Maybe it's the helicopters flying overhead from April to November, or maybe it's their cash crop. Whatever it is, marijuana growers love rumors. And a big one -- that the United States attorney had convened a grand jury, and was poking around state-legal medical cannabis operations, looking for crimes to prosecute -- has turned out to be true.
A federal grand jury has subpoenaed the Mendocino County sheriff, requesting all records related to the sheriff's defunct marijuana licensing program, according to the Ukiah Journal.
Growers paid the sheriff up to $6,500 to license and inspect their
gardens, which were then marked as legal with zip ties. They also
registered their address and their GPS coordinates, one grower told SF
Weekly. All that information will soon be in the hands of United
States Attorney Melinda Haag.
The brainchild of Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman, the zip-tie
program was in place for two growing seasons. Anyone wishing to grow up to 25 plants could pay $25 per zip tie; anyone wishing to grow up to 99 plants, over the official county limit, could do so for $50 per zip tie, plus a $1,500 inspection fee. Over 100 growers
participated, and the program raised more than $800,000 for the Sheriff's Department.
Though it ended badly. On harvest day in 2011, a program poster child, Matt Cohen of Northstone Organics, was raided by
federal law enforcement. They took every last one of his 99 plants.
Cohen has yet to be charged with a crime.
The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors canceled most of the zip-tie program last year. Word was that Haag, who has successfully shut down a dozen medical cannabis dispensaries in the Bay Area, informed Mendo officials that they would face federal charges unless the zip ties were abandoned. Growers can still get the $25 zip ties to mark up to 25 plants as legal.
Allman and Haag discussed the program at length shortly after she succeeded Joseph Russoniello as U.S. Attorney for Northern California in 2010.
The grand jury issued the subpoena in October, according to the the Daily Journal. In an interview with the Ukiah newspaper, Allman this week said he has complied, and has handed all the information over to the county council. Allman is one of the only officials to publicly comment on the subpoena, and has assured worried cultivators that the feds will find nothing wrong. Of course, they could merely find the name and address of almost 100 marijuana growers, plus documented proof that they violated the Controlled Substances Act.
In fact, they will find that.
The star chamber of the American legal system, federal grand jury proceedings are not open to the public, so it's unknown how long the jury has been seated and what they are looking for.