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​By Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent
California NORML estimates that there are somewhere between 750,000 to 1.25 million  medical marijuana patients registered in California. If President Obama and his Justice Department have their way, that’s a potential of a million or more new criminals to go after. Hell, most of us have given our names and addresses to the California Health Department. That should cut down on some of the bureaucratic bullshit in finding us.
We weren’t hiding. That was supposed to be the point.


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THC Farmer
Harborside Health Center in Oakland has been hit with back taxes by the IRS.
​Harborside Health Center thought so. The motto of the East Bay dispensary that the Feds made an example of by hitting them with back taxes last week (and going for more money from what I’ve heard) is, “From out of the shadows…”
For 15 years the State of California has been forging ahead in the quagmire that has been the issue of medical marijuana. The propositions, the ordinances and the laws surrounding MM have been ambiguous and murky at best. Written initially with limited support, so some say the language was kept purposely with loopholes so it technically couldn’t be torn apart.
From its inception in the mid ‘90s, the intention was to create a program to distribute cannabis to the people (patients) who needed it. Like any kind of legislative change, and I’m only speaking for myself as a local activist in San Francisco, I thought the issue of medical marijuana would evolve and dare I say, grow into a manageable working model.
Some say that is the problem—that medical marijuana is working in San Francisco. I can’t speak of the rest of the state, I know Los Angeles, San Jose and other burgs have done their own thing, raising judicial eyebrows and causing shut-downs of many dispensaries when the pot shops became too rampant. But San Francisco and Mendocino County, in particular, have led the race in creating a working paradigm on how medical marijuana could be successfully cultivated, distributed and transported. 
Last week before the Feds went total rat-fink on the medical marijuana patients of America, the movement maybe wasn’t exactly prosperous and flourishing; there are many roadblocks and a thousand years of change to contend with. But it was moving forward.
That’s why the betrayal of Barack Obama is so devastating.
If medical marijuana was a horserace, I’d say there was a four-way tie heading into the home stretch, with one of the key horses dropping out before the race ended.
Medical marijuana was gaining ground because different points of view were being heard by the voters of California.
Here’s where we almost got to.
 
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San Francisco Sentinel
Richard Lee of Oaksterdam has envisioned warehouses of indoor gardens as the endgame for medical marijuana
​1)    Oakland Knows How
“Oakland is the epicenter of medical marijuana in the United States,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “The Department of Justice is paying closer attention in Oakland because they’re mindful of the fact that there is enough political and commercial chutzpah to actually get this done. The only thing stopping these entrepreneurs from breaking ground tomorrow is this letter from the feds.”
 
While indoor grows abound in California, Oakland leads the way and always has. Who hasn’t heard the legends and tales of mega-gardens sprouting up in desolate, dingy warehouses throughout the East Bay? Thousands of clones growing to maturity under U.V.‘s while unsuspecting motorists tool around on the crisscrossing freeways that surround these shrouded plantations.
Oakland and the adjacent cities represent the ‘mega-vision.’ Either do it big and right, or don’t do it at all.
It’s no mistake that two of the biggest dispensaries, the above mentioned Harborside and Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), are across the Bay from the City. The biggest dispensary in San Francisco is the size of your average Burger King. They like big buttresses in the east Bay.
While definitely not Wal-Marts, these might be the Targets of the industry, in all senses of the word. They work hard and play hard and carry everything that the modern medical marijuana household needs. They’ve been doing this longer than most allowing for their unprecedented growth. In the race for supremacy of the market, shops like these are galloping towards the too big to fail type of dispensaries. They’re big in size and power.
Speaking of power…
Richard Lee, founder of Oakerstam and one of the main guys behind last year’s Proposition 19, has envisioned warehouses of indoor gardens as the endgame for medical marijuana. His scope has been on the industrial level, whether accumulating buildings or politicians. Lee is smart and in my opinion, plays by his own rules.
In September of this year, Lee told Chris Roberts at SF Weekly regarding the efforts by the “new Prop. 19 committee,” the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, to put a successor initiative on the November 2012 ballot as over, “It’s pretty much dead. The funders didn’t come through.”
After putting over a million of his own money into the unsuccessful Proposition 19, Lee, without outside investors like the old reliables such as George Soros and some of the Facebook billionaire burners, saw this issue dead in the water for this election cycle of 2012.
I think this goes to the heart of Richard Lee’s philosophy. He sees the issue of MM on a grand scale. Without the Aikido needed to counteract Big Pharma’s money, why take the chance of losing again?
Lee understands what is needed to compete in the political marketplace that we now call elections. While others move forward with crossed fingers, Richard Lee builds empires. In his own way, single-handedly, he’s moved the ball farther down the field than most. But not to mix metaphors, he’s pulled his horse out early.
Who knows? Maybe he knew something I didn’t.
Oakland reached for the stars with their mega-grow vision and it may have been their undoing going for such an aggressive mass market approach. Because they tried to weave medical marijuana into the market place like any other commodity, not accepting the hurdles and the prejudice against such a move, they may have paid the ultimate price in the Feds’ eyes.
The Feds thought they were too big for their britches. Because if it could work in Oakland… 
    
Ironically, if the current war on medical marijuana is for real. If the real reason these attacks are happening is to help reinforce Big Pharma’s hold on Medical Marijuana so the hippies don’t walk away with what they think is their billion dollar stash? When the smoke clears and when marijuana eventually becomes legal, it will be Richard Lee’s model that will be emulated and copied by the powers that be, minus teaching the regular folks how to grow. His vision, like most of Oakland’s, is industrial grows are the answer. 
 
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Regulate Marijuana Like Wine
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2)    Tax and Regulate Marijuana Like Wine
    
I heard about this latest drive to gather signatures for an initiative that would legalize marijuana in California for those older than 21 earlier this year, never really taking it seriously. The measure, called Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act, would tax and regulate the cultivation, production and sale of cannabis using grape and wine industry standards.
“We’re taking something that’s unregulated and we’re replacing it with a known successful program implemented by the California alcohol beverage control board,” said co-author Steve Kubby, who also help promote Proposition 215, California’s first medical cannabis law. “We know it works great with wine. It’s already in place.”
You might say, with star power like Kenny Loggins and “I’ll support any pot measure for a price” Tommy Chong, how could this fail?
I do not want to rain on any ganja-scented parade, but that’s kind of the problem. The rain and the water. The wine industry in California reigns. Just like the timber industry had its way with the land previously.
In Northern California where water is king, the wine industry is thirsty and hardly goes parched. The Wine Kings grab their water where they can. To start a program based on wine production sounds good; it just isn’t far reaching enough.
The idea of taxing marijuana is good. That is one of the benefits of the dispensary model. It shows how cannabis could be regulated and taxed. The wino route, I’m not so sure. It sounds good but in practicality, we need not to fool with the game, but to play it straight.
Taxing marijuana like wine gives the straights an example that maybe they can relate to, but it still doesn’t answer the basics of cultivation, distribution and transportation.
 
 
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Weed Deserve Better
​3)    Repeal Cannabis Prohibition
 
The Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012 would repeal all criminal prohibitions on cannabis related conduct for adults 19 years of age and older, while maintaining patients’ medical rights, leaving intact laws related to driving while impaired and prohibiting and punishing distribution to or from minors under 19 years of age.
It would also vest a newly created California Cannabis Commission with regulation of commercial cannabis. Three pounds and 10x10, 100 square feet of plant canopy per adult (six pounds and 200 square feet for Mom and Pop) would not be subject to regulation.
 
The Alpha-activist, Pebbles Trippet, is one of the co-authors of this initiative, so I know it is sound and thorough.
Normally I would be against this Act In the light of the current state of affairs when the U.S. government is waging war on its own people, I’m for it.
Before last week, I’d be for it intellectually but not support it because I believed it would fail. Don’t get me wrong, I’m for anything that would do away with archaic drug laws. This initiative would do that.
It would throw out all the laws prohibiting the use of cannabis for adults (and put the California Cannabis Commission in charge of creating a regulatory system for commercial cannabis). This Act would take the Californian laws basically as written, shake the rule books like an Etch-A-Sketch and start over anew.
As I say normally, I wouldn’t think they’d have a Hostess Snowball in a Chris Christie press-conference of a chance of surviving with their almost anarchistic move of deleting the existing laws.
But if Eric Holder and the gang want to play rough…
The people behind the RCPA 2012 are tenacious and have been at this since the beginning. In fact one of the sponsors of the bill, attorney William Panzer, co-wrote Proposition 215, California’s O.G. MMJ law.
If they want a war these are the kinds of people who build their own loads.
 
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​4)    Mendocino County
 
It has been said, “As goes Mendo, so goes the country.” Not only is the most extensive field research being done in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, concerning the best practices when it comes to the cultivation of cannabis, but Mendocino County leads the way in dealing with the on-going issue of marijuana.
It has to. It is the center of all things outdoor.
That has been a problem for law enforcement since the first hippie sprouted up in a tipi deep in the woods. From those humble beginnings, a billion dollar industry started.
Law enforcement needed an intelligent, cohesive plan that could be integrated into an already thriving black market. After many years and many arrests for a problem that would not go away, it was resolved to institute the 9.31 program that grew from the medical marijuana legislative passages of the ‘90s.
The program was implemented as part of the evolution of a long war between voters and law enforcement in Mendocino County. Starting with 25 plants (per person, approved by voter initiative in 2000), then down to 6 plants that a patient could legally grow (which was thrown out by the California Supremes as unconstitutional), the medical marijuana cultivation ordinance eventually allowed for 25 plants per parcel with your MM card.
Then the Sheriff’s Department enacted a program that allowed for 99 plants if you could afford the permit and zip-ties and had the properly zoned acreage with legally accessible water and electricity for your grow.
The first year, 12 to 20 growers braved the waters and came forward. Growers put their names on a government list that somehow was supposed to wash away 50 years of hiding in the shadows of the majestic Redwoods, growing the dank.
After fighting and being on the other side of the law, from then on, once permitted, when the deputies showed up to your ranch or cabin, you were just another agricultural farmer in their eyes.
This past year, over 100 came forward to legally grow under the say-so of the Mendocino County voters.
Why I think the 9.31 program is the best model for outdoor growing and the rules therein, is because of its scalability. Other counties could look to Mendocino, as Humboldt was in the process of doing, and build upon it.
The 9.31 program isn’t perfect, far from it, but it is a start. Unless you answer the basic questions of how you’re going to grow it, distribute it and transport it, there’s going to be holes big enough for a Mexican cartel semi to drive through. Mendocino’s 9.31 program attempts to answer this fundamental dilemma.
The Yin and Yang of this is it might not be big enough of a scope such as Richard Lee’s view is. Mendocino deals with the country-based model and has a host of its own zoning problems that do not exist in the big cities. Also, true to the hippie ethic, Mendo tries to include everyone. From the Mom-and-Pop grower who grow for personal use then up to the growers who are itching to get in league with the big boys who have Phillip Morris appetites.
Then again in Mendocino and Humboldt, they’re farmers. One bad rain or mold or mildew, and your crops are lost. That doesn’t happen the same way in a warehouse. And at least in warehouse, you have more than one growing season a year. 
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Northstone Organics
Matt Cohen of Northstone Organics was rousted from his bed by machine-gun-toting DEA agents on Thursday
​Editor’s note from CA NORML 
         
Matt Cohen and his wife Courtenay of Northstone Organics in Mendocino County were rousted from their beds by a team of machine-gun toting DEA agents at 6 AM of the morning of October 13th. They were detained for eight hours while their home and garden were ransacked by a team of six DEA agents, one BNE, and one sheriff’s deputy.
Agents made off with computers, equipment, and 99 plants that were being grown in legal accordance with the county’s cultivation ordinance (9.31).
No one was arrested in the smash and grab operation, which agents described as an ongoing “investigation.”  The Cohens report that DEA agents repeatedly vilified Mendocino’s program as a “sham.”  The program has generated over $300,000 in fees for the cash-strapped county.
DEA officials told reporters they knew nothing of the raid.   
Now with this bust, the Mendocino’s Sheriff Department is going to have a much harder time trying to convince the locals that they have their collective backs when it comes to the Feds and permitted grows.        
One common component among all of these proposals is that a patient, a grower, a dispensary would be able to conduct business legally. These ideas reflect generations of activists and the progressive thinking of civic and business leaders who’ve tried to find a way out of senseless prosecution that takes inane laws make criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
There is an alternative to the prohibition of marijuana. Many, many people from all walks of life have worked very hard in various ways to make medical marijuana accessible to all that need it.  
The fight is far from over. As Bob would say, “The game is the same; it’s just another board on another level.”
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Photo: Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco.
Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at jackrikess.com.
Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.
His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.
He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.