Pubdate: Wed, 23 Sep 2015
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson


The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office raided a medical marijuana 
growing operation on Indian land just north of Ukiah on Tuesday, 
disrupting a high-profile project that had garnered national 
attention and was hailed by tribal leaders as a new way to generate 
jobs and revenue for cash-strapped tribes.

Deputies eradicated some 400 pot plants from an outdoor location. At 
another location, they began dismantling a "highly sophisticated" 
chemical laboratory where honey oil - a sticky, concentrated pot 
product used to make edible medicine-was being manufactured under the 
auspices of the Pinoleville Pomo Nation, said Sheriff's Capt. Greg 
Van Patten. More than 100 pounds of trimmed and drying marijuana also 
was found inside the laboratory building, a former car dealership on 
North State Street.

Tribal representatives who helped launch what is widely believed to 
be the first large-scale, tribal-operated medical pot operation in 
the state had contended they had a right to grow marijuana on the 
tribe's 99-acre rancheria for the benefit of the estimated 250-member tribe.

They decried Tuesday's raids, which were accompanied by court-issued 
warrants, on what they claim are legal operations.

"I think what they're doing is not right," said Nori Baldridge, the 
tribe's director of economic development. "This is sovereign land and 
this is a sovereign nation," she said.

"We were shocked," said Mike Canales, president of the tribe's 
business board. He said he's been in frequent contact with Sheriff 
Tom Allman and expected to be notified before there was any kind of 
raid. He also contends the sheriff does not have authority over the 
tribe and said he will be asking the county grand jury to investigate 
the issue.

Neither he nor Baldridge is a member of the tribe, but the two have 
been instrumental in creating the marijuana operation. Tribal 
Chairwoman Leona Williams could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sheriff's officials have contended since the project was announced 
earlier this year that the tribe would be required to comply with 
medical marijuana laws. Allman earlier said that includes following 
the county's limit of 25 pot plants per parcel limit. Van Patten said 
the department has since determined that limit doesn't apply to the 
tribe but cited the operation's "sheer size" as a reason for the raid.

Van Patten said the growing operation was also targeted because its 
aim was to generate financial gain, which is not allowed under state 
marijuana laws. He noted that tribal members have made public 
statements about their goal of generating income.

"In no shape or form is this even close to being legal," Van Patten 
said Tuesday as he stood outside of the large, low-slung building 
that housed the laboratory. The tribe leases the property from Kandy 
Investments LLC in Rohnert Park.

Van Patten said some tribal members opposed to the pot operation had 
complained about its size and the way it was run.

"This is criminal activity," said a man watching the police raids 
unfold on Tuesday. He did not want to be named.

The operation may be larger than is legal, but it is just a shadow of 
the grand proposal initially announced in January. Plans for the 
operation were first revealed after a publicly traded Colorado-based 
marijuana-development and growing corporation, United Cannabis, filed 
federal securities documents indicating it was partnering with a 
Kansas City-based investment company that funds gaming casinos and 
other tribal endeavors. Their plan included cultivating marijuana on 
tribal lands, which are free of some government regulations. 
Pinoleville was named as one of the target tribes.

Representatives of the investment group, FoxBarry Farms, LLC, said 
the plan was to build a $10 million, 110,000-square-foot indoor 
facility where they would grow thousands of pot plants and employ up 
to 100 people. They later said they also would manufacture edible 
marijuana medications and eventually open a dispensary.

Not only has the size of the plan diminished, FoxBarry and United 
Cannabis are no longer part of the Pinoleville operation.

"About a month ago, we parted ways," Canales said. He indicated that 
the companies did not comply with tribal rules but declined to give specifics.

Tuesday's police crackdown on the operation is a setback, but Canales 
said the tribe plans to fight the crackdown, which he suggested was 
political. He also said the warrants included false information, 
including that garden guards were armed.

"It's unbelievable," Canales said of the raid.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom