Pubdate: Wed, 24 Jul 2002
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Copyright: 2002 New Times
Author: Chris Thompson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Ken Estes Just Wants To Share The Miracle Of Medical Marijuana. Everyone 
Else Just Wants Him To Go Away.

Neighborhood lore has it that before Ken Estes set up his medical-marijuana 
club, the property used to be a whorehouse. The neighbors wish it still 
was. Back then, the customers walked in, took care of business, and got 
out. Bad shit never went down at central Berkeley's local brothel -- 
certainly nothing like what happened on the afternoon of June 5.

At 2:37 p.m., roughly ninety minutes before closing time, a gray Honda 
pulled to the curb and two Latino men got out the car and stepped up to the 
guard. One topped out at 250 pounds and wore a plaid button-down shirt; the 
other was a skinny kid in a T-shirt. The guard walked back to the door, and 
shouted for Estes' brother that there were two guys at the door to see Ken. 
His brother cracked open the door, took a look, and leaned back to yell for 
Estes. At that point, the guard noticed the two men creeping up to the 
door. "No no, you can't come in here!" he reportedly shouted.

Then he saw the gun.

Mr. Plaid jammed a black pistol into the guard's back, and the T-shirt 
pulled out a kitchen knife with a four-inch blade.

According to the police report, they forced the guard through the door, 
rushed into the club, and screamed at everyone to lie face down on the floor.

Everyone did except for one man, a wheelchair-bound patient who had come to 
get his legally prescribed dose of reefer and now had a gun in his face. 
The two men trashed the place and finally found the stash after prying open 
a locked file cabinet. As terrified neighbors called the cops, the thieves 
ran out of the club, jumped in the car, and floored it.

It was the third armed robbery at 1672 University Avenue in ten months.

You get into a lot of creepy stuff when you hang out with Ken Estes. You 
get burglaries, armed robberies, police raids, and felony charges.

You also get allegations of cocaine dealing, tax fraud, and spousal abuse.

The thing is, Ken's a really nice guy. With a tanned face defined by a 
sandy goatee, long blond hair, and a disarming air of candor and 
vulnerability, he seems the very picture of California easy living.

It's only when you notice the wheelchair supporting his shriveled legs, or 
the limp handshake born of two decades of nerve damage, that you catch a 
glimpse of the tragedy that has been his companion since 1976. Shortly 
after a motorcycle accident left Estes paralyzed below his chest, he became 
a devoted advocate of medical marijuana. He carefully organized his club to 
offer every possible comfort to the sick or dying.

Berkeley Medical Herbs, which didn't exactly traffic in St.-John's-wort, 
operated out of a cute little cottage that neighbors call the "hobbit 
warren." A modest wooden fence fronts the street and a path leads through a 
mulch lawn to a white security door. Beneath the rich, sloping redwood 
ceiling, a spacious brick fireplace keeps patients toasty-warm in the 
winter. Once a week a woman comes in and provides free massages on a table 
in the corner.

And unlike other East Bay pot clubs, most of which stress a clinical 
pharmacy's atmosphere, patients can sit down and light up right there, 
beneath rustic paintings of Jimi, Janis, and Jerry. If it weren't for the 
crime that has plagued his club's operation, Estes might be the patron 
saint of Berkeley stoners. "We have the best prices and the best medicine." 
he boasts. "If you know buds, we have the bomb."

But ever since Estes first got involved in the medical-marijuana movement, 
men with drugs, guns, and evil intent have followed him everywhere he goes. 
They have robbed him, exploited his generosity, and endangered the lives of 
everyone around him -- even his three children.

But "Compassionate Ken," as his friends call him, doesn't seem to learn.

He always picks the wrong friends.

At least that's Ken's side of the story.

His estranged lover, Stacey Trainor, told a darker version to the Contra 
Costa district attorney's office. She alleged that Estes is a former coke 
dealer who lied to secure his club's lease, that he has a Berkeley doctor 
in his pocket who will sell pot prescriptions for $215 a pop, and that up 
to thirty percent of his customers buy his product without any medical 
notes at all. Police and University Avenue merchants, meanwhile, claim that 
high-school kids used to line up for a taste outside Estes' club, and that 
his security guards scared away neighborhood shoppers and even got involved 
in fights on the street. His fellow cannabis-club operators even tried to 
drive Estes out of town.

Whether Estes is a character out of The French Connection or one out of The 
Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, he couldn't exist without the peculiar 
politics of Proposition 215, which decriminalized medical marijuana in 
California. In the six years since its passage, mayors, district attorneys, 
and state officials have been so focused on protecting patients from 
federal prosecution that they've neglected to implement any sort of 
regulations about how pot should be distributed. No state or local agency 
or mainstream medical group has offered any comprehensive guidelines on who 
should hand out pot in what manner.

As a result, medical pot is not just legal, but superlegal, perhaps 
California's least-regulated ingestible substance.

And yet marijuana remains a powerful intoxicant with a vast underground 
market, one whose dealers inhabit a shadowy criminal world populated by 
dangerous men.

In the absence of official regulation, it has fallen to pot-club operators 
themselves to craft some sort of system.

Over the last six years, groups like the Oakland Cannabis Buyers 
Cooperative and the Alliance of Berkeley Patients have, through a series of 
trials and sometimes embarrassing errors, arrived at a protocol for 
verifying medical ailments, providing security from criminals, and 
operating safely in quiet residential and commercial neighborhoods. But 
however sensible their rules may be, they have no means of forcing club 
operators to abide by them. All they have is a gentlemen's agreement.

Ken Estes broke that agreement, whether by design or neglect.

And no one may have the legal power to make him stop.

Estes is that rare breed of Bay Area native who spent his teenage years 
here in the '70s and didn't smoke pot. Born in Martinez, he moved to 
Concord and became a star athlete at Ygnacio Valley High. He excelled at 
soccer and was offered a scholarship to Santa Clara University, but that 
all changed one day in 1976, a month after he graduated from high school.

Estes was riding his motorcycle back from a Walnut Creek McDonald's, where 
he worked as a manager, when a car swerved into his lane and hit him head 
on. Estes flew over the car and broke his neck. The damage was so extensive 
that for the next two years, he couldn't even move his arms. He struggled 
through physical therapy hoping to regain just enough mobility to kill himself.

Estes was wracked with chronic pain, living in a rehab center and dependent 
on others to bathe and clothe him. The morphine and the pills didn't help, 
and he began to waste away. "I probably got down to a hundred pounds, and 
I'm six feet," he says. "I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, the physical 
pain was horrible, a nightmare.

But about six or eight months into it, a group of Vietnam vets I was in 
rehab with were smoking marijuana.

They said, 'Look, man, we know you're not eating or sleeping, why don't you 
come over here with us?' I said no, 'cause I was still thinking about 
keeping my body clean. But they said, 'Man, they're popping pills in you 
and morphine.

This is a lot less than that.' So I said, 'Alright, lemme smoke.' That 
night, I slept all night.

When I woke up, I ate. They brought the doctors in, they said, 'Lookit, 
he's eating!' My doctor wrote it on the chart, he wrote that this marijuana 
is doing what you want the pills to do."

After that first toke, Estes put his life back together.

He regained limited use of his arms, enrolled in junior college, and by the 
early '80s was offered another scholarship, this time to UC Santa Cruz. 
Estes decided instead to open a string of tanning, hair, and nail salons in 
Concord and Davis. He met his future girlfriend Stacey Trainor while she 
was working at a mini mart next to one of his salons. "I kept coming over 
there, and she would always have the banana drink ready for me, get the 
burrito ready," he says. Within a month of their first date, Trainor left 
her husband and moved in with Estes. Together they would raise three children.

But something always bothered Estes. Before he began growing his own, he 
typically took his business to Haight Street or Telegraph Avenue. It was a 
dangerous pastime; just because he wanted to relieve his discomfort, he was 
mugged three times and occasionally suffered the indignity of being dumped 
out of his chair.

In the '80s, as AIDS swept through the country, Estes began clipping press 
accounts of "Brownie Mary," the elderly woman who used to walk the halls of 
San Francisco General Hospital, handing out marijuana-laced treats to the 
terminally ill. Slowly, he began to think that this wasn't just a drug, but 
a cause.

In 1992, he signed over his share of the salons to his business partner and 
started distributing pot, going to demonstrations, and working to 
decriminalize medical cannabis. "Everyone thought I was crazy, but I said I 
wanted to pursue this," he recalls, "I'm tired of being looked at as a 
doper, as a pothead, as somebody less than somebody else because I used 

Yet as Estes became a fixture in the medical cannabis scene, his life 
became increasingly chaotic and dangerous.

At the very time that Proposition 215 liberated thousands of 
medical-marijuana smokers from prosecution, Estes began a long, almost 
farcical slide into crime.

Even scoring on street corners didn't compare to what was to come. "No guns 
in the face at that point," he says of his early years. "That came later, 
with the medical-marijuana movement."

Estes began his cannabis activism by volunteering at the Oakland Cannabis 
Buyers Cooperative. From the beginning, the co-op has been at the cutting 
edge of the movement; where San Francisco clubs have a looser, anarchic 
spirit, it's all business at the Oakland Co-op, whose members have 
pioneered security and medical protocols with a determined air of 
professionalism. Jeff Jones, the co-op's executive director, doesn't even 
smoke pot. Growing up in South Dakota, Jones watched his father waste away 
and die from a terrible illness and vowed to find a way to bring medical 
marijuana to the terminally ill. Jones first joined the co-op in 1995 and 
soon found himself making home deliveries of dope to AIDS and cancer patients.

If Estes is a creative but befuddled libertine, Jones is rigid and dogmatic.

 From the start, the two rubbed one another the wrong way.

After passage of Proposition 215, the co-op emerged from the shadows and 
began distributing pot out in the open. But no one had any idea how to go 
about it. There were simply no rules; one day medical pot was illegal, the 
next day it wasn't.

Proposition 215 is one in a long series of brief, poorly conceived 
initiatives whose implementation has proven to be a giant headache.

The "Compassionate Use Act of 1996" offers no guidance on how pot should be 
distributed; indeed, the initiative is a single page in length and merely 
encourages the federal and state governments to "implement a plan to 
provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all 
patients." Six years later, no one in Sacramento has figured out what this 

No state agency has ever issued binding directives on how to distribute 
pot, or to whom. Until the California legislature passes a law to govern 
distribution, neither the attorney general nor the state health department 
has the legal authority to innovate any such protocols. "Proposition 215 
did not address prescriptions," says Hallye Jordan, spokeswoman for 
Attorney General Bill Lockyer. "The initiative did not authorize or spell 
out any specific scheme for dispensing marijuana.

Nor did it say who is entitled to it, or how much marijuana is required for 
which ailment.

I think everyone recognizes that Proposition 215 was not the best-written 
initiative. But the voters passed it."

With the state paralyzed, it has fallen to local governments to regulate 
medical marijuana.

But most localities have adopted a strictly laissez-faire approach and done 
virtually nothing to ensure that the distribution of pot adheres to the 
spirit of Proposition 215. The portion of the Berkeley municipal code 
governing medical pot, for example, is so ridiculously lax that it plays 
right into the city's worst stereotypes, and yet it's as strict as 
virtually any other Bay Area city. Although the code limits the amount of 
pot a club can have on hand, there are no provisions limiting how close a 
pot club can be to a school, or requiring doctors to conduct an actual 
evaluation of patients, or requiring background checks for pot distributors 
- -- which is standard practice for anyone who wants to run a liquor store.

Yet the code does encourage pot clubs to "use their best efforts to 
determine whether or not cannabis is organically grown."

City Councilmembers Linda Maio and Dona Spring say the city can't even 
write up a specific-use permit for cannabis clubs, because doing so would 
violate federal law. The end result is that medical pot is actually less 
regulated than candy bars, which must at least have their ingredients 
printed on the wrapper. Anyone can distribute medical pot anywhere, in any 
fashion they please, and virtually no one is watching them.

Club operators disagree on whether this is good or bad. Jeff Jones wants 
the government to step in and bring some common sense to pot's 
distribution. "We thought the government would get involved in distributing 
medical marijuana as per the state law," he says. "I never though that five 
or ten years later, we'd still be operating in a vacuum." Others worry that 
if the state takes a firmer hand, a conservative governor or attorney 
general might interpret the law so narrowly as to effectively recriminalize 
medical cannabis.

But everyone agrees that since the government hasn't set up rules, club 
operators must police themselves. The Oakland Cannabis Buyers Collective 
was at the forefront of this effort, keeping and verifying patient records, 
hiring security guards, and establishing a rigorous dual-identification 
system, in which patients had to pass through multiple checkpoints. "To be 
a member, they had to turn in a note from a licensed physician that we 
could verify," Jones says. "Even cancer and AIDS patients had to renew the 
note every year. They were a little mad about this, but we had to confirm 
that their medical status hadn't changed, and they still needed our services."

Once Oakland officials were assured that, unlike at San Francisco clubs, 
patients would never smoke dope at the site, relations between the co-op 
and the city have generally been cordial.

The city council contracted with the co-op to distribute pot to seven 
thousand patients on its behalf, and the co-op's membership cards became 
the definitive means of identifying medical pot patients throughout the 
East Bay. Jones even teaches classes on medical marijuana to recruits at 
the Oakland police academy. "We've never given them a reason to question 
what we're doing here," he says, "The local police like us because we give 
them an alternative to going out on the street.

Our group have never done anything that has been deemed illegal, and we've 
never gotten complaints from anyone -- except the federal government." 
Berkeley's three clubs went through the same process, experimenting with 
various security and patient-verification protocols.

In the beginning of 2001, the Berkeley Patients Group on San Pablo Avenue, 
the Cannabis Buyers Cooperative on Shattuck, and the Patients Care 
Collective on Telegraph formed the Alliance of Berkeley Patients and agreed 
upon a ten-point platform.

This included organizing as a collective or nonprofit, contacting 
physicians to confirm a patient's medical condition, scrupulously keeping 
patient records, hiring security guards, and maintaining good relations 
with their neighbors. "We agreed to police ourselves, so we don't have to 
have any outside regulators that might not have the patient's best 
interests in mind," says Berkeley Patients Group member Don Duncan.

There was just one problem: none of these regulations had the force of law 
behind them. Even the police, hamstrung by a city council cognizant of the 
overwhelming public support for medical pot, can do virtually nothing to 
crack down on rogue clubs.

If someone wanted to hand out pot like candy, no one could stop him. His 
neighbors along University Avenue soon figured this out.

Accounts differ as to what Estes did when he first showed up at the Oakland 
co-op's door in 1995. Some say he taught the co-op's pot cultivation 
classes; others claim he weighed out the baggies and sampled the wares to 
categorize their potency.

Estes says he did both. But one thing seems clear: he and Jeff Jones didn't 
get along. "Jeff always thought Ken should cut his hair -- look more 
appropriate for you guys, the media," says one co-op member who asked not 
to be named. "Ken was like, 'You know, I don't have to look right for the 

I'm a patient.'" Jones won't say much about what he thought of Estes, but 
Estes recalls, "Jeff said, 'Look, if you cut your hair, you'll go places 
around here.' I said, 'C'mon, you're sounding like the people on the 
streets I've been dealing with for years.

You're sounding like the conservative white guy who doesn't like anyone 
lookin' different from himself.' So yeah, we had a lot of trouble.

I told him one time, 'I wanna get out of my chair and beat your ass.'"

Whether the Oakland co-op itself was entirely above-board is a matter of 
some dispute.

According to Trainor's statement to the Contra Costa DA, the co-op paid 
Estes in pot and unreported cash. "Part of the marijuana he received as 
payment from the club he would sell to other people, including persons who 
had no medical prescription for marijuana," her statement reads.

Jones denies paying Estes in under-the-table cash, but refuses to comment 
on whether he paid Estes with dope. Estes claims he received a paycheck, 
not cash. But he acknowledges the pot-for-labor arrangement. "I got herb 
for working," he says. "They gave me herb, that was the trade-off. I worked 
there till it closed, and then I went out and opened my new shop."

In October 1998, the feds managed to get an injunction prohibiting the 
Oakland co-op from dispensing marijuana.

The co-op fought it all the way to the Supreme Court, where it eventually 
lost. Jones and his lawyers are preparing a new challenge, but except for a 
one-month period during which the injunction was lifted, the co-op has not 
handed out a dime bag since 1998. Seven thousand patients needed another 
supplier, and Estes jumped in to fill the void.

But he needed customers, so Trainor says Estes called a friend who worked 
there. This employee gave Estes the names, addresses, and phone numbers of 
five hundred patients, and Estes soon started drumming up customers.

No one at the co-op knew the two had done this; certainly the patients had 
no idea that their confidential information was being bandied about like 
just another mailing list. Estes concedes he made no effort to call their 
doctors and confirm their medical condition -- he just started making 
deliveries to anyone with a card from the Oakland club.

By the time that Estes went into business for himself, he, Trainor, and 
their three children had moved to a house in Concord, where he began 
growing pot to supply his growing army of patients.

On September 20, Concord police officer David Savage took a call: Estes' 
neighbor claimed that she could see a bumper crop of pot plants growing in 
his backyard.

Savage stopped by and peeked over the fence.

Later that afternoon, he returned with a search warrant. Savage's police 
report indicates that he found pot everywhere. He found roughly fifty 
plants in a makeshift greenhouse in the backyard.

He found an elaborate hydroponic system in the garage; behind sheets of 
dark plastic, dozens of plants were growing on plastic trays and in 
children's swimming pools; grow lights wheeled back and forth on a track 
hanging from the ceiling. He found baggies of weed stuffed in desk drawers 
and scattered along the floor, and plants hanging in the closets.

In the master bedroom, underneath a crib where one of the children slept, 
Savage found two garbage bags with dried marijuana in them. "None of the 
growing and dried marijuana was in a secure place," Savage wrote in his 
report. "Most of the marijuana was accessible to the children in the residence.

Estes told [me] he was not concerned with the children having access to the 
marijuana because 'They know it is for daddy.'" Estes denies leaving bags 
of dope near his children's cribs. But Savage didn't know what to do with 
Estes. Estes had an Oakland co-op card certifying him as a patient, as well 
as patient records indicating he was a legally valid caregiver.

How much dope did Proposition 215 allow him to have? "They got a judge on 
the phone, and I talked to the judge," Estes says. "I said, 'Please don't 
make me pull these plants out. These are good strains with medical 
benefits.'" In the end, the cops confiscated the plants and the growing 
system, and ratted him out to Child Protective Services. In deference to 
Proposition 215, they left Estes with three plants and an ounce for his own 
use. But Estes complains Savage took all the kind buds, and left him just a 
bag of leafy shit. Fifteen months later, the cops would be back. By then, 
Estes had bought some property near Clear Lake, and Trainor had moved up 
north with the kids, growing more dope in a shed behind the house.

Meanwhile, Estes' cousin Tim Crew had moved into the house to help him grow 
a crop that dwarfed his prior stash. This period marks the beginning of one 
of Estes' most foolish habits: keeping massive amounts of drugs and money 
lying around. "People told me, 'Don't put more than a certain amount in the 
bank, or you could get in trouble,'" he says. "We had a lot of money, and I 
kept it with me. I'd hide it in my closet, hide it in my suitcase.

I just didn't want to put it in a bank." As more and more people got hip to 
Estes' stash, his cavalier attitude would provoke a spate of armed 
robberies that left his University Avenue neighbors terrified.

The first robbery happened in Concord on January 1, 2000. Neighbors called 
the cops and reported that several men had burst out of Estes' house and 
raced down the street, leaving the door ajar. When Concord officers arrived 
at the scene, they found that the front door had been forced open. They 
also found no fewer than 1,780 marijuana plants in various stages of 
cultivation, even after the break-in. This time, the cops wouldn't be 
satisfied with confiscating his stash.

The DA charged Estes with four felony counts of possession and cultivation 
of marijuana for sale, and will probably argue that the volume of pot on 
hand proved that he was an outright dealer, not a medicinal caregiver.

His trial is set to begin on August 5.

With the heat coming down in Concord, Estes eyed Berkeley. Taking out a 
business license and a zoning permit to sell "herbs and other homeopathic 
remedies," Estes set up shop at 1672 University Avenue. From the very 
beginning, Berkeley Medical Herbs was characterized by his permissive 
business style.

Michael "Rocky" Grunner showed up at Estes' door just months into his new 
operation and handed him a bag of quality product.

Estes says Grunner told him there was more where that came from, and he was 
certainly happy to buy it. Grunner began hanging out at the club, and Estes 
thought everything was working just fine. The massage table was up and 
running, patients were streaming through the door, the smoke was flowing 

But over time, a tense, nervous atmosphere infected the club. Finally, 
Estes claims, a friend came to him and broke the bad news: Grunner was 
dealing crank out of the back room. Estes says he promptly threw Grunner 
out of the club.

But the club's neighbors were beginning to worry about the sketchy new 
element. Machinist Richard Graham is a longtime area resident and has been 
known to take a hit upon occasion.

But he even he draws the line at Estes' way of doing business.

A few months after Estes opened the club, Graham dropped off a package 
mistakenly delivered to the wrong address.

When Graham asked the man behind the counter how business was holding up, 
he offered to set him up with a physician for $200. "I asked them how their 
operation works, and they told me you just need a note from the doctor, and 
we have a doctor, and you can get a note for just about anything," Graham 
says. "Then he told me the prices, the registration fee to get the note, 
$200 per year. I got what I thought was an aggressive sales pitch.

He said their doctor will help me get it. He looked at me and profiled me, 
said 'You're 51, you've got arthritis, we can help you.'... I just got the 
impression that these are people in it to sell marijuana as a business.

I didn't feel that these were people motivated to help sick people, which I 
think other people are. It was a decidedly unclinical atmosphere, let's put 
it that way."

In fact, Estes' operation was so unclinical that it even advertised in the 
Berkeley Daily Planet. Superimposed over the image of a big fat bud, the 
club announced that it had plenty of pot for sale, listing killer strains 
such as "Jack Frost, Mad Max, Romulin, G-Spot, and more." Other club 
operators groaned in dismay when they read the notice: "One-source shopping 
for all your medicinal needs!

First visit, first gram free with mention of this ad!"

Soon, kids were lining up outside, neighbors and police report, and the 
club's busiest hour was between three and four in the afternoon, when 
Berkeley High students got out of class. "The biggest complaint was the 
kids going in and out of there," says Lieutenant Al Yuen, head of the 
Berkeley Police Department's Special Enforcement Unit, which handles 
narcotics investigations. "We looked into that and watched kids going in 
and out. We never caught him selling to kids without a card. He claims that 
the kids had medicinal cards, but he doesn't keep records on who he sells 
to. ... He was advertising in the papers, he allowed tons of kids going 
though his place. He didn't have a screening process, didn't have security."

In fact, Trainor told the DA's office that Estes sold his product to anyone 
with the cash. She estimated that seventy percent of the club's buyers were 
patients from the Oakland co-op, and that the other thirty percent were 
recreational users.

And Trainor alleged that even many of the so-called patients may have had 
fraudulent doctor's notes.

She claimed that Estes referred everyone without a card to Dr. Frank 
Lucido, a Berkeley family practitioner who allegedly charged a fee for 
every note. "Estes would tell his buyers to go to Lucido, give him $215, 
and he would give the person a prescription. ... Trainor said that 
regardless of whether a buyer told Estes they had a medical problem or not, 
Estes would refer the buyer to Lucido to get the prescription."

Trainor said she knew how Lucido operated because she went through the 
process herself.

During her interview, she meticulously described her visit from start to 
finish. "Trainor went to the doctor's office, where she met a nurse who 
collected $215 from her. She was brought into an exam room, where she 
waited until Lucido came in and asked her what she wanted.

She told him she had a bad back and wanted a prescription for marijuana.

Trainor said the doctor performed a mini physical, checked her blood 
pressure, and had her bend over backward to check the condition of her 
back. ... Lucido then wrote her a prescription for marijuana.

Lucido did not ask her questions about treatment or diagnosis from any 
other physician.

Lucido gave her no advice on the amount of marijuana to use and did not 
advise her of any other therapy or medication that might treat back problems.

Lucido did not tell her to come back for a follow-up exam."

For a while, Estes says, he even accepted photocopies of Lucido's notes, 
and neighbors used to find them littering the sidewalk in front of his 
club. One neighbor, who asked not to be named, still has a copy of one such 
note from Lucido's office.

The patient is a mere 21 years old and suffers from back pain.

Lucido says he used to write such notes and rely on patients to provide 
verification later.

But he says he discontinued that practice two years ago, and now requires 
independent verification of his patients' ailments from another physician.

Lucido says Estes has been a headache for his medical practice. Two years 
ago, the doctor says, Estes printed business cards that claimed he was 
working in conjunction with Lucido. The physician says that as soon as he 
found out, he had a lawyer call Estes and tell him to stop making that 
claim immediately. "I'm not connected with the clubs, and I don't refer 
people to the clubs," he says. "I'm sure people mention my name, but it's 
never the case that we work in conjunction with each other." Lucido said he 
couldn't remember Stacey Trainor.

Why is Trainor telling so many tales out of school?

It all began two years ago, when she began an affair with Rocky Grunner. 
The feud culminated on August 31, 2000, when Trainor swore out a temporary 
restraining order against Estes, claiming that Estes threatened to kill 
her. When the Lafayette cops arrived at his house to serve it, they found 
more plants growing in the basement.

Back went Estes into the pokey, and the cops even raided the club and 
seized product and financial records.

Two months later, Lafayette narcotics agents raided Grunner's own house and 
seized seventeen pounds of marijuana.

Trainor eventually broke off her affair.

Grunner could not be reached for comment.

Six months ago, as Estes became the subject of a Contra Costa district 
attorney investigation, Trainor met with assistant district attorney 
Phyllis Franks and county investigator Tony Arcado. Over the course of 
several hours, she told the story of their life together.

According to her statement, Estes didn't start his new career dealing 
medical pot -- but cocaine. "After selling the tanning salon, Estes earned 
income by selling cocaine," Arcado wrote in his summary of Trainor's 
interview. "Trainer [sic] said the income from the cocaine business ran out 
in 1993, and Estes switched to selling marijuana."

Estes vehemently denies the charge and claims that Trainor, who declined to 
comment for this story, is lying as part of a child-custody dispute. 
"That's false, not true at all," he says. "No, I didn't sell the salons, I 
didn't sell cocaine.

She was lying because she thought she was moving to Canada with the kids, 
and she thought that before she left, she could throw a bunch of stuff in 
the mix to mess me up in court.

Because she downright hates me for dumping her." It was bad enough when 
neighbors watched police raid the club and kids line up for weed -- then 
the robberies began.

On the evening of Friday, October 12, 2001, the club was winding down after 
a long day when someone knocked on the door. An employee pulled the door 
open and stared straight down the barrel of a silver handgun. "We opened up 
the door, same as for everybody: 'Hey, what's up?'" Estes says. "The guys 
came in. They put everybody on the ground and took everything."

Time was running out for Estes. The kids and the police raids were bad 
enough, but now men were waving guns around and racing off with drugs.

At the time, Estes had no security guards, no iron gate on the door, just a 
lot of cash and pot. Soon, the other pot-club operators came a-callin'. The 
robbery put new heat on all of them as City Councilmember Linda Maio 
started making noises.

If Estes is convicted, he will pay a terrible price for this lack of 
precision; the charges carry a possible prison sentence of three years and 
eight months.

But his complex reputation also could be laundered overnight. When Estes 
turned himself in, forty demonstrators accompanied him to the station, and 
his image -- the martyr of medical marijuana, persecuted by vindictive 
prosecutors -- was flashed across the nightly news throughout the Bay Area.

Stacey Trainor's allegations aside, Ken Estes seems a kind, generous man, 
ready to take you into his company at a moment's notice.

But nothing out there can protect us from his tendency to trust the wrong 
people, of whom there are still plenty in the shadowy, twilight world of 

Estes admits he's made some mistakes, and vows to improve his operation. 
"We began something here, and we didn't know where it would go," he says. 
"I've made mistakes in retrospect, but we tried to work it out. Stacey and 
all that stuff was a big problem -- I had no problems before that. I 
believe I know who's behind this, the robberies.

All this stuff that's gone on has happened since Stacey went to the police, 
and the police believed her. They told me that many times women turn on 
their drug-dealing boyfriends, and this seems like a case of that. I wish I 
could have hired better people, but I can't say that I would have done 
anything different.

I really didn't foresee the criminal element making its presence like it 
did. But I can only do so much."

And should Estes revert to his old, seat-of-his-pants ways, we may have no 
choice but to put up with him.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Ariel