Mendocino’s unique solution to the over-crowding of marijuana cases in the criminal courts

California has a reputation for being a testing ground for new ideas. As an example, California was the first state in the nation to legalize medial marijuana in 1996, and we have been the creatively arguing for how this rather broadly written proposition should be enforced ever since. Much of the Medical Marijuana law, as written, is unclear, leaving patients to struggle with how to legally comply with the law, and still provide themselves or their patients with the necessary amount of medicine. Additionally, the courts themselves are struggling with how to differentiate between the legitimate marijuana use by medical patients, and the illegal growing of marijuana for sale. Mendocino County seems to have figured out a system to ease the congestion of marijuana cases in their courts, while establishing a program to limit unjustified prosecutions.

Almost 40% of the marijuana grown in the United States is produced in California and a large amount of that is produced in the “Emerald Triangle” area of California, which includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties. As a result Mendocino County has a significant number of marijuana cases clogging up the courts.

Mendocino County has come up with a unique solution. While a Mendocino County ordinance limits marijuana plants to 25 per parcel, in order to prevent needless prosecution and confiscation or destruction of plants within compliance, a cultivator may purchase “zip-ties” issued by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department and register through the County to protect themselves from unnecessary prosecution.  To receive a zip-tie, the cultivator must present a State-issued medical marijuana identification card or a valid medical recommendation.

However, understandably so, some cultivators are uncomfortable registering through the County, grow more than expected, or need more marijuana than allowed through the County’s program. As a result, the courts were still seeing a large number of marijuana patients and collectives facing felony charges for their excess marijuana.  Again, Mendocino County has come up with a unique solution. In 2011, a program was instated aimed at reducing the backlog of marijuana cases in the Mendocino County courts.  A defendant will now often times have the option to reduce their felony charges to misdemeanors, in exchange for paying a set restitution amount of $50 per plant or $500 per pound of processed marijuana.   

Aiming at reducing the volume of criminal cases to only serious marijuana offenders, the program is not available to those with a previous criminal history, or those who were trespassing or using public lands to grow on. The fees collected through this program go to the Mendocino county Sheriff’s office.

At Andrian & Gallenson, we will consult with you regarding your marijuana cultivation and help you to determine whether you are in compliance with your county’s regulations.  If arrested, and/or your property is seized, we will fight vigorously for your defense, getting you the best possible resolution to your case.

For more information about the Mendocino County program look here:

The Mendocino Sheriff’s Department also has this PDF, “Medical Marijuana Cultivation Regulation”:

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