The Raid on MendoHealing

I met David Moore in the spring of 2000 at a UC San Francisco conference on cannabis therapeutics sponsored by G.W. Pharmaceuticals (the British company that is developing strains with differing cannabinoid ratios to achieve different medical effects). Moore, who was then in his early 40s, said he had loved ones with AIDS and schizophrenia, and problems of his own that were alleviated by cannabis. He said he wanted to advance the cause. I gathered that he had a background in business and that he had done time (marijuana-related, small-scale). He seemed affable, calm and serious.

I told him a few things off the top.

1) That California growers, too, could develop strains with different cannabinoid ratios, standardized for use by doctors; all G.W. had on us, really, was a lab to analyze the contents of their plants.

2) That Tod Mikuriya, MD, was ardently promoting vaporization as an alternative to smoking.

3) That the real measure of Prop 215 being implemented would be the price coming down, according to Dennis Peron, the prime mover.

Next time I heard from Moore he had been to Tutlingen, Germany, to meet with the inventor of the Volcano vaporizer, Markus Storz, and to offer his services as a U.S. importer and representative. Storz told Moore that he already had a business partner and a plan to expand Volcano distribution in the U.S., but the two hit it off and Storz invited Moore on a camping trip in the beautiful green countryside around Tutlingen (a town famous for making precision medical equipment). Moore brought back tapes of some interviews he had conducted with Storz, and photographs of the inventor at his workbench.

Moore had made the down payment on some land in Fort Bragg, on the Mendocino County coast, and begun producing medicinal grade cannabis by organic methods. In 2001 he opened a dispensary in Fort Bragg in which the Medical Marijuana Patients Union was involved. (The project ended when the property was sold.) In late 2003, feeling confident in his productive capacity, he opened a dispensary called MendoHealing in San Francisco, selling high-grade cannabis “farm direct” for $30 an eighth-ounce–when other dispensaries were charging $50-$60. He sold Volcanoes at cost ($420, which was at least $100 below the prevailing retail price). He joined the board of the Medical Cannabis Association and advocated formation of a “collective” comprised of patients, distributors and growers. (The word “collective” has been used as loosely in the medical marijuana industry as it was in the 1960s by various political activists.)

Moore’s low prices–and a policy of giving a few free grams to people in need–resulted in long lines (with a high percentage of young black and Hispanic men) forming outside the door of the MendoHealing storefront on Lafayette, a small street that runs off Howard between 11th and 12th. Some residents were righteously upset about people emerging from the dispensary and loitering in front of their houses, smoking, being rude, offering cannabis for sale, taking up parking spots, double-parking, etc. MendoHealing canceled the giveaway policy and upped the price to $40/eighth (the point to which other dispensaries had come down), but it was too late to mollify the Lafayette St. NIMBYs. Moore began looking for another location. Before he could find one, a lawyer hired by the neighbors got a court order to close MendoHealing as a nuisance (which the city wouldn’t do because the club had complied with all requests made by the police). Moore kept MendoHealing functioning as a delivery service and hired a San Francisco attorney, Terry Goggin, a former state legislator, to fight for his right to relocate. But as of last week Moore needed Goggin to defend him against looming criminal charges for cultivation.

Moore’s Fort Bragg property was raided at noon on Thursday, Nov. 3–the peak of the harvest–by a task force consisting mainly of FBPD officers and sheriff’s deputies. Glenda Anderson’s report in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat noted that the trim crew consisted mainly of workers from south of the border, many of whom had worked the grape harvest. “Finding 65 people trimming and packaging pot under one roof surprised even Rusty Noe, the veteran leader of the County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team,” Anderson wrote.

Apparently the sheer amount of cannabis being grown convinced law enforcement that it could not have been destined for distribution through medical channels. Anderson wrote in the PD: “While the people processing marijuana in the Mitchell Creek Road barn claimed they were working for a medical cannabis club, [Sheriff’s Capt. Kevin] Broin said the operation was clearly commercial, which makes it illegal.

“Law enforcement seized 1,707 plants and 1,000 pounds of processed, trimmed marijuana from the barn, he said. The seizure brings the total number of plants confiscated in Mendocino County this year to 144,021.”

According to a source on the scene, the task force wreaked unnecessary destruction, breaking down doors, including the door to the safe, instead of asking that they be opened. “We had several letters posted in the kitchen from officials confirming our medical status. Letters from [Sheriff Tony] Craver and the planning department and the tax collector and business licenses… They were all posted on a wall. [Craver was not working the day the raid on MendoHealing went down.] Although they said at the gate that they wanted to check our paperwork, they seemed surprised to see that we really were medical…

“They were told that Craver and the district attorney had been right here at this farm. They were asked, ‘Why are you guys here?’ They said, ‘Well, without getting too much into the case, we have evidence that this is going somewhere else than medicine.’ By this time I could see men in the field chopping things down… Patients’ records were in a file cabinet in the office and living room area of the main house. They just took the whole filing cabinet.”

The crew was handcuffed for about half an hour–“detained but not arrested,” they were told–then cut loose and ordered to leave the premises until 9 p.m. Those who returned that night found the warrant and an itemized list of what had been seized on the kitchen table. Our source says, “Anybody that had more than $100 cash on them, they took it and they didn’t give anybody a receipt for it. Since everybody was paid in cash, most of the trim crew had more than $100 on them… I feel like we were robbed. Somebody broke and entered and robbed us. It was the exact same thing.” Migrant workers don’t usually use banks, many keep their earnings on them in cash. One man who had worked the grape harvest was said to have lost $8,000 to the law enforcers.

Two days after the raid on MendoHealing, a New York Times piece about the history of American marketing noted that the president of a leading grocery chain (A&P in 1931) attributed his company’s success to its policy “of immediately passing on reductions in wholesale commodity prices to the consumer… A&P had one dominant mission: to sell quality food at low prices.” Of course I thought of David Moore, who has been punished–ruined financially–for distributing cannabis according to rational marketing principles and respect for the letter and spirit of California law.

FRED GARDNER can be reached at: fred@plebesite.com




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Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

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