Pubdate: Thu, 10 Feb 2005
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2005 Santa Cruz Sentinel
Author: Cathy Redfern, Sentinel staff writer
Cited: Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana ( )
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Scales, Big Cash Rolls Have Deputies Skeptical Of Some Medical Claims

SANTA CRUZ -- The county's Marijuana Enforcement Team says it is up to its 
ears in questionable medical-marijuana cards as it tries to weed out card 
carriers who abuse the system by selling pot for profit.

Deputies have arrested five men at two Santa Cruz homes in the past week, 
four of whom had medical-marijuana cards yet also had items associated with 
drug dealing, said sheriff's Sgt. Steve Carney.

"We're starting to see people pushing it up to the limit," Carney said. 
"It's people taking advantage of medical-marijuana laws and hiding behind 
medical needs to make a profit. Most medical-marijuana patients don't drive 
around with large amounts of cash and scales."

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, which legalized 
medical marijuana. In October, the county Board of Supervisors passed an 
ordinance that allows patients to possess 3 pounds of pot and keep a garden 
with a 100-square-foot canopy.

Early Wednesday, Santa Cruz police were called to a home in the 300 block 
of John Street to investigate a fight between roommates. The sheriff's 
Marijuana Enforcement Team was called and found 70 3-foot-tall plants, a 
scale, packaging material and $3,000 cash, Carney said.

Justin Zak, 23, a self-employed glass blower, was arrested on suspicion of 
battery and the sale and cultivation of marijuana, Carney said. The plants 
had a canopy of 118 square feet, which exceeds the limit, he said.

Last Thursday, the team arrested four students who rent a "really 
nice-looking two-story house" on Western Court. Six people live there and 
deputies found six growing operations inside, he said, as well as 2 pounds 
of marijuana with a wholesale value of $4,000 to $5,000.

Arrested was Christopher Werner, 22, on suspicion of possession of 
psychedelic mushrooms and cultivation of marijuana; Harold Grieco, 21, on 
suspicion of possessing psychedelic mushrooms for sale; Collin Fischer, 20, 
on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sale; and Cameron Kaplan, 20, 
on suspicion of cultivating and possessing marijuana for sale and 
possessing psychedelic mushrooms.

Only Fischer did not have a medical marijuana card, Carney said. Deputies 
left three of the growing operations intact, he said.

"We suspect they are illegal but didn't feel comfortable ripping their 
plants and saying 100 percent they are not legal," Carney said. "When that 
happens, we leave them and take a sample or just photograph them."

The home was "trashed," he said, and damaged by mold, water and dirt 
associated with the plants.

Valerie Corral of the Wo/men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana said of its 
176 members, fewer than 15 percent use 3 pounds of marijuana per year.

Corral said police must not be put in a position to judge a patient's 
medical needs, but said those who clearly abuse the system are hurting "a 
huge amount of people.

"Medical marijuana patients have paid with their lives," she said.

"There's a lot to look at in this situation," she added. "We have to look 
deeply at how to serve people and create an accountable system."

Carney's team investigates five to 10 "marijuana grows" each month, he 
said. In August, the county started issuing medical-marijuana cards, which 
require a doctor's prescription, through the county Health Services Agency. 
But Carney says the card he most often sees is the Oakland Cannabis Club.

Another case they are working on involves a 23-year-old Live Oak man who 
deputies discovered with 129 marijuana plants growing in his Avis Lane 
apartment, as well as 6 pounds of dried marijuana. He had a medical 
marijuana card and told deputies he had 3 pounds for himself and 3 pounds 
for his brother, who doesn't live there, Carney said.
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