Matt Cohen, owner of Northstone Organics medical marijuana growers cooperative, discusses a November raid on his farm by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Image courtesy of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Bowing to federal pressure, Mendocino County will no longer issue permits to medical marijuana growers. The County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to end the popular permit program, which was the first of its kind in the nation.

The vote also makes it illegal to cultivate more than 25 plants, reducing the amount from the previous limit of 99 plants. The county will not continue to issue permits, but will not prevent growers with existing permits — who are operating under state law  — to continue growing a plot of 25 plants or less.

Dozens of medical marijuana growers who packed a conference room in Ukiah today expressed passionate support for the permitting program. One speaker who identified himself as Nick said the decision to stop regulating marijuana cultivation would be a boon for illegal growers.

“With no inspectors, no sheriffs, nothing like that present, it’s just going to bring back an era of lawlessness that we had before.”

But Supervisor Dan Hamburg said a threatened lawsuit by US Attorney Melinda Haag gave the county little choice but to stop issuing permits.

“If I were a private citizen, I would be railing against the federal government, saying ‘we should put every last resource this county has to fighting the feds.’

But a fight between Mendocino County and the federal government would make David and Goliath look like a fair fight.”

The decision could force the county to lay off sheriff’s deputies due to a loss in fees earned from growers who participated in the permit program. Nearly 100 people signed up for last year’s pot harvest.

Destroyed marijuana plant.
This plant is one of 99 that were destroyed in a November 2011 raid on Northstone Organics. Image courtesy of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

KQED News and California Watch have collaborated in covering thriving medical marijuana industry in the state, as well as the federal government’s crackdown on local medical marijuana growers. Mendocino County’s permitting program was the subject of a KQED TV Special, “The Republic of Cannabis,” which aired last summer.

Recently we conducted extensive interviews with Tommy LaNier, who directs the White House-funded National Marijuana Initiative and opposes legalized marijuana and John McCowen, the chairman of the Mendocino Board of Supervisors who helped design the ordinance.

Back in October, the Drug Enforcement Agency raided the growers cooperative Northstone Organics. This surprised many medical marijuana supporters, in part because Matt Cohen’s was considered to be a model business in the Mendocino County permitting program. Here are post-raid follow up interviews with Cohen, Supervisor McCowen and federal officials:

Watch California Raids Threaten Medical Marijuana Regulation on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

  • Anonymous

    In addition to the many societal costs of prohibition, it has a long history of driving the spread of harder or more dangerous drugs.

    * Poppies to morphine to heroine to krokodil

    * Coca to cocaine to crack

    * Ephedra to ephredrine to speed to methamphetamine

    * Marijuana to skunk to dangerous synthetic concoctions such as ‘spice’ or ‘bath salts’

    * Mushrooms to ecstasy to 2CB/designers

    At every step the reasons for the rise in popularity of the new form of the drug are one or more of the following: 

    * It may easier to smuggle.

    * It may be more addictive, thus compelling the buyer to return more frequently. 

    * It may be cheaper to produce therefore yielding more profit. 

    * Like a game of “whack a mole” a shutdown of producers in one area will mean business opportunities for another set of producers with a similar product.

    Prohibition’s distortion of the immutable laws of supply and demand subsidizes organized crime, foreign terrorists, corrupt cops & politicians and feeds the prejudices of self-appointed culture warriors. So called Tough-On-Drugs politicians have happily built careers on confusing drug prohibition’s horrendous collateral damage with the substances that they claim to be fighting, while the big losers in this battle are everybody else, especially taxpayers. 

    How come so many of us have been deluded into believing that big government is the appropriate response to non-traditional consensual vices? 

    Imagine if we were to chop down every single tree on the planet as a response to our failure to prevent tree-climbing accidents. That’s what our misguided drug policy looks like. Isn’t it time we all stood up and told the government we’re tired of being beaten and jailed so that pharmaceutical companies can poison and kill us for obscene profits?

    Prohibition Prevents Regulation : Legalize, Regulate and Tax!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mara-Felsen/640640650 Mara Felsen

    In a fight between Mendocino and the Feds, Mendocino would be doomed. Yet if every jurisdiction in which the voters approved medicinal cannabis laws were to stand up, perhaps the Feds wouldn’t be having such a field day.  

    As the Feds continue their relentless pogrom against law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, they succeed in nothing other than funneling all that money into criminal enterprises and generating widespread disrespect for laws widely seen as being against the public interest. 

  • Anonymous

    There’s an old law; there’s no such thing as easy money. Stock market, real estate, and growing pot for cash, they all have their risks. No sense crying about it.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor