Pubdate: Sat, 21 May 2011
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2011 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Northstone Organics, a medical marijuana cooperative based in 
Mendocino County, appears to be about as legitimate as such an 
organization can be.

It has a Mendocino County Sheriff's permit to grow medical marijuana 
as a cooperative, undergoes county inspections and its plants are 
tagged with Sheriff's Office zip ties, a measure aimed at protecting 
them from being seized by law enforcement.

"If what Northstone Organics is doing isn't legal, no collective or 
cooperative is legal," said Mendocino County Supervisor John McCowen, 
who spearheaded the county's medical marijuana permit program.

But the legal precautions, which cost the cooperative about $8,500 a 
year, could not guarantee safe passage of marijuana through Sonoma County.

Daniel Harwood, 33, of Willits, and Timothy Tangney, 29, of Lucerne, 
were twice stopped by Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies in October 
while driving through Sonoma County on their way to deliver medicinal 
pot to co-op members in the Bay Area. Both are members of the cooperative.

The two, who were stopped on consecutive days, were told they were 
pulled over for traffic violations: speeding in one case and not 
using a turn signal in the second instance. Deputies said the smell 
of pot led them to search the vehicles, confiscate the marijuana and 
issue citations to the alleged offenders.

Oakland attorney Bill Panzer, who is reprenting the two drivers, said 
something else is at play.

"They've been profiling young people driving in rental cars," he said 
of sheriff's deputies.

Sonoma County Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas denied the profiling allegation.

"Absolutely not," he said.

Harwood and Tangney each are facing two felony counts of 
transportation of marijuana for sale and possession with intent to sell.

They were carrying about 2.3 pounds of marijuana packaged mostly in 
one-ounce bags, each labeled with the names of 35 patients for whom 
they were destined. The labels included price tags of approximately 
$275 each, said Matt Cohen, the founder and chief executive officer 
of the 1,400-member cooperative.

Everything they were doing was legal, Panzer said.

But not everyone interprets medical marijuana law the same way.

"It's extremely fuzzy," said McCowen, the county supervisor.

"I would love for direction to be given to us from either the courts 
or state Legislature that gives us consistent guidelines for 
transportation," said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman.

Issues surrounding medical marijuana transportation, financial 
compensation and dispensaries remain muddy 15 years after voters 
legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, he said.

Panzer said it's clear enough to know that charges against his client 
should be dropped.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch declined to discuss the 
case but said her office respects the rights of legitimate medical 
marijuana patients.

"I support safe access to medical marijuana," she said.

She also said that prosecuting marijuana cases that don't involve 
violence is a low priority for her office.

Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster said he doesn't have 
enough information to comment specifically on the Northstone case. 
But transporting marijuana to cooperative members is permitted under 
state Attorney General medical marijuana guidelines, he said.

"Even assuming simply for the sake of argument that the guidelines 
are wrong, I personally believe it is bad policy to prosecute people 
who may have relied on the written policy guidelines of the 
California Attorney General," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom