Prohibition and Violence: California Dispensary/Grower Robberies Claim First Fatality 11/25/05

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Like any other enterprise with cash and/or valuable commodities kept on the premises, California's medical marijuana grows and dispensaries have been the target of thieves and armed robbers. Now, the string of attacks on the medical pot people has claimed its first fatality, with the murder last Friday night of Laytonville dispensary operator Les Crane during a home invasion robbery.

Les Crane
Layton, 39, was shot five times in his bedroom when several intruders burst in, attacked two other people with baseball bats, and ransacked a large safe containing cash and marijuana. Crane's girlfriend, Jennifer Drewry, who was in a separate bedroom, suffered a broken arm, and a friend, Sean Dirlam, in a third bedroom, suffered facial injuries. While some of Crane's friends told local newspapers they think they know who did it, no arrests have yet been made in the case.

Crane was a member of that sub-set of Cannabis Nation that considers marijuana a holy sacrament. While his operation, Mendo Remedies, catered to hundreds of medical marijuana patients, he referred to it as a church, not a dispensary, and referred to himself as a reverend. Marijuana is "the tree of life," given to mankind by God for our benefit, Crane would say.

Crane, who arrived in the area only three years ago, put himself on the map by opening the Hemp Plus dispensary in Ukiah and locating Mendo Remedies right on the side of US Highway 101, while Laytonville itself lies largely off the highway. He was also a loud and forceful proponent of both medical marijuana and the herb's religious stature. And he was a generous giver to the community, founding, funding, and equipping a Laytonville youth center, as well as delivering about 600 turkeys to the needy just last week.

While the marijuana culture of Northern California has seen violence before, incidents around medical marijuana operations have been rare in the area, Mendocino County Sheriff Tony Craver told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. "I am totally surprised we haven't had more robberies and violent crimes associated with these things because of the amount of money involved and the value of the product," Craver said.

Crane was no stranger to Mendocino County authorities. At the time of his death, he was facing trial on marijuana cultivation charges after police arrested him in May and seized several thousand plants.

Back in the 1970s, Jamaican reggae artist Junior Murvin sang about "Police and Thieves" as the twin banes of society, "scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition." The police wanted to rob Les Crane of his freedom, and the thieves robbed him of his life.

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Issue #412 -- 11/25/05

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Feature: San Francisco Regulates Medical Marijuana Dispensaries | Europe: Dutch Parliament Ponders Experiment in "Legal" Coffeeshop Supply | The Prohibition Debate: Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Sparks Controversy with Call for Look at Drug Decriminalization | Prohibition and Violence: California Dispensary/Grower Robberies Claim First Fatality | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Law Enforcement: Austin Police Chief Fires Cop Who Killed Daniel Rocha | Sentencing: Rhode Island Federal Judges Not Waiting for Congress to Fix Crack-Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparities | Sentencing: Indiana Judge Compares Meth Cook to a Terrorist, Gives Him 30 Years | Medical Marijuana: Arkansas, Wisconsin Legislatures Hold Hearings | Latin America: Colombia to Suspend Aerial Fumigation Along Border With Ecuador | Web Scan: EMCDDA, Cato on Mexico, Jews and Medical Marijuana | Job Opportunity: Operations and Technology Coordinator, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, DC Area | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar


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