The long-running low intensity conflict between California medical marijuana growers and users and obdurate law enforcement officials has seen two new courtroom skirmishes this week. In a Los Angeles-area case, four members of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Cooperative (LACRC) were arrested after Ventura County police raided their grow operation and seized 342 marijuana plants.
Meanwhile, in Northern California, cannabis (marijuana) patients have taken the offensive in a wrongful arrest lawsuit in Shasta County.
In the Ventura bust, police arrested Lynn and Judy Osburn, Mark Davison, and Carol Jo Papac. The four, who all say they are medical marijuana users and are members of the LACRC, are now out on bail.
The Osburns have been active supporters of Proposition 215, and Lynn Osburn beat a similar growing rap in 1998. He and his wife Judy are the authors of a book on marijuana use in major religions, "Green Gold: The Tree of Life."
LACRC president Scott Imler told DRCNet the patch was indeed intended for the co-op. "It was a co-op garden," he said. "The gardens were clearly marked as property of the LACRC. The fact is, it was our marijuana and we're going to ask for it back."
"This hurts our members," said Imler. "The vast majority of our pot comes from two gardens. Now our 829 members see their supply threatened."
In a letter to LACRC members, Imler urged them to support their comrades. "They need the support of the entire movement to prevail," he wrote.
Another Ventura Country medical marijuana provider, Andrea Nagy, planned to meet with the four to offer her support, the LA Times reported. Nagy, the former owner of a Thousand Oaks cannabis club, reached an agreement with Ventura County authorities in February allowing her to provide pot to patients.
Imler told DRCNet that law enforcement responsiveness to medical marijuana varies among jurisdictions. "In Los Angeles county, we've had a good run," he said. "We've worked out rules with Sheriff Lee Baca, who just happened to be the then division chief sent to meet with us after Prop 215 passed."
Surrounding counties have not been as agreeable, Imler noted. He seemed bemused by the Ventura bust, pointing to the agreement Andrea Nagy had worked out with county officials.
"That garden was marked with our phone number, but the Ventura authorities didn't call us," he said. "Still, there is precedent in the county to work it out."
"We try to educate prosecutors and police, and we ask the courts to take judicial notice of Prop 215," said Imler. "We don't have any secrets; we're not doing anything wrong."
Imler said the co-op's quiet, diplomatic approach pays off. "It's gotten to the point where judges and police are instructing patients to come to LA and get that purple membership card," he said.
If the LACRC is fighting a defensive battle at the moment, in Shasta County it is the authorities who are on defense. A medical marijuana patient's ongoing wrongful arrest lawsuit was amended this week to include a Shasta County prosecutor and to become a class-action suit on behalf of all county taxpayers and cannabis patients, the Redding (California) Record Searchlight reported.
Richard and Kim Levin of Redding were arrested for growing in 1998. Charges against Kim were dropped, while Richard Levin, who has a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana, was acquitted in December of growing marijuana for sale.
The civil suit was filed after the acquittal and asks the court to forbid criminal prosecutions on marijuana charges unless it determines the suspect was not a medical marijuana user or caretaker. The Levins argue that Shasta County officials violate the Compassionate Use Act by spending state funds to prosecute medical marijuana users.
The Levin's attorney, William Simpich of Oakland, told the Record Searchlight, "We're not asking for money. We're asking for justice from law enforcement and an end to the waste" caused by prosecuting medical marijuana patients.
Simpich has a similar suit pending on behalf of seven pot patients in Tehama County whose crops were confiscated and destroyed by drug agents.
Simpich called Shasta and Tehama "the problem counties," and suggested that police are going after medical marijuana grows as "revenue enhancers."