Santa Cruz: Getting Closer to the Truth About Marijuana Citations and Arrests



Homeless people are particularly vulnerable to the Drug War.  Yet from the stats acquired from the SCPD, it appears that in the last six month period not one citation or arrest was made for marijuana use, possession, transportation, or sales for anyone with a “transient” or “115 Coral St” address.  This does not jibe with my anecdotal understanding as someone who has interviewed people regularly for Free Radio Santa Cruz.
The Measure K Committee refused to ask the SCPD for its actual records on marijuana citations and arrests, to see if if is complying with the law. The law is the Measure K Initiative passed in 2006 by the voters (over City Council hostility). That requires that marijuana enforcement for those over 21 on private property be “the lowest enforcement priority.”

In a prior article, “Measure K Committee Craps Out Again–Another Free Ride for the SCPD” at, I described how the Measure K Committee again refused at its token meeting on 10-6 to even request, much less examine, the actual citation and arrest record of the SCPD regarding marijuana. It simply rubberstamped the police summary as being Measure K compliant.

To do this requires to look at occasions where citations and arrests were made on private property and what the circumstances were.

Committee member Coral Brune independently requested those records and forwarded them to me. I reprint them below.

I will encourage Brune to make a follow-up request to view the actual citations and reports. If she won’t, I will. The citations and arrests need to be examine individually to see if police actually did follow the law.

As for discrepancies regarding the number of citations/arrests for homeless folks,  I as yet have no explanation.  It seems highly unlikely that not one citation or arrest happened during the period from November 2013 to the present which involved a homeless person.
To view the more extensive police summary of the citations and arrests made for marijuana incidents during this period, go to .

Guilty pleas in Cudahy bribery case

Associated Press
Thursday, August 2, 2012

Los Angeles

David Silva, the former mayor of Cudahy, stood before a federal judge Thursday and admitted he accepted a $5,000 bribe in exchange for his support of a medical marijuana dispensary.

When asked outside court why he took the cash, Silva sheepishly said, “Greed, I guess.”

Silva, 61, and ex-Cudahy Councilman Osvaldo Conde each pleaded guilty to single counts of extortion and bribery that carry up to 30 years in prison. Both men are scheduled to be sentenced in November.

The two men, along with onetime City Manager Angel Perales, solicited and accepted $17,000 after meetings with the dispensary owner, who was working as an FBI informant. Perales pleaded guilty this week to similar charges.

Silva said it was a “stupid mistake” to take the bribe from the pot shop owner earlier this year. “It’s something I have to live with,” he said.

Conde, hands in his pockets as he left the courtroom, declined to comment.

The arrests are the latest in a series of corruption scandals involving small Los Angeles County cities. The former city manager and several other officials from neighboring Bell are awaiting trial on charges of misappropriating funds to overpay themselves.

On Tuesday, two former Lynwood City Council members were found guilty of illegally boosting their salaries and racking up inappropriate bills on city credit cards.

Court documents in the Cudahy case portrayed the suburb of 25,000 people as a corruption-riddled municipality where “money makes the monkey dance,” Perales once told the dispensary owner, according to court documents.

Conde, 50, was deemed the most powerful man in Cudahy by Perales, who said Conde and Silva weren’t typical elected officials.

“They’ve dealt with, uh, you know, people that throw money down,” Perales told the dispensary owner, according to an affidavit.

The approval of a medical marijuana dispensary, which had been prohibited in Cudahy, could have raked in huge profits. The informant estimated the clinic could generate up to $2.5 million within a year. The proposed dispensary never came before the council for approval.

As part of their plea agreements, Silva and Perales can’t be prosecuted for any crimes that arise out of related investigations, federal prosecutors said. In court documents filed in the bribery case, authorities said both men accepted cash bribes from a developer and Perales helped discard absentee ballots in two elections that supported candidates who challenged incumbents. Those accusations were not related to the proposed dispensary.

SoMa becoming free-trade zone for pot dispensaries

C.W. Nevius
SF Chronicle, Monday, July 2, 2012

Neighborhood groups have been complaining about the pot club boom South of Market for years. But now that recently approved marijuana dispensaries are starting to open, the critics can point to the map and make the case that there should be a law against “clustering.”

Across from The Chronicle at Fifth and Mission streets, workers are putting the finishing touches on a dispensary at 952 Mission, set to open in July. And in April, the City Planning Commission approved another club just around the corner at Sixth and Jessie, about half a block away.

The hearing prompted debate, but until the storefronts open, it is hard to visualize the problem.

“If there were a number of Starbucks opening on the same block, or banks, I would still be here” objecting, said Daniel Hurtado, executive director of the Central Market Community Benefit District. “There’s literally another one around the corner. What’s the need?”

Unfortunately, regulating pot clubs is not a popular position. Then-Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi pushed through regulations in 2005 that kept dispensaries from opening, unregulated, all over the city.

Unfortunately, what seemed like reasonable restrictions at the time have basically turned the South of Market district into a pot free-trade area. The idea was that a dispensary could not be placed within 1,000 feet of a school for students younger than 18 and that it had to be zoned for commercial use.

SoMa, with its condos, apartments and single men and women, fits the profile perfectly. A rectangle, from Fourth Street to 10th Street three blocks wide, is nearly all wide open. When the two new clubs open this summer, seven dispensaries will be between Fourth and 10th streets.

The irony, of course, is that everyone from Mayor Ed Lee to neighborhood activists has been trying to get new businesses to move into the area around troubled Sixth Street. But creating a San Francisco version of pot-friendly Amsterdam was not what they had in mind.

Santa Cruz Patients Collective suddenly shuts its doors

Jason HoppinSanta Cruz Sentinel:   05/31/2012

SANTA CRUZ – The number of Santa Cruz medical marijuana dispensaries was halved last weekend when the Santa Cruz Patients Collective suddenly closed its doors.

No reasons were given for the closure, and owner Ken Sampson could not be reached to comment. Speculation on why it closed ran the gamut from Sampson simply tiring of running the business to the landlord growing concerned about a recent federal crackdown on the state’s cannabis industry.

“His heart was in the right place,” said Ben Rice, a local attorney who works with medical marijuana clubs. “He was one of the first guys to really insist on the quality of the medicine. He was very determined to make sure the patients were not getting an adulterated product.”

If the crackdown, which has directly and indirectly claimed numerous dispensaries statewide, contributed to the collective’s closure, it could be the second one to shut it doors after California’s four U.S. attorneys joined forces to enforce federal prohibitions of the marijuana trade.

Earlier, Live Oak’s Crème de Canna closed, partly due to legal uncertainties that emerged after the federal enforcement effort began. One of those uncertainties has to do with building owners where dispensaries are housed, with the federal government warning some landlords that they could lose their buildings.

Marijuana advocates also say dozens of Californians involved in providing medical marijuana are now facing federal charges.

At the Patients Collective, formerly located at 115 Limekiln St., a lone remaining sign refers patients to Santa Cruz’ only other permitted pot club. Numerous other clubs operate outside city limits.

“If their patients want to come over here, they’re welcome,” said Calvin Maynor, who works at the Greenway Compassionate Relief in Santa Cruz, located blocks from the Patients Collective.

Open since 2006, the collective quickly won over skeptical neighbors in the Harvey West area.

“He turned all those people around,” Rice said.

Santa Cruz planner Mike Ferry said the city has never received complaints about Sampson’s operation. But how the city fills the now-vacant permit – potentially extremely valuable, even amid the federal crackdown – appears to be an open question.

Ferry, who has not been contacted by Sampson, said the business would have to stay dark for six months before a permit is reissued. But he did not know how the city would choose a second licensee if more than one potential operator stepped forward.

“That’s an interesting question,” Ferry said.

Farr, others to target funding for medical pot crackdown

Jason Hoppin

Santa Cruz Sentinel:   05/07/2012

Rep. Sam Farr wants to tie the federal government’s hands when it comes to medical marijuana dispensaries, joining an effort to cut off funding for a burgeoning statewide crackdown.

Farr, D-Carmel, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., are spearheading a bipartisan effort that should hit the floor of the House of Representatives today. During debate on a bill that funds the Department of Justice, the trio are expected to introduce an amendment barring the use of funds to prevent states from implementing medical pot laws.

“It is time for the federal government to stop targeting the legal vendors that are providing safe access to this treatment, and instead focus limited resources on those who sell illicit drugs,” Farr said. “The amendment I will offer with my colleagues will work to assure funds under the Department of Justice do not target the safe access to treatment patients need.”

Jack Gillund, spokesman for San Francisco-based U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, declined to comment.

For months, federal law enforcement officials in California have targeted dispensaries through warning letters and even periodic raids that appeared to target large-scale operations. The crackdown has claimed several renowned dispensaries, which chose to shutter their doors rather than fight on.

Critics say the effort represents a broken promise by President Barack Obama, who previously vowed not to use federal resources on medical marijuana. Obama recently told Rolling Stone magazine his administration doesn’t go after patients, but that it cannot ignore federal law.

About 200 dispensaries have closed across California, including the venerable Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and the Berkeley Patients Group. Locally, former Mid-County club Crème de Canna, located near a preschool, closed amid speculation that it had received a warning letter from the feds.

Attorney Ben Rice, who represents several local clubs, said the crackdown is being selectively applied, making it difficult for patients everywhere to have access to marijuana.

“You have different readings of the law from one town to the next. The feds get invited from communities where medical marijuana is not welcome,” Rice said. “What we’ve seen happen is some of the really well-organized and patient-based dispensaries have been shut down. You can’t tell me that every single dispensary in Santa Barbara is violating the law.”

Last week, 10 dispensaries in the Santa Barbara area received warning letters from prosecutors. The city of Monterey has passed a moratorium on clubs, while dispensary regulations in Santa Cruz County are suspended due to an ongoing court case.

“Some don’t want medical marijuana around and just call the feds in, and others are targeted because they’re perceived to be hurting law enforcement’s picture,” Rice said. “I think that hurts their narrative. There are some people in law enforcement who still just don’t buy medical marijuana as a legitimate form of medication.”

Though the raids have been criticized by everyone from Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., last week California’s congressional delegation began to push back in earnest. On May 2, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued a press release blasting the crackdown.

That is being followed by today’s expected action. Even if the effort to tie the Justice Department’s hands is unsuccessful, Rice praised Farr and Rohrabacher for bringing it forward.

“Absolutely,” Rice said. “It’s really important that they speak up.”

Federal move to seize 2 Novato pot-club buildings

by Vivian Ho
SF Chronicle, April 26, 2012

Federal prosecutors are moving to seize two Novato buildings that house medical-marijuana dispensaries, following through on warnings they began issuing last fall when they announced a campaign against California’s pot clubs.

The U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco went to federal court Monday asking that the landlords of the Green Door Wellness Education Center and the neighboring Green Tiger dispensary forfeit their properties on Redwood Boulevard. By Wednesday, Green Tiger had already closed.

Federal prosecutors have sent letters to at least 300 dispensaries in California, threatening prosecution and asset forfeiture for allegedly violating federal law against marijuana distribution, said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana group.

About 300 dispensaries have voluntarily shut down, including five in San Francisco, Hermes said. Some had been pressured by federal prosecutors, and others were scared off by the government’s campaign, he said.

But Hermes said he could “count on one hand” the number of asset forfeitures the federal government has pursued.

“It’s rare for them to act on their threats, period,” Hermes said. “I think they’re trying to make an example to the broader population.”

Sara Zalkin, an attorney who specializes in marijuana cases, said she knew of no previous instances in which federal prosecutors have gone to court to seize a dispensary landlord’s building.

“They sent letters threatening landlords, basically saying that they were putting them on notice because they believed there were controlled substances being stored or distributed on their properties,” Zalkin said. “But I have not personally experienced or heard of the feds actually moving toward forfeiture.”

Under state law, distribution of marijuana for medical use is legal, but it’s illegal under federal law. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco declined to comment on the Novato cases.

The complaints prosecutors filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco cite alleged violations of federal law and municipal zoning codes.

Lawrence Pebbles, director of the Green Door Wellness Education Center, said he plans to continue business as usual until a judge tells him otherwise. He’s had a tense relationship with his landlord, David Cesena, in the past – Cesena recently tried to evict him, but a Marin County Superior Court judge ruled against him.

Cesena could not be reached for comment Thursday. Neither could Green Tiger’s landlords, Kerry and Martin O’Brien.

Pebbles opened his dispensary in April 2010. He said his client list has grown to almost 1,800, with 20 to 30 regulars a day.

“Without a legitimate, safe access, patients will be forced to seek alternatives, which are less safe, less accessible,” Pebbles said. “There’s a higher level of vulnerability when you have to go to the black market.”

He added, “There are a lot of arguments in both directions, but all I know is that prohibition didn’t work for alcohol, and it doesn’t seem to be working for cannabis either.”

Stop the federal pot raids


SF Chronicle, April 5, 2012

A months-long crackdown on medical marijuana by federal prosecutors has reached new heights with this week’s raids on Oakland dispensaries. It’s time to call off the overboard tactics and deal sensibly with regulating a drug that increasing numbers of Americans feel poses little harm.

The latest incident only furthers the tone-deaf image of the U.S. Department of Justice, whose agents stormed well-known medical pot dispensaries in Oakland, the de facto center of efforts to expand marijuana cultivation and use. Since last fall, federal officials have sent warning letters to landlords of outlets and served notice that Washington won’t tolerate medical marijuana sales.

It’s a ridiculous stance that mocks a serious issue. Last fall, federal prosecutors said the therapeutic use of pot had led to abuses, crime and profiteering. Spend 15 minutes outside a dispensary and it’s easy to see their point: a steady stream of customers who hardly resemble the sick and suffering intended to benefit under a “compassionate use” initiative passed by California voters in 1996.

But Prohibition Era-style sweeps won’t work. First, it’s a confusing message coming from the Obama administration, which telegraphed three years ago that a crackdown was a low priority. Since then, the policy has gone in the opposite direction: Stop all sales now.

Second, easing the availability of medical marijuana also has lowered the public’s fear factor of the drug. The result? Washington is losing all credibility by pursing efforts to shut down dispensaries. One of this week’s targets – the Oaksterdam University that teaches pot cultivation and legal rules – suggests that Department of Justice officials make no distinction among operators.

Finally, the federal raids ignore the core of the issue: bridging the gap between unbending federal controls and growing numbers of states, including California, that want updated consideration of the drug.

To be sure, court rulings and legal obstacles make change difficult. In California’s case, there needs to be more debate and study on clarifying a confused picture. The voter-passed initiative didn’t spell out rules on supplying marijuana to dispensaries, quality control, medical standards or financial operations, so there is plenty California can do to clean up its act.

Yet this confusion doesn’t excuse this week’s raids. This state has moved beyond a total ban on marijuana to a new phase: finding a workable way to allow the compassionate use of a drug. Washington should wake up to reality.

LA marijuana dispensary workers join labor union

Associated Press, 3-24-2012

LOS ANGELES — Marijuana dispensary workers in Los Angeles have joined a labor union to fight for their jobs in an industry that the federal government considers illegal.

Workers at 14 pot shops have formed the “medical cannabis and hemp division” of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 770. The 35,000-member union also represents grocery clerks, pharmacists and health care workers.

“This is the next step in professionalizing and stabilizing this new sector of the health care industry,” Local 770 President Rick Icaza said at a news conference Thursday. “This is a positive step towards successfully integrating compassionate care into our system of health care.”

Los Angeles currently caps the number of medical marijuana dispensaries, but the City Council is considering a full ban in light of a court decision that limits its ability to regulate them.

Icaza said the union would use its considerable political weight to pressure officials to find an alternative to a total ban.

That help will be welcome, said Yamileth Bolanos, president of the Greater Los Angeles Collectives Alliance, which represents dispensaries.

“It’s time to bring in some big guns,” she told the Los Angeles Times ( ). “Not only are they threatening access for patients, they’re also trying to take jobs away from our employees.”

Pot clinics flourished in California after voters in 1996 voted to permit people to cultivate and possess marijuana for what became nearly any medical reason. As hundreds of dispensaries opened, cities and counties struggled to interpret the state law, which was light on specifics.

Some communities sought to outlaw the pot clinics under existing zoning and other ordinances, while others tried to regulate them.

Court rulings have further muddied the waters. Last month, a state appellate court ruled that cities cannot use nuisance ordinances to ban medical marijuana dispensaries.

A Los Angeles-based appellate court last year struck down Long Beach’s attempt to license marijuana stores, ruling the local ordinance conflicted with federal law. And another appellate court upheld Riverside’s right to close and prohibit dispensaries despite the state’s medical marijuana law.

Early on in the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department said prosecutors wouldn’t focus on pot dispensaries that were following state medical marijuana laws even though the entire industry was considered illegal under federal statutes.

But that attitude has changed, with federal prosecutors arguing that many ostensibly nonprofit clinics are raking in money by supplying marijuana to people without a medical need.

Since last year, federal prosecutors have warned California clinics that they are illegal, filed criminal and civil charges against some owners, and threatened to seize properties that are leased to pot growers. About 140 dispensaries in more than 20 Southern California cities have been told to shut down since October when federal authorities began their statewide effort.

The crackdown hasn’t dissuaded some communities from welcoming pot shops. Earlier this month, Oakland officials granted approval for four new medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, bringing the total to eight. Officials said the four dispensaries would generate $1.7 million in annual tax revenue for the city.

How Many Pot Patients Calif. Has Is Anyone’s Guess

Lisa Leff

Associated Press, Mar 24, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California has seven times as many residents as Colorado, but nearly nine times fewer medical marijuana users, at least on paper.

And as far as record-keepers know, the most populous state, home to the nation’s first and most liberal medical marijuana laws, also has a smaller number of pot patients than Arizona, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana and Oregon.

If those statistics look off-kilter, they should. The reality is that no one knows how many people are legally using marijuana in California because the state — with hundreds of pot stores and clinics that issue medical marijuana recommendations — does not require residents to register as patients. Of the 16 states that allow the medicinal use of cannabis, it is one of only three without such a requirement.

Now, with California’s medical marijuana industry laboring under a renewed federal crackdown that has forced many storefront dispensaries to close, a state lawmaker has recently introduced legislation that, if passed, would give authorities a much clearer count of the drug’s bona fide consumer base.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, a San Jose Democrat, the bill would require anyone who wants to claim a legal right to use marijuana for health reasons to apply for a county-issued identification card. Marijuana patients also would have to say if they plan to grow their own pot or to purchase it from a patient collective, and name the collective.

The changes are designed to make it easier for police and sheriff’s deputies to identify who can legally consume and grow marijuana and who is using medical marijuana laws as a cover for illegal drug possession or dealing, said Randy Perry, the Peace Officers Research Association of California lobbyist who wrote the bill.

“We are not saying people shouldn’t be smoking it or eating it. The people have spoken, and that’s legal,” Perry said. “We are simply trying to organize it a little bit so our law enforcement officers won’t have to arrest people who can legally have it and won’t have to confiscate their legally grown marijuana plants when there is a lot of crime and a lot of criminals they need to be going after.”

California already has a state-run medical marijuana patient database and program under which counties are required to issue ID cards to eligible patients. The program was adopted by lawmakers in 2003 as a way to protect legitimate medical patients from arrest when caught with marijuana in their cars. The registry system was seen as a way to add a measure of control to California’s voter-approved law seven years earlier decriminalizing marijuana for medical use.

The registry was made voluntary, however, and relatively few patients have signed up. The California Department of Public Health reports that during the fiscal year that ended last June, the state had only 9,637 valid card holders.

In Colorado, by contrast, the state with a medical marijuana regime most similar to California’s but where patient registration and annual renewal is mandatory, the total number of patients holding valid ID cards as of December was 82,089. If California’s patients were registering at that rate, there would be more than 615,000 of them.

Medical marijuana-related businesses are ubiquitous in parts of California. But just three cards were issued for every 100,000 residents last year, putting the state below every state with a mandatory patient registry. New Mexico, with one of the most stringent medical marijuana laws, issued 21 cards for every 100,000.

In California, records show the pot growing region known as Emerald Triangle— Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties— had among the highest rates of registrations in the state.,

Health department officials declined to discuss the registry’s unpopularity, but the reasons for it are hardly a mystery. Although the system was set up with extensive privacy protections, such as identifying patients by numbers instead of names, many people are reluctant to enter personal information on a government database since marijuana still is illegal under federal law.

Medical marijuana advocacy groups have done little to dispel the fears, and some doctors who specialize in writing marijuana recommendations have fueled confusion by providing plastic ID cards that many users mistakenly assume offer the same protections as the county-issued ones until they are in a traffic stop, said San Diego criminal defense lawyer Melissa Bobrow.

“I can understand the reluctance of patients to go on this list, but at the end of the day you want to think of the reality and what the worst-case scenario is,” said Bobrow, who represents pot patients facing drug charges. “The world doesn’t have the budget to go after everybody smoking marijuana in California, even in an economic boom. Is it possible the database could be breached? Anything is possible, but it is so unlikely why not give yourself that extra level of protection?”

The bill requiring California’s pot patients to register is likely to meet fierce opposition from medical marijuana advocates, who have gone to court to block state and local laws limiting how many plants people can legally grow and regulations dictating where and how pot shops can operate.

Retired state Sen. John Vasconcellos, who sponsored the legislation creating the voluntary marijuana patient registry, predicted current lawmakers would be pre-empted from making the program mandatory, even if they approve the bill. The Legislature in his view cannot override voters who established at the ballot box that eligible patients only need a doctor’s recommendation to be legal.

Vasconcellos — himself on the marijuana registry— said he opposes making it mandatory. But he expressed surprise that so few Californians have availed themselves voluntarily of the “free pass” the system was supposed to provide. He was incredulous that in his own Santa Clara County there were at least 150 pot shops a year ago but only 198 residents with current registrations.

“I’m proud to have my card,” he said, “and I’m saddened people don’t feel like they can trust the integrity of the governmental process.”