Pubdate: Thu, 30 Jul 2009
Source: Santa Barbara Independent, The (CA)
Copyright: 2009 The Santa Barbara Independent, Inc.
Author: Nick Welsh
Note: Additional reporting by Chris Meagher and Ben Preston.
Bookmark: (Marijuana - California)


Licit Weed: Selling and Missing; Illicit Grow

Responding to complaints from some Eastside and downtown residents 
that Santa Barbara's medical marijuana dispensaries are out of 
control, the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday 
to revisit the medical pot ordinance it approved barely a year ago. 
Four dispensaries predate the city's ordinance and have been given 
three years to find new digs away from schools and establishments 
catering to young people. Four more have either been recently 
approved or are undergoing city review. Of the latter, two are within 
two blocks of each other on Milpas Street.

Several Eastside residents voiced concern that their neighborhood had 
become a dumping ground for Santa Barbara's burgeoning pot trade. "If 
all of Oakland has only four [dispensaries] and I have five within 
walking distance of my house, this is nuts," said Naomi Green, a 
30-year resident of the Eastside. Approval for one of those -- slated 
for the 500 block of North Milpas -- has been appealed to the 
Planning Commission. While Green said she fully supports the 
California law making medical marijuana centers legal, others 
suggested the weed's ingestion might be less salubrious than its 
supporters claim. City Hall was moved to begin drafting its ordinance 
in 2007 when Santa Barbara had more than 15 dispensaries. During the 
last days of the George Bush administration, the city's ordinance was 
rendered moot; dispensaries went out of business in droves because 
Justice Department officials -- contending that federal anti-drug 
laws trumped state laws legalizing medical marijuana?--?threatened 
dispensaries' landlords with legal action. But shortly after 
President Barack Obama took office, the Justice Department changed 
course, and pot dispensaries are once again on the rise.

The topic is generating controversy elsewhere in Santa Barbara with 
what could be a precedent-setting court case in which Melanie More, a 
Goleta medical marijuana provider, is seeking compensation for 
allegedly abducted weed. Under California law, More lawfully 
possessed marijuana for both her and her patients' use. In April 
2007, her apartment lease was coming to an end, but she claims she 
and her landlord had agreed to an extension. During this time, she 
went on vacation, and while gone, her landlord, Larry Cobb, had her 
apartment interior repainted. Much of More's property was placed in 
storage, but two duffel bags of marijuana and money -- a total value 
of $65,000 -- disappeared.

According to a suit filed by More, she returned to discover her 
property was gone and immediately asked for it back. But Cobb 
allegedly refused, saying the painter, Carl Braden, was responsible. 
While More is alleging Braden and some of his employees entered the 
apartment and stole the duffel bags, Braden claims they threw away 
the duffel bags. More is now suing both her landlord and the painting company.

Janet McGinnis, who is representing More, said she is not aware of 
any other cases where a plaintiff has sued to recover money for 
marijuana loss. Though the alleged incident took place in 2007, 
McGinnis waited to file the lawsuit anticipating that newly elected 
President Obama, who took office in January 2009, and Attorney 
General Eric Holder would make the prosecution of marijuana cases a 
low priority, which they ultimately did. The two sides were back in 
court Wednesday morning for a hearing as they proceed toward trial.

Finally, on the less licit side of pot cultivation, Sheriff's 
Department and U.S. Forest Service officials on Friday eradicated 
25,102 marijuana plants being grown in Los Padres National Forest. 
The plants, estimated as having a street value of $75 million, were 
spotted north of East Camino Cielo Road in Blue Canyon during a 
routine surveillance sweep. No suspects have been apprehended. 
Sheriff's spokesperson Drew Sugars encouraged hikers who encounter 
evidence of illegal marijuana grows to leave the area immediately and 
report the location to law enforcement.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake