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Mendocino County Today: November 29, 2012

WILL THE SHERIFF ROLL? No sooner had I blithely informed a caller that I'd been assured by a well-placed person that the names of the people who'd signed up for the County's zip-ties would not be divulged to the feds, it now seems that the County will turn over all the records related to the aborted program, and if those records include the names of the people who signed up, well, nighty-night and sleep tight.

MOST OF US PROBABLY would like to see the County tell the feds, which functions in Mendocino County like a kind of low intensity occupying army, to piss off now and forever. But it's not us who would be carted off to one of the federal ice box cells in Alameda County. It's the Sheriff and the Supervisors who'd be renditioned.

SHERIFF ALLMAN and the Supervisors are unlikely to resist naming names if it comes to it, and seem to be hoping that all the feds want is the $829,726 the Sheriff collected from 2010 until the federal attorney, in January of 2012, told the Supes and the Sheriff they'd be held personally liable if they continued to sell grow licenses.

MEANWHILE, everyone but Allman has gone to the mattresses. He told the media Tuesday that the feds can see what they want to see.

LOCAL GROWERS Want Mendocino Supervisors to Stand Up to Feds (by Kym Kemp. Courtesy, Lost Coast Outpost; lostcoastoutpost.com)

“We are actively pursuing legal solutions,” says Kristin Nevedal, the chair of the Emerald Growers Association in response to a subpoena served by the federal government on Mendocino County for records associated with the 9.31 Ziptie program. Her group is hoping to protect patients’ rights and keep addresses etc. from being revealed to the federal government. The federal subpoena could be used to gain access to addresses as well as possibly confiscate the fees associated with the innovative program. This legal motion appears to contradict the statement by Attorney General Eric Holder that promised not to prioritize the prosecution of those who followed state marijuana laws.

Mendocino County’s Ziptie program allowed the legal growing of 25 plants or less for a fee or up to 99 plants in the case of medical collectives.

According to a piece in today’s Ukiah Daily Journal, the Mendocino Co. Sheriff’s Dept. is preparing to hand over the requested records to the federal authorities.

“We’re going to comply with the subpoena,” [Sheriff] Allman said, adding that while he couldn’t reveal what kind of records it specifies, the subpoena covers all records pertaining to the county’s medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, County Code 9.31. “We’ve collected everything and delivered it to the County Counsel’s Office, and that’s where we are.”

However, the Emerald Growers Association (EGA), CANorml and Americans for Safe Access (ASA) are looking to encourage the Mencocino County Supervisors to file a motion that would allow the Supervisors to not turn over the records. “Our attorney’s are working together with counsel from outside the area to look at case law that could help to allow a motion to quash the subpoena… We are meeting tomorrow with attorneys,” explained Nevedal.

The above cannabis groups believe that there is case law in the state of Washington that will provide precedent for such a response. According to Nevedal, a Washington dispensary was requested to turn over patient records to the federal government. The state of Washington “shot that down.” The state used the defense that the federal government did not have the right to invade the privacy of the patients. The state of Washington won their case.

Nevedal says that her medical marijuana group as well as the others want to “encourage people to call their supervisors and politely ask them to stand behind [the Ziptie] Program. She says that the patients and growers believed that the County would protect their records.

The Ziptie Program does have participants sign a waiver saying they understand they don’t have immunity from prosecution by the federal government. However, the EGA believes that the participants felt that the County would not give their personal records to those seeking to prosecute them. Nevedal says, “I think if the supervisors hear from their constituents that will help them stand up to the federal government.”

Furthermore, Nevedal says the EGA believes that the Ziptie Program was protecting all the Mendocino County residents. According to her, “This program was setting the bar on water diversion…They were looking at sediment runoffs…Having people get permits… …They had embarked on a best practices program that would have raised the bar. It would have encouraged farmers to embrace good environmental practices.” According to Nevedal, the program helped protect the County from environmental problems. Therefore, she believes, people who care about those issues should call their Mendocino County supervisors and request that they do all they can to protect the records of those growers who were pioneers in the effort to work within law.

“We have these environmental issues happening all over the state,” Nevedal says. “When you close dispensaries and permit programs, you are encouraging black markets and underground markets. This further breeds the negative aspects of [the marijuana industry.]”

ERNIE BRANSCOMB COMMENTS: “It just goes to show you that no good deed goes unpunished. I know Sheriff Tom Allman to be a good and decent man. He is a local native son. I knew his father. I know his mother and most of his relatives, all good people. The ziptie program was a good idea to make the best of a bad situation. For the State of California to declare that medical Marijuana was legal then give no guidelines for the regulation of production is where the real crime lies. If the feds were to go after anybody, it should be the State. It is grossly unfair to go after the counties that get caught in the middle with no resources to either regulate or eliminate MJ cultivation. All growers know that Marijuana is illegal, in any amount, federally. To that extent they are not entirely innocent, but they were trying to work within the guideline of the Zip-tie program and were paying permit money in good faith. It is sad that all agencies are now pitted against each other. If the feds go after local law enforcement for any perceived misdeeds I will be glad to join the uprising.

Judge Golden

JUDGE JOHN GOLDEN has died at age 87. Golden was appointed to the Lake County bench by Reagan in 1974, but he often sat as a judge in Mendocino County, especially in the politically turbulent cases our over-large contingent of superior court jurists take a powder on. Golden was an irritable little guy with a refreshing lack of tolerance for incompetent lawyers. Several times I enjoyed his direct intervention in trial interrogatories where he had to remind the lawyers how to do it. Golden was no dummy and not a bad judge, considering who appointed him. He made several decisions that made the big boys very unhappy — one in 1999 that stopped one of Hurwitz's many crimes committed under the auspices of Pacific Lumber, and he managed to preside fairly over the famous Bear Lincoln trial. The most indefensible decision he made, I would say, was the ruling for Jess Jackson and against Jed Steele. In that one, some of you may recall, Jackson said that Steele, the skilled winemaker who put Jackson on the booze map of stars, couldn't make the wines for himself at his own new Steele Vineyards that he'd made for Jackson. Jackson, you see, owned the recipes. Steele rightly argued that the recipes consisted entirely of his olfactory apparatus, widely assumed prior to Golden, to return subjective results; that plus common techniques described in oenology textbooks. Golden inexplicably ruled for The Big Wind, and Jackson went on to become second only to Gallo as the world's largest purveyor of wine.

COMMENT OF THE DAY: So far, Wall Street has fended off all attempts at regulatory reform. The banks and their allies in Congress have made mincemeat of Dodd-Frank, the reform bill that was supposed to prevent another financial crisis. Here’s how Matt Taibbi summed it up in a recent article in Rolling Stone: “At 2,300 pages, the new law ostensibly rewrote the rules for Wall Street. It was going to put an end to predatory lending in the mortgage markets, crack down on hidden fees and penalties in credit contracts, and create a powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to safeguard ordinary consumers. Big banks would be banned from gambling with taxpayer money, and a new set of rules would limit speculators from making the kind of crazy-ass bets that cause wild spikes in the price of food and energy. There would be no more AIGs, and the world would never again face a financial apocalypse when a bank like Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Most importantly, even if any of that fiendish crap ever did happen again, Dodd-Frank guaranteed we wouldn’t be expected to pay for it. “The American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes,” Obama promised. “There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period.” Two years later, Dodd-Frank is groaning on its deathbed. “The giant reform bill turned out to be like the fish reeled in by Hemingway’s Old Man — no sooner caught than set upon by sharks that strip it to nothing long before it ever reaches the shore.” (“How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform”, Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone) Congress, the White House and the SEC are all responsible for fragile state of the financial system and for the fact that shadow banking has not been brought under regulatory oversight. This mess should have been cleaned up a long time ago, instead, shadow banking is experiencing a growth-spurt, adding trillions to the money supply and pushing the system closer to disaster. It’s shocking. (— Mike Whitney)

FORT BRAGG, a memory: Arson as political tool in Fort Bragg — I was doing some research on John Arthur Annibel when I got side-tracked by all the articles on arson/cocaine/developers/crooked government in the late 80s in Fort Bragg. The use of arson (and other illegal tactics) in Fort Bragg by developers against their opponents may be a longer tradition. (See the obituary announcement for Ron Guenther's death for some of the dirty tactics used against him in the 70s and 80s). Alan Carlson and Bill Patton planned a Todd Point development, the annexation of which to the city of Fort Bragg was defeated in a public referendum overturning a city council decision. Surf Motel owners then developed a shopping center proposal for the Hahn property across Highway 1 from Todd Point (just east of the motel). This, too, was approved by the city council. There were lawsuits. There was a death threat made to Surf Motel owner (I think his name was Darryberrry); he dropped the project just as the second suit reached court; the court rejected the lawsuit saying there was no project. Patton and Carlson picked up the now approved and legally safe project and built the shopping center on the corner of Highways 20 and 1. Several businesses owned by vocal anti-development folks had fires at their businesses during the controversy. Dorothy Green owned The Store, a card and gift shop, on Laurel Street. I was her son. I sued the city twice over developments (once with Ron Guenther), including the shopping center. I was a vocal leader against the annexation (did radio debates vs mayor and Patton, etc). Our store was destroyed by fire. The country-western clothes store that used to be where the Coast-to-Coast store is now was burned; the owner of that store was another vocal opponent. Seems like a pattern — that was continued by new developers in the late 80s. Thanks for your good work. — Benjamin Green

THE MENDOCINO COUNTY Department of Transportation announced that sand and sandbags are available to county residents at the following locations during normal business hours.

Ukiah: GSA Facilities fenced Parking Area, 841 Low Gap Road.

Willits: Willits DOT Yard 751 Hearst/Willits Road;

Fort Bragg: Fort Bragg DOT Yard 155 East Bush St;

Potter Valley: Potter Valley Fire House. 10521 Main St


4 Comments

  1. izzy November 29, 2012

    Standing up to the Feds has never been a strong point with our local law enforcement personnel. And maybe they really can’t do much anyway.

    A few years ago there was a DEA wrong-address raid in the hills west of Ukiah that made the local news. Then-Sherrif Craver loudly announced he would let them know where to get off, and then-DA Vroman came forward with similar bellicosity. Craver retired a few weeks afterward, and Vroman expired in his driveway later that year, with no follow-up from either one. I guess the notion of real time in the can will instill caution in even the most outspoken among us.

  2. Jim Hill November 29, 2012

    If the 9.31 fees were collected illegally and subject to seizure and forfeiture by the Federal government then shouldn’t the patients that paid those illegal “fees” have a legal interest in them being returned? The County can’t collect funds illegally and then have a strong argument why they shouldn’t be returned to the patients. Theft by conversion or coercion should be subject to restitution and so should fees collected illegally. Remember these collections as defined by County Counsel were not taxes as they were not approved by a 2/3 popular vote.

    Another interesting tangent that the media has chosen to ignore is the collection of fees by the District Attorney’s office. The DA office also contributed to the collected amount by negotiating with defendants and including 9.31 participation as a prerequisite for the disposition of felonies.

    Another round of Federal Subpeonas may be served on 9.31 participants after the US Attorneys receive names of patients that paid the fees. All of the 9.31 fees were collected as cash and the Feds may well be looking at whether the County reported the transactions as required when they exceeded the $10,000 reporting limit. They will investigate if the County structured deposits in a way to avoid those
    reports.

    The California State Appellate Court heard oral argument in mid-November regarding Tehama County and their 9.31 style ordinance, the Appellate Court should have a ruling in 90 days or less. 9.31 may very well be declared an impermissible ordinance based on State pre-emption which could also subject the Low Gap crowd to civil litigation as patients seek return of their illegally collected fees.
    Federal Subpeonas, forfeitures, civil litigations, etc…… all as a result of wanting to tax the sick and dying among us.
    Was it worth it?
    Full Court Press and all of the accompanying federal authorities that descended on Mendo in 2010 sure had a huge impact. Unfortunately not the impact that the citizens of Mendocino County envisioned. It sure looks like Full Court Press was more evidence collection than anything else.

    As always just my opinion,
    Jim Hill
    Potter Valley

  3. Heather November 29, 2012

    Clearly, 931 was born and bred under a different climate then we are in today. Eric Holder was giving states with medical marijuana, at the very least, insinuations that the Feds wouldn’t prosecute medical marijuana cases, leaving municipality’s with the task of paving the way for local regulation. Throw in legalization on the ballot and a county saturated with marijuana and it was seemingly,at that time, a reasonable alternative to Mendocino’s elephant in the room. It’s appalling to me that the God knows how many millions, if not billions, of black market dollars make there way out of this county and the Feds want to go after the very few who risked ridicule, contempt and anger from neighbors and friends to try and comply with state and county law.
    931 at the time, seemed like a good start for the county, law enforcement and growers alike to try and pioneer a way for the hazy, grey area of medical marijuana. Yes, the growers new the risks, but so did law enforcement and the county. These 91 growers took a huge leap of faith in the face of adversity and the Board of Supes have a responsibility to take all possible legal action to protect the personnel information in the permit applications. Other states have fought this battle and won. Even though 931 is most likely dead in the water, regulation and eventually, legalization, are inevitable.

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