Four brothers kidnapped and forced to work on marijuana farm in Northern California
Los Angeles Times - By. Hailey Branson-Potts - 09/22/2016
Authorities in Northern California are investigating possible drug cartel activity after four Modesto brothers say they were kidnapped, tortured and forced to work for more than five months on an enormous, illegal marijuana farm under the threat of violence.
The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department this week announced the arrest of two women. Guadalupe “Lupe” Arrellano, 43, and Medarda “Daniella” Urbieta Estudillo, 34, were arrested Sept. 14 in Modesto and charged with human trafficking, kidnapping, battery with serious bodily injury, making terrorist threats and drug charges, authorities said.
Sheriff’s officials said they are still seeking two men in connection with the case.
In February, Arrellano picked up two men from a Modesto business known as a place where day laborers congregate, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Macedo said at a news conference. She told the men she needed help working on a landscaping project at a home in Calaveras County.
The brothers worked at a home in the small, remote town of West Point for several days before being taken by force to a nearby marijuana cultivation site, where they were threatened, according to the sheriff’s office.
Arrellano got the men’s home address in Modesto and went to the residence, where she told family members that two were working for her on a marijuana farm. She offered to take two more relatives to the site, but told them that if they said anything to law enforcement, their family members would be killed, according to the sheriff’s office.
Two additional brothers went with her to the West Point site, where they were threatened by armed men, taken to their family members and forced to work on the marijuana harvest while their remaining family members in Modesto were continually threatened by the captors, authorities said.
The four men, whose names have not been released, were kept in squalid conditions, sleeping on cots outdoors. They were severely beaten for complaining about the conditions.
At one point, one of the men heard a male captor ask Arrellano whether he could kill the victims, Macedo said. Arrellano reportedly told the captors no because they were nearly done with the marijuana harvest, but that they could be killed after they finished their work. About that time, one of the captors tried to stab one of the victims, holding a gun and knife at the same time, according to the sheriff’s office.
That night, on July 27, the men escaped and ran to a West Point home, where a resident called authorities. Three of the men had “significant” visible injuries.
The injured men were taken to a nearby hospital, and one had to be taken to a trauma center because of the severity of his wounds.
On July 28, law enforcement officials from Calaveras and Tuolumne counties and federal agencies served a search warrant near Bald Mountain Road, where they located the growing operation.
Investigators found 23,245 marijuana plants with an estimated street value between $18 and $60 million, at least two firearms, multiple cellphones and $10,000 in cash.
“There was mention of cartel activity that has yet to be corroborated,” Macedo said. “There was a specific cartel mentioned, however we have not corroborated that information at this time.”
Macedo said it was a “large-scale investigation” involving numerous local and federal agencies. The amount of food stored on the marijuana growing site indicated it was a large operation, he said.
Macedo described the remote location as a “long, narrow, winding road to the middle of nowhere.”
“It can seem like you’re a world away from your home,” he said.
While authorities searched the property, one man was seen running from investigators, according to the sheriff’s department. A backpack was found along the trail on which he ran; a handgun was inside.
No arrests were made at the time of the search, but authorities in the weeks following served search warrants at multiple locations in Stanislaus County.
Authorities said they found a religious shrine to Santa Muerte, the folk saint of death popular among drug traffickers and cartels, during a search of a Modesto home linked to the case.
Macedo said Arrellano and Urbieta Estudillo were in the country illegally and were known to use several aliases.
In May, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors made it legal for farmers to grow medical marijuana for commercial sale. The urgency ordinance was enacted in part to help the struggling county recover from last year’s devastating Butte fire, which charred more than 70,000 acres, destroyed 549 homes and killed two people.
Authorities said the West Point marijuana farm was unregistered.
Celebrities join scramble for cannabis—the new California gold rush
The Standard - By. Jocelyne Zablit - 9/19/2016
ADELANTO, United States—Two years ago, the city of Adelanto, a crumbling outpost in California’s Mojave desert, was facing a bleak future as it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy and struggled with double-digit unemployment.
“We were about to vanish, to be incorporated into another city,” says councilman John “Bug” Woodard Jr. “The place was dying and in total despair.”
Today, however, the once-desolate town is firmly back on the map, having joined a handful of communities in California in embracing large-scale commercial cannabis cultivation—a move that smells of success as the state prepares to vote in November on legalizing the use of recreational marijuana.
Though California already allows the use of medical marijuana, the initiative to fully legalize the drug—seen as likely to succeed—is expected to transform the most populous state in the US and one of the world’s largest economies into a new epicenter for cannabis, bringing in billions in revenue.
According to the Arcview Group, a cannabis investment and research firm based in California, medical and recreational marijuana sales are expected to more than double to $6.5 billion in the Golden State by 2020 if the drug becomes fully legal after November.
Nationwide, the legal cannabis market—which stood at about $5.7 billion in 2015—is projected to reach more than $23 billion by 2020, according to Arcview.
Apart from California, several other states including Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will also vote on legalizing recreational marijuana on November 8, at the same time as casting ballots in the presidential race.
A similar ballot measure in California failed in 2010 but support has grown since, with Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker among backers of the latest initiative, which has the support of 58 percent of voters according to a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.
Celebrities join scramble
For Adelanto, the signs pointed to an opportunity too good to pass up.
Last November, the town became among the first in California to permit medical marijuana cultivation.
The decision to welcome marijuana growers led to a flood of high-end investors rushing to the town of 32,000 residents to buy up warehouses and plots of land in two so-called “green zones” earmarked for cannabis cultivation, local officials say.
“All of a sudden, we have people driving over here in Bentleys to look at property,” said Woodard, 57, a real-estate agent with wispy shoulder-length hair who organizes an annual jazz festival in the desert.
“Here you have a building that was bought for $725,000 a couple years ago and now it’s worth four million,” he added, pointing to an expanse of land dotted with warehouses surrounded by Joshua trees and brush.
“When you say Adelanto now, everybody knows where it is.”
Among the celebrities who have reportedly joined the mad scramble to snag a producer license in the city, Woodard says, are rapper Snoop Dogg, one of reggae legend Bob Marley’s sons, Ky-Mani Marley, and actor Tommy Chong, of cult comedy duo “Cheech & Chong.”
City officials said they expect cannabis production to easily reach 100 tons annually once farming gets fully underway, bringing in much-needed tax revenue to the decrepit town until now known more for its three prisons than for being pot-friendly.
“We are on the precipice of taking over the industry,” Jermaine Wright, a former pastor and member of the city council, said assuredly. “We’re doing what no other city has done when it comes to marijuana and this is going to bring in other businesses and manufacturing.”
The city’s cannabis ordinance stipulates that 40 to 50 percent of the workforce must be drawn from the local population, a measure that should significantly reduce unemployment, local officials say.
So far Adelanto, which means progress in English, has issued 35 licenses to grow cannabis and expects to hand out more in coming months, Woodard said.
Dan Olson, who owns a company that manufactures air filtration equipment in one of the “green zones,” said he has seen the town transform as it prepares for the expected windfall from cannabis farming.
“I go out for a walk in the desert every morning and I can see the change,” said Olson, whose company has been in the city for 12 years. “You now see all these cars with black tinted windows driving around and you see all these warehouses where the weeds have been pulled and you know it’s going cultivation.”
Christopher Goodman, 59, who is in the process of purchasing several warehouses in the city, said he expects to reap millions from his investment.
“The demand is here and the more people get educated about cannabis the more people will use it,” said Goodman, who was in the auto business before turning to cannabis farming several years ago.
“I’ll tell you what, I’d much rather smoke cannabis than drink beer and I mean that wholeheartedly.”
Not so dope: Police test first marijuana breathalyzer on Cali drivers
RT - 9/14/2016
Police in the US have gotten their hands on a marijuana breathalyzer and drivers in California were among the first to be tested –with nationwide distribution planned for next year.
As part of an initial field test, several erratic drivers were pulled over and asked to voluntarily blow into the breathalyzer. Two of the drivers who took part in the test admitted to smoking marijuana in the previous 30 minutes, and delivered a positive reading on the handheld device.
Other drivers who confessed to smoking pot within the previous two to three hours also tested positive – none of whom were arrested, although those who tested positive were not allowed to continue driving.
“Basically everyone agreed because they were curious,” said Mike Lynn, CEO of Hound Labs, the Oakland-based company who developed the device with some help from the University of California’s chemistry department.
Lynn, who also works as an emergency room doctor in Oakland, California, and a reserve officer with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, tagged along with officers to assist in the pullovers and testing.
“We were not trying to arrest people. ... Sure, we could arrest people and people are arrested every day for driving stoned, but the objective was not to put people in jail but to educate them and use the device if they volunteered so we could get the data," Lynn added.
One driver was arrested during the testing, however, but for being under the influence of alcohol.
The “groundbreaking” device can detect THC (the main ingredient in pot) on a person’s breath when they have eaten food like gummy bears or brownies, as well as alcohol.
Following some more tests to validate the technology’s results, Hound Labs hopes to widely distribute the device to law enforcement in the first half of next year.
Until now, police had to rely on an imperfect system of testing saliva, urine and blood samples to measure marijuana in the system, which can show the presence of the drug days after the user is actually under the influence.
Chief of Police in Lompoc, California, Patrick Walsh, has already thrown his support behind the innovative device which he plans on issuing to at least six of his departments over the next six months.
“We are looking for the least invasive way to obtain information that indicates impairment, which is why we are participating in roadside tests,” said Walsh in the company's press release.
“We don't want to arrest people who are not impaired, and yet we don't want marijuana users driving if they are high from recent use," he added.
If California Legalizes Marijuana, It Would Be a $6 Billion Industry, Report Says
TIME - By. Justin Worland - 08/25/16
The question is on the ballot in November
Legalizing recreational marijuana in California could create a $6.46-billion market for legal use of the drug by 2020, according to a new report.
The projection, from the Arcview Market Research, comes in advance of a November vote on legalization in the state. Legal marijuana sales would be expected to hit $1.6 in the first year of legalization.
The move would make the state the “epicenter” of marijuana in the U.S., John Kagia of the analytics firm New Frontier told the Orange County Register. Both Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana sales, but California sales would dwarf those in other states.
Polling suggests that a small majority of Californians support legalization. A similar measure failed in the state in 2010.
Medical marijuana dispensary manager shoots armed robbers clad in masks, body armor
By Leo Stallworth and ABC7.com staff
Wednesday, June 08, 2016
WALNUT PARK, Calif. (KABC) --
The manager of a medical marijuana dispensary in Walnut Park opened fire on two armed men after he said the suspects tried to rob him.
The incident occurred at around 10:40 p.m. Tuesday in the 2400 block of Florence Avenue, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The store manager told Eyewitness News that the suspects barged into his business clad in body armor and with their faces covered, pointing assault rifles at him.
The manager said he had no other choice but to grab his handgun and shoot at the suspects, firing at least 10 shots in self-defense.
Jasmine Chavez, who lives just behind the business, said when she came out of her home a short time after the shooting, she saw the suspects being wheeled into an ambulance.
She then talked to the manager of the business.
"His reaction was wow, like lucky to be alive," Chavez described. "He's like, I had to do what I had to do to save my life and his employee there as well."
Local resident Hector Martinez, who has worked at a marijuana dispensary as a security guard, says the owners of such businesses usually have security guards around all the time.
"A lot of money is kept inside, and that's why they always hire guards and actually have to escort people with that amount of money out so they won't get robbed," Martinez said.
Authorities said both suspects were taken to the hospital to be treated for gunshot wounds, though their exact conditions were not immediately released.
GFarmaLabs plans to build nation's largest commercial cannabis farm in Desert Hot Springs
By Leticia Juarez
Thursday, June 16, 2016 02:47PM
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. (KABC) --
The first and largest marijuana cultivation farm in Southern California will be located in Desert Hot Springs.
GFarmaLabs is spearheading this initial movement.
"It's going to be filled with greenhouses. It's going to be an agricultural center out in the middle of the desert," Berto Torres of GFarmaLabs said.
Legal marijuana cultivation can prove to be beneficial for the city of Desert Hot Springs. Land values are skyrocketing, and new businesses are sprouting up overnight.
Ben Breinberg moved from the Netherlands five months ago to open a hydroponic business.
"This is going to be the biggest in the world. So yeah, I'm happy to be right in the middle of it," Breinberg said.
However, there are mixed reactions from residents. Desert Hot Springs resident Joan Davis is concerned about the new cultivation businesses.
"We have to look at the big picture. Our children are our future, and where is the future for them and this?" Davis said.
Resident Jonathan Thomas is more supportive.
"If somebody settles here with a business and is doing productive things for the city, I don't see how somebody could have a problem with that," Thomas said.
Everyone, though, agrees that Desert Hot Springs needs the money. The city declared insolvency in 2014.
Mayor Scott Matas said in a statement, "We anticipate the GFarmaLabs project will provide local jobs and spur up to $1 million in tax revenue allowing for more funding for police, education, health resources and infrastructure within the city."
Insiders share their stories from the 'fastest-growing industry in America'; marijuana isn’t included in mainstream jobs reports, but another report says pot outsold Girl Scout cookies in 2015
By Brooke Edwards Staggs, The Orange County Register
Some have messy buns and sleeve tattoos. Some have salon cuts and $2,000 suits.
Some are joining blue-collar unions, getting health benefits as they grow and sell a plant they’ve long loved. Some say they never touch it, but they’re standing guard outside shops and fiercely lobbying legislators in Sacramento to ensure that others can.
As public support and legalization of cannabis spreads, those who’ve quietly worked in California’s medical marijuana industry are slowly emerging from the shadows. And professionals who never would have considered joining the industry a couple of years ago are leaving behind traditional careers in law, real estate and finance as they flock to what they see as the next big boom.
“The fastest-growing industry in America is marijuana, period,” said Jake Bhattacharya, who recently quit his information technology job to open a cannabis testing lab in Upland.
With medical marijuana legal in 25 states and recreational use allowed in four, pot outsold Girl Scout Cookies in 2015, according to a report from Marijuana Business Daily, a 5-year-old news website covering the industry.
Pot retail sales are expected to hit $4 billion this year, and Marijuana Business Daily is projecting that number could nearly triple by 2020.
The actual size of the industry may already be much larger, too, since California hasn’t tracked its massive medical marijuana market in the 20 years since it’s been legal. And it could skyrocket if voters here and a handful of other states approve recreational use Nov. 8.
The lack of reliable data coupled with the “niche” aspect of the industry is why cannabis — and the connected marijuana jobs — isn’t included in mainstream economic and jobs reports, according to Christopher Thornberg, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at UC Riverside.
“It’s still too fly-by-night,” Thornberg said.
California’s Employment Development Department doesn’t track the diverse daisy chain of cannabis jobs either. And several recruitment firms said they don’t deal with the industry.
Job seekers and employers instead turn to Craigslist or specialized sites. There’s a recent post on WeedHire.com for a $75,000-a-year account manager at GFarmaLabs, which makes marijuana products in Anaheim, and one on 420careers.com for growers and trimmers at Buds & Roses dispensary in Los Angeles.
Working in the industry isn’t without complications.
It remains illegal at the federal level, which limits access to financial services and causes lingering concerns over raids by federal authorities.
California’s market is also emerging from two decades of nearly nonexistent regulation and intense battles with local governments who were less than welcoming to “potrepreneurs.” That legacy means newly licensed shops often still rely on growers and manufacturers in the gray market, and they struggle to survive alongside unlicensed operators who aren’t paying the same hefty taxes.
Then there’s the glaring disapproval that comes from shrinking (per the polls) but vocal pockets of the public. Fear of backlash from conservative family members or future business associates kept a number of cannabis workers from speaking on the record for this story.
“Let’s face it, of course there is a stigma,” said Juliet Murphy, a career coach who runs Juliet Murphy Career Development in Tustin.
Murphy expects that it would raise eyebrows for more traditional employers to see a weed industry job on someone’s résumé. However, Murphy sees it as less of an issue going forward as the industry becomes more mainstream and as millennials continue to transform the workforce.
“There are still a lot of kinks that are being worked out. But I think this presents an opportunity for a lot of jobs, provided that people do it right,” Murphy said. “I think in the next 5 to 10 years, it’s going to be huge.”
After a 77-year break, hemp plants are growing in American soil again. Right now, in fact. If you hear farmers from South Carolina to Hawaii shouting "God bless America," the reason isn't because Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper (he did). Nor is it because the canvas that put the "covered" in pioneer covered wagons was made of hemp, nor that the hemp webbing in his parachute saved George H.W. Bush's life in World War II.
Nope. It's because U.S. policy is finally acknowledging that hemp can help restore our agricultural economy, play a key role in dealing with climate change and, best of all, allow American family farmers to get in on a hemp market that, just north of us in Canada, is verging on $1 billion a year.
Hemp is a variety of cannabis — and thus a cousin of marijuana — that contains 0.3% or less of the psychoactive component THC. (Marijuana plants typically contain 5% to 20% THC.) You can't get high from hemp, but starting in 1937, U.S. drug laws made cultivating it off-limits.
Finally, the U.S. hemp industry is back. A provision in the 2014 farm bill signed by President Obama on Feb. 7 removed hemp grown for research purposes from the Controlled Substances Act, the main federal drug law.
Not a moment too soon. American farmers have been watching as Canadian farmers clear huge profits from hemp: $250 per acre in 2013. By comparison, South Dakota State University predicts that soy, a major crop, will net U.S. farmers $71 per acre in 2014.
Hemp takes half the water that wheat does, and provides four times the income. Hemp is going to revive farming families in the climate change era. — Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin
Canada's windfall has been largely due to the American demand for omega-balanced hempseed oil. But hemp is also a go-to material for dozens of applications all over the world. In a Dutch factory recently, I held the stronger-than-steel hemp fiber that's used in Mercedes door panels, and Britain's Marks and Spencer department store chain used hemp fiber insulation in a new flagship outlet. "Hempcrete" outperforms fiberglass insulation.
Farmers I've interviewed from Oregon to Ohio have gotten the memo. In a Kansas-abutting corner of eastern Colorado, in the town of Springfield, 41-year-old Ryan Loflin wants to save his family farm with hemp. "It takes half the water that wheat does," Loflin told me, scooping up a handful of drought-scarred soil so parched it evoked the Sahara, "and provides four times the income. Hemp is going to revive farming families in the climate-change era."
From an agronomic perspective, American farmers need to start by importing dozens of hemp varieties (known as cultivars) from seed stock worldwide. This is vital because our own hemp seed stock, once the envy of the world, was lost to prohibition. This requires diversity and quantity because North Dakota's soil and climate are different from Kentucky's, which are different from California's. Also, the broad variety of hemp applications requires distinct cultivars.
Legally, farmers and researchers doing pilot programs in the 15 states that have their own hemp legislation (including California) now have the right to import those seeds. The point of the research authorization in the farm bill is explicitly to rebuild our seed stock. Such research is how the modern Canadian hemp industry was kick-started in 1998.
But one final hurdle has been placed in front of American hemp entrepreneurs. In Kentucky, U.S. Customs officials, at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in May seized a 286-pound shipment of Italian hemp seed bound for the state's agriculture department. After a weeklong standoff, a federal agency had to be reminded by the federal courts that the law had changed and Kentucky's seed imports were legal.
The problem is as much an entrenched bureaucratic mind-set as the ink drying on the new federal hemp policy. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart told a law enforcement group last month that the hoisting of a hemp flag above the U.S. Capitol last July 4 was "the low point in my career."
It should have been a high point. Hemp's economic potential is too big to ignore. When he was China's president, Hu Jintao visited that nation's hemp fiber processors in 2009 to demand that farmers cultivate 2 million acres to replace pesticide-heavy cotton. Canada funded its cultivar research for farmers, with today's huge payoff.
Even Roger Ford, a politically conservative Kentucky utility owner, told me his Patriot BioEnergy's biofuels division would be planting hemp on coal- and tobacco-damaged soil the moment it was legal. Why? To use the fiber harvest for clean biomass energy. "We have a proud history of hemp in the South," Ford told me.
Congress knows the farm bill hemp provision is just a baby step. The real solution is the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which would allow nationwide commercial hemp cultivation. Colorado, already ahead of federal law on legalizing psychoactive cannabis, is also in front on hemp; it has a state law allowing commercial hemp cultivation. At least 1,600 acres were planted this season.
Wyden's bill should be fast-tracked. In the meantime, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) believes hemp is so important for the Bluegrass State that he's not waiting for another brouhaha over seed imports. He added an amendment to a bill that controls the DEA's budget to specifically protect imported hemp seeds from seizure. It passed in the House 246 to 162 on May 30.
It's a necessary move: Just last week at the Canadian border, the DEA seized another shipment of hemp seeds, this time bound for Colorado farmers. This counterproductive nonsense must stop.
American farmers and investors need our support to catch up with Canada's and the rest of the world's hemp head start. Now. As Loflin put it when I toured his family's 1,200-acre Colorado spread, "I'm planting hemp to show my neighbors that small farmers have a real option as businesspeople in the digital age."
We're down to 1% of Americans farming; it was 30% when our world-leading hemp industry was stymied in 1937. The crop is more valuable today than it was then. We should be waving flags and holding parades for the farmers ready to plant the crop that Thomas Jefferson called "vastly desirable." I know I'm ready. To cheer, and to plant.
Marijuana grower Basil McMahon with his crop in Grass Valley, Calif. A new package of state laws will clarify California's regulation of the medical marijuana industry, beginning in 2018. (Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee)
by Evan Halper
When Congress effectively lifted the federal ban on medical marijuana a year ago, Californians drove the landmark change, which was tucked into a sprawling spending package by a liberal lawmaker from the Monterey peninsula and his conservative colleague from Orange County.
A year later, marijuana legalization advocates are conflicted over how big a victory the congressional vote, which was repeated this month, has turned out to be.
“The number of raids has dropped substantially, though not completely,” across the country, said Mike Liszewski, government affairs director for Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. A federal court ruling this fall, if it is upheld, would limit federal agents from targeting all but operations that are clearly flouting state law, he noted.
But in California, in particular, federal prosecutors continue to pursue cases, in large part because of flaws in the existing state medical marijuana law, which all sides agree is long overdue for an overhaul. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed three measures to clarify the state law, but those won’t take effect until 2018.
So for now, the state that was America’s birthplace for legal medical pot remains at the center of legal disputes as federal prosecutors struggle to navigate a murky landscape in which the line between healers and drug dealers is not always clear.
The two members of Congress who championed the new approach say prosecutors are not following Congress’ intent.
“The will of the people is clear: The majority of the states have enacted medical marijuana laws, Congress has voted twice now to protect those patients, and a federal judge has upheld” the measure, Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) wrote in an email. “How many times does the Justice Department need to be told to back off before it finally sinks in?”
Officials from the Justice Department declined comment, citing continued litigation.
Congress has put the department in a pickle, however. Federal law still classifies marijuana in the most dangerous category of narcotics, alongside heroin and LSD, substances which the law declares to be lacking any accepted medical use. Congress has declined to change that even as it has approved the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, as the provision has come to be known.
The city of Oakland is invoking that amendment in demanding federal prosecutors drop their bid to seize marijuana and other assets from Harborside Health Center, the nation’s largest dispensary, which has generated a tax windfall for the cash-strapped city.
Across San Francisco Bay, in Marin County, local officials cheered when a federal judge declared in October that the continued prosecution of a dispensary was an affront to the new law – only to learn on Friday that prosecutors plan to continue the fight through an appeal.
Complicating matters are the several states that now permit the sale of marijuana for recreational use. The Obama administration has opted to allow that experiment to continue unabated. So operations in California, like Harborside, that target patients seeking the drug to treat ailments can still be prosecuted while shops in Denver that unabashedly cater to college students on weekend binges operate freely.
Over the summer, Farr and Rohrabacher accused the Justice Department of illegally misappropriating federal money to continue those prosecutions, calling on its inspector general to launch an investigation. The department has yet to respond.
Federal officials have argued in court that their prosecutions don’t violate the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment because the occasional bust doesn’t impede the state from allowing the use of medical marijuana. After the judge in the Marin County case rejected that argument as “tortured,” prosecutors are left with the argument that the sales in question are not clearly in compliance with California law, which was written very broadly.
“The early medical marijuana laws were Trojan horses designed to allow effective legalization for anyone who could fake an ache,” said Jonathan Caulkins, a professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. “California is in that category.”
Even in the case of Harborside, which state and local officials often hold up as a gold standard for the medical marijuana business, California's loose rules about who is permitted to buy medical pot have left the operations a natural target for prosecutors, Caulkins said.
“Harborside is gigantic, and the Justice Department thinks it is not providing marijuana just for kids with epilepsy or people with cancer or people with HIV,” Caulkins said.
States that have more recently adopted medical marijuana provisions are not seeing their legitimate medical marijuana businesses targeted because they serve a much narrower group of clients, he said.
But the Justice Department's continued pursuit of Harborside is riling officials in Oakland. The business pays the city about $1.4 million annually in taxes, or as Oakland put it in one court filing, enough to pay the salaries of a dozen police officers or firefighters.
Advocates are hopeful that it will only be a matter of time before the prosecutions subside. California is among several states poised to decide next year whether to legalize pot for any adult who chooses to purchase it, whether to treat an illness or to just get high. If the state adopts rules to regulate a legalized market that satisfy the Justice Department – as Colorado and Washington state have done – prosecutors will probably move on to other business.
“I’ve seen no evidence the department is going after anybody doing recreational sales in Washington or Colorado,” said Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University. “Whatever the law is in a given state, prosecutors have decided it is not worth their time or energy to go after folks who are in compliance with it.”
But until California clarifies its law – either through an initiative or the new measures Brown signed this year – prosecutors will be reluctant to look to cities like Oakland for guidance on what pot businesses should and should not be permitted to do.
"They worry that the minute they show deference to some city officials in Oakland, someone will come out of the woodwork in Detroit who says, 'I have a city councilman who says you should leave me alone,'" Berman said. “The feds are concerned not only with how these rules play out in this case, but the next case and the next case.”
A “drafting error” in California’s revision to its medicinal marijuana law could leave established growers like “Sisters of the Valley” without a crop.
According to their website sistersofcbd.com, they are not traditionally religious or part of an order, but call themselves “nuns”, wear a habit, and are on a spiritual quest.
Their year-old cannabis business might have to close if a proposed ban on all marijuana cultivation kicks in.
Sister Kate and apprentice Sister Darcey from Merced, California have been producing salves and tonics made with cannabinoids (CBD), but not THC, the substance that causes a high.
They are on a mission to heal the sick with their cures and have been gaining popularity on YouTube for their music videos.
Their magic medicine still doesn’t come cheap, however.
2 fluid ounces (400mg) of CBD oil made by the moon's cycles and used for pain relief, costs patients $85.15, not including shipping, through their Etsy page.
The sisters claim their substances treat a wide range of problems.
"We make CBD oil which takes away seizures, and a million other things," Sister Kate told KFSN-TV reporter. "And we make a multi-purpose salve that cures migraines, hangovers, earaches, diaper rash, and toothaches."