Pubdate: Sat, 06 Jun 2015
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson


A Ukiah tribe has downsized its plans for a medical marijuana farm, 
at least for now, as it continues to explore what will and won't be 
tolerated by law enforcement officials.

The Pinoleville Pomo Nation's initial plan, backed by a Kansas 
investment company that funds tribal economic projects like casinos 
and now marijuana operations, called for a $10 million pot-growing 
operation in multiple greenhouses spanning some 110,000 square feet 
on the tribe's rancheria just north of Ukiah.

Similar projects are being proposed throughout the nation as tribes 
explore new ways to generate income. The projects also allow tribes 
to gain a foothold in an explosive growth industry that is expected 
to further expand as more states legalize the recreational use of 
cannabis. A measure to legalize recreational pot is widely expected 
to go before California voters next year.

As construction on the Ukiah venture began this week in clear view of 
cars driving down Highway 101, it was clear that Pinoleville's 
project is starting out a bit smaller than initially planned. Mike 
Canales, who heads the tribe's business board, said the tribe is 
sticking close to the county's 25-plant-per-parcel limit for now.

"We're just staying within the law," he said Friday.

To do that, the tribe - which has created a nonprofit organization to 
run the operation - will be growing up to 25 plants each on separate 
parcels throughout the 99-acre rancheria. It also potentially could 
cultivate marijuana on another 100 acres it owns near a residential 
subdivision but has promised the residents of the neighborhood it 
will not, Canales has said.

The tribe's initial plan apparently has been stymied by conflicting 
opinions about what the law allows.

Canales has met with Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman, but they've 
failed to reach agreement on what is acceptable and what is not, Canales said.

The land where a garden currently is being constructed is not held in 
federal trust - which typically is exempt from local regulations - 
and the sheriff contends the tribe is limited to the same 
25-plants-per-parcel maximum as everyone else in the county.

Canales contends that, as a sovereign nation, the tribe is not 
subject to the county's regulations and said the tribe may test the limits.

"Sometimes you need to disagree to get clarification," he said.

Despite the disagreement, Canales described his relationship with 
Allman as "cordial." But he's also said the tribe is ready to 
litigate the issue if need be.

Meanwhile, an estimated 100 baglike containers used to cultivate pot 
plants have cropped up on two adjacent parcels on the northeast 
corner of the rancheria along Highway 101.

In addition to growing cannabis, the 250-member tribe plans to build 
a medical marijuana dispensary that will focus on filling 
prescriptions for pot-based pills and edibles, Canales said.

"We're going to be making pharmaceuticals," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom