being threatened beyond cancer patients, others and their caregivers.

The Sacramento Bee, once was fair to the subject and one time they even let cooperatives advertise, but the feds hit them with papers. Now the Sacramento Bee publishes only stories that encourage deconstructing Prop 215. We know from others hit by the feds that their tactic is to pull out RICO and threaten elderly patients with being prosecuted like Al Capone. Then they start telling them that they will suspend prosecution if they do as they say, and say what they are told. All it takes is a letter. No warrant, just the DEA and IRS showing up and taking you, your landlord, and your loved ones down at will.

What effect does it have on the press when the feds can threaten journalists, editors or publishers with life in prison because they printed something? What is the effect on the legalization movement or ANY movement when their heroes and constituents can be charged with "conspiracy" for speaking out politically?

Is this really America?

Regulate Marijuana Like Wine in California, gathering signatures and desperately in need of funds, ends the drug war and this madness. It declares rights, then orders the state to defend them against the feds.

Please check it out:


They claim to have a formula for abrogating federal supremacy and they are polling likely voters at 62%!

Posted by: AFH | Feb 14, 2012 12:58:02 PM

Legislatures shouldn't legalize marijuana, because they don't know how to draw lines. They wouldn't know how, for example, to draw a line between marijuana and heroin. The same is true for same-sex marriage. It is too hard for a legislature (or a court) to draw a line between allowing marriage to another human being and allowing marriage to, say, a sheep. So same-sex marriage should not be allowed, lest legislatures start authorizing people to marry sheep.

Posted by: bloggo | Feb 14, 2012 1:38:36 PM

I think that the federal prosecutions of providers, landlords, patients etc in states that have legalized medical marijuana (in some form) actually will increase support for legalization in the us congress. HR 2306 is a bill that would take marijuana off the controlled substance schedule. This would let states tax and regulate as they see fit. This may not be the only way to remove the threat of federal prosecution, but it is a thought.

Posted by: beth | Feb 14, 2012 1:58:06 PM

well beth i think think a few dead nazi stormtroopers that are shot while BREAKING INTO LEGAL business would also speed it up!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 14, 2012 2:52:20 PM


If the DEA is able to imprison or gag all those who would change the law, what hope will we have in the future? There is no momentum to hope for. We have all we will get right now. We do not have time to wait. The feds are using laws meant for Al Capone and terrorists to wage war on sick people and their caregivers.

Hoping that this evil will spawn more action is naive. The tactics are very effective at destroying our political freedoms wholesale. If they can bully the press and dictate what they write or don't write, we are sunk.

Hope is not an option; action is our only choice.

Posted by: AFH | Feb 14, 2012 3:38:50 PM

If congress took marijuana off the schedule then states could do as they please. Until there is legislative change in Washington federal prosecutions will continue. No, I don't believe that hope leads to change. Change takes much more effort.

Posted by: beth | Feb 14, 2012 4:07:31 PM

unfortunatly dead bodies are what cause change the quickest.

I'm sure we all know of any number of street intersections that needed a street light but NOTHING happened till enough people DIED trying to get through them ...then suddenly they had a light!

dumb govt officials are hard to m ove in almost every lvl. but bodies do it almost every time!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 14, 2012 10:46:13 PM

"to wage war on sick people and their caregivers"

What caregivers have been victims of war?
What press is being censored? Who is being gagged? Have you not read NORML literature? How about all the Smokin' Pot mags?

Get a grip, AHP. Try some ginger and chamomile.

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 16, 2012 3:59:10 PM

"Hope is not an option"~

"We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But… Yes we can." ~ B.H. Obama, Jan 8, 2008.

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 16, 2012 4:00:57 PM

AFH --

"Hope is not an option; action is our only choice."

Specifically what action do you propose?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 16, 2012 6:16:05 PM

lol you wouldn't like what i would propose if you asked me that one bill

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 16, 2012 9:03:17 PM

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