Pubdate: Wed, 13 Sep 2000
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2000, Ventura County Star
Author: Bruce McLean, staff writer
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The helicopter hovered over the remote Lockwood Valley ranch of Lynn
and Judy Osburn for nearly an hour on the morning of Aug. 4, finally
landing in the spacious front yard.

Then the SUVs pulled into the gravel driveway and the black-suited
passengers - dozens of Ventura County law enforcement officers - climbed

When they left, they took 342 marijuana plants, 6 pounds of packaged buds,
dozens of 2-ounce bottles filled with an extract of the drug, and thousands
of dollars of equipment used to manufacture it.

In doing so, they nearly wiped out the supply of marijuana to hundreds of
AIDS and cancer patients supplied by the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource

The co-op, the last surviving medicinal marijuana club in Southern
California, has garnered a reputation for strict adherence to guidelines
set by Proposition 215, which legalized use of pot for medical purposes.

More than 840 patients, 80 percent of them HIV-positive, are registered
with the cooperative.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has spoken positively about the club,
saying his deputies honor the co-op's registration cards as proof of
legitimate medical need for marijuana.

For three years, the club has depended on the Lockwood Valley ranch in
northern Ventura County and the Osburns to supply most of its marijuana.

All of the marijuana taken in last month's raid was slated for delivery to
the cooperative, according to the club's director and attorney.

"It's really put a pinch on us," Director Scott Imler said. "We're back out
on the street, having to buy from the black market."

The Osburns and two others who live on ranch property, Mark Davidson and
Carol Jo Papac, were arrested during the raid. All four are also patients
using marijuana.

If charges are filed - the four were set to appear in court this morning -
the case could be the first of its kind in the state, co-op attorney John
Duran said.

"The legal question is whether a collective can organize themselves and
grow marijuana on a farm," Duran said. "We're working on a new frontier

They could be charged with cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale,
and manufacturing a controlled substance - all felonies.

Prosecutors said Tuesday they were still investigating the case, and no
decisions on charges had been made yet. Today's hearing is likely to be

While other growers arrested for cultivating large amounts of pot have
claimed to be providing it for patients, the Osburns and the cooperative
have kept meticulous records of how much they grow and the amount sent to
the cooperative, Duran said.

The Osburns claim they've paid taxes on the money they make from the farm -
they charge about half of what the drug fetches on the black market. They
have worked with the IRS and an attorney to figure out the taxes, Lynn
Osburn said.

Investigators confiscated all of the records, along with a computer, during
the raid.

While Proposition 215 allows patients with a doctor's permission to grow
enough marijuana for themselves, the question of cooperatives is still
hazy. It was not specifically addressed in the proposition.

A proposed state bill would allow cooperatives, but the issue remains in

While displaying their empty greenhouses and gardens this week, the
Osburns, Papac and Davidson said they never tried to hide what they were

The greenhouses and gardens are a short walk from their hand-built ranch
house. On fences surrounding the gardens and the entrances of the
greenhouses hang signs that read in part, "All the marijuana on this
premises is grown by and for patients with qualified doctors'
recommendation and is solely for medical use."

"We hid nothing," Osburn said. "It's not like we're a big mystery out

Ventura County Sheriff's Capt. Dennis Carpenter participated in the
investigation that led to the raid. He said investigators had no knowledge
of the farm until it was spotted two weeks earlier on a routine flyover.

He said the Osburns were fully cooperative and "didn't make any attempt to
hide it."

Co-op Director Imler believes the case could provide an opportunity for
District Attorney Michael Bradbury to "show his mettle and allow this to be
a solution rather than a problem."

The Osburns, Davidson and Papac "have done a great service for many sick
folks," Imler said. "I just hope after all they've done for us that their
lives are not ripped apart."
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