Archive for Community

Regulation of Marijuana facing local challenges

Regulation of Marijuana Challenging for North Bay Growers

With the recent legalization of marijuana in California, would-be growers and producers are, for the first time, experiencing greater hurdles than in the heady days of the black market. As argued by proponents of legalization over the years, government regulation of marijuana will result in less tax evasion, pollution and crime because of a combination of factors.

The most important of these factors will be the decrease of the price of the product due to the advent of huge, legal/corporate cultivation and distribution operations. With the price per pound plummeting (some have reported $800/lb, compared to upwards of $3000/lb during pre-legalization days), the opportunity costs no longer make remote, black market grows viable. When pot was at $3000/lb, it made sense to live off the grid, far away from the main roads (and the cops) and protected by unsavory itinerant labor. However, with the inevitable price drop, they will no longer command the same profit at market. There will still be markets across state lines, but even so, the general market price of legal pot in California, generally, should experience a downward pressure such that even pot intended for illegal export will be negatively affected. Right at this moment, there are black market growers desperately seeking a market for their product and finding few places where they can earn enough profit that will justify their businesses.

The second factor will be community backlash itself. Look no further than a recent opinion piece in the Ukiah Daily Journal (http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/opinion/20170423/in-our-opinion-growers-need-to-grow-up) regarding the raft of regulations and taxes passed by Mendocino County locals. As a result, growers are outraged by having to submit to a regulatory and tax structure. While Mendocino was widely believed to be the future Marijuana Mecca by growers and users alike, as it turns out, years of unregulated abuses by black market growers in the form of exposure to pollution, water theft, and criminal activity has apparently left a bad taste in the mouths of the voting public. This opinion piece makes clear that the marijuana grower’s vocal hysteria about having to pay taxes is particularly galling to the citizenry after decades of unmitigated profits at the community’s expense. The result: now that cultivators are forced from the shadows, they are facing substantial resistance from the people.

While the process of change will be difficult for some, the end result of the end of marijuana prohibition will likely result in a safer community. After all, you don’t see a lot of crime regarding moon shining anymore.

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Proposition 47 and criminal defense

California’s Proposition 47 and Drug Prosecution

unnamedIn case it wasn’t obvious, I am a vocal proponent for legalizing the personal use of most drugs.  Yes, even the hard drugs.  Many people can use drugs and still remain functional in society.  Those who cannot are not deterred by criminalization.  Rather, they are people who need treatment and a chance to take their lives back.  The current state of California criminal law does the exact opposite.  While I am all for full legalization, I understand that it is unlikely.  So, just like recent legislation that provides defenses to marijuana use, I will support every baby-steps measure that tends to decriminalize drugs, generally.

The big issue that I have found in my 9 years of criminal defense practice is that, under the current penal code provisions, those who get caught possessing small amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin for personal use are often charged with felonies.  Felonies can carry horrific consequences, such as loss of employment or employment opportunities, loss of professional licenses, loss of educational financial aid, loss of one’s right to possess firearms, loss of voting rights, and loss of freedom.  Not to mention the massive amount of money spent in fines, fees, probation supervision and, yes, defense attorneys.

Except in the case of methamphetamine, even the rare sympathetic prosecutor has little discretion when charging these offenses.  The law, as it stands, gives them no discretion to charge crimes such as cocaine possession as a misdemeanor.  However, in the case of methamphetamine possession, prosecutors can charge it as a felony or a misdemeanor.  Unfortunately, most prosecutors will charge the crime as a felony at the outset.  The reason for this is to increase their bargaining position and induce the defendant to give up on his right to trial by accepting a misdemeanor plea deal.  Afraid to risk a felony conviction at trial, most defendants will take the misdemeanor deal, even if they are innocent.

These are crimes that ought to be misdemeanors, if they must be criminalized at all.  If the person is abusing drugs, he or she is already operating at a disadvantage in society.  Once they have incurred the stain of a felony, particularly one involving cocaine or heroin, the consequences I mentioned above make it virtually impossible for them to kick the addiction and reintegrate back into society.  They are placed on probation where the only support they get is in the form of an unsympathetic probation officer who is eagerly looking forward to a “hot” pee test.  The felony conviction will prevent any possibility of obtaining employment, since that is the main question on any employment application.  Even if the probationer was able to obtain employment, he will be visited at his place of work by law enforcement to ensure he is in compliance.  The end result is often homelessness, despair and multiple violations of probation.  And, of course, imprisonment.

The sheer costs to our community of this cycle are hard to contemplate.  It saddens me to see people who would otherwise be worthwhile contributors to society so marginalized.  I recently had a client who was once a skilled woodworker.  His methamphetamine use was the result of a number of very sad factors in his life.  He had an extensive history of personal use convictions, which undermined any possibility of being employed or any future to look forward to.  I often thought of how things might have been different if he had received the help he needed years ago rather than constant punitive consequences.  In the end, he is warehoused in prison along with thousands of others at our expense.

These days, it is difficult enough for the non-addicted, well-adjusted among us to create success.  We cannot continue to sabotage people who suffer from addiction with the burdens of a felony conviction.  Voting in favor of Proposition 47 goes a long way to fix this problem and give these people a second chance.

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Criminal defense and mental health NAMI

“Of Two Minds” screening in Santa Rosa, CA.

unnamedJust wanted to post briefly about this important movie promoted by NAMI nationwide.  It’s about people struggling with bipolar disorder.  People who might be your neighbor, your friend, your coworker or your family member.  Approximately 1 in 4 Americans suffer from some sort of a mental disorder, many of whom carry on in silence, functioning despite the significant challenges presented by their illness.

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Quinnan Law proudly supports the work of NAMI and its affiliates and supporters in bringing into the light the struggles of mental illness.

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