Scaring County Officials–Why the Federal Government is Cracking Down on Law Abiding Growers and Dispensaries

A 2010 Photo of Chelsey Brown, a registered dietician who was hired by HPRC, an Arcata dispensary to work with patients, juicing cannabis as part of a medical program.


The New York Times today carries an article about dispensaries in California and uses the problems of the North Coast city of Arcata, Ca to illustrate the situation.

Humboldt Medical Supply, a dispensary here in Humboldt County regarded as a law-abiding model that has given free cannabis to elderly patients, became the first to obtain a permit in 2010. The Sai Center, whose owner has a history of flouting city regulations and was described by the mayor as running his business “purely for profit,” was rejected last year.

Humboldt Medical quickly closed shop after federal prosecutors began shuttering hundreds of dispensaries in October in one of the biggest crackdowns on medical marijuana since its legalization in California in 1996. The Sai Center’s owner moved locations and has defied the authorities by continuing to operate, most recently out of his mother’s house.

The article does a solid job of addressing the situation which exists here in California in which some of the most law-abiding dispensaries and growers, those most anxious to help their communities and work with local government, are targeted by the US Attorneys while other dispensaries and black market growers continue to operate without any problems. 

I spoke to Alison Sterling Nichols, Executive Director at the Emerald Growers Association, today about the situation.  In her opinion, “Clearly the feds are targeting the ones who are trying to follow the few laws we have in place in an attempt to scare lawmakers out of regulating an industry that has been legal for 16 years.”

I brought up the Northstone Organics owner Matthew Cohen who was raided last fall.  Wasn’t he the poster child for following Mendocino County’s ziptie law? Why would they raid a grower who was attempting to work with Mendocino County law enforcement to bring order to that community?

Nichols explained, “When they raid Matt Cohen, it isn’t about raiding Matt Cohen. It isn’t about scaring him; it is about scaring county officials—which is ironic because our lawmakers are begging to understand.” Nichols who often testifies before the county boards of both Mendocino and Humboldt as well as working with state legislation believes that officials in county and state governments are trying desperately to create models that work.  According to her, “The feds are completely obstructing the process.  That is wrong because there are 17 states now where it is medically legal.”

According to Nichols, the crackdowns in California are the result of the state not having coherent statewide cannabis legislation. Colorado, she says, is not as wide open.  “They have a state wide model….There was only 1 arrest in 16 months in Colorado because they have a statewide rules.  We can’t assert our 10th amendment rights without border to border uniform rules… A municipality can’t assert it.  A county can’t assert it. Only, a state can.”

This is why, she explained to me, “…the Emerald Growers Association is trying to work on a state model  so that the language of the laws doesn’t legislate outdoor away from the table.” The EGA, she explained, is struggling to keep the Colorado model, which has growing cannabis based around indoor warehouses at dispensaries, from being adopted.  The EGA is hoping that a medical model is eventually adopted statewide that works with outdoor growers.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *