Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jan 2012
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2012 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson


Faced with legal threats from Uncle Sam, the Mendocino County Board of
Supervisors on Tuesday gutted its innovative, revenue-generating
medical marijuana permitting program that allowed cooperatives to grow
up to 99 plants.

"The mistake was made when we pushed the envelope," said Supervisor
Kendall Smith.

Rather than issuing permits -- process that was recently--suspended -
the county now limits the number of plants to 25, well within the
limits set in other counties and less likely to raise a red flag for
federal authorities who consider pot for any purpose to be illegal.
Sonoma County allows up to 30 plants.

The U.S. Attorney's Office Jon an. 3 threatened to sue the county over
its permitting of 99 plants and charging fees for the permits, which
generated $663,230 for the Sheriff's Office last year.
Marijuana-related permits also are the focus a Southern California
court case that the California Supreme Court last week agreed to hear.

About 30 marijuana growers, sellers and users made a case Tuesday for
supervisors to retain the program. Many suggested making it an
informal, voluntary program they thought might bypass the sticky
permit issue. They said the permits brought them out of the shadows of
illegality, made them feel like they were part of the community and
gave them some safety from prosecution.

But feelings about the ordinance always have been mixed and several
others said the ordinance should be dropped. It drew attention to
growers in Mendocino County and made them more vulnerable to federal
prosecution, they said.

They noted that one of the most outspoken permit holders, Matt Cohen,
was the subject of a federal raid last year.

The permits have "proven worthless as protection," said Paula Deeter,
owner of a medical marijuana dispensary on the coast.

Supervisor John Pinches said the permits may have given some growers a
false sense of security. "We make it sound like it's legal," he said.

Only a few people who spoke Tuesday opposed marijuana

Supervisors approved the revised ordinance on a 4-1 vote, with Pinches

He said he doesn't see much difference between allowing 25 plants or
99 plants because both are illegal under federal law. "It's like
telling a bank robber he can't touch the $100 bills but the $10 and
$20 bills are OK, he said.

"Maybe we should just get out of this whole wrangling process,"
Pinches said.
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