Mendocino County to release medical pot program records

Mendocino County supervisors have agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Attorney's Office allowing them to turn over records from the county's defunct medical marijuana permitting program without permittee names, addresses or other personal identifying information, officials said.

Supervisors, in turn, will drop their legal bid to suppress federal grand jury subpoenas issued last fall for "any and all records" linked to the program in exchange for protections on individual growers and permit applicants.

The settlement permits the county to redact names, phone numbers, addresses, parcel numbers, bank acount numbers and other information that would identify those who participated in the program, board Chairman Dan Hamburg said Friday.

"We did not want to give up what we considered to be proprietary information, particularly information that had to do with people's health," Hamburg said.

"Maybe I wouldn't call it a big win for the county, but I think we resolved the issue pretty well for the county," Supervisor John Pinches said, "and we protect the rights of the people in the ... program."

A grand jury assembled by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern California District issued subpoenas Oct. 23 seeking application and inspection records, financial account numbers, emails and other communications related to the program.

Approved in 2010, it at one point offered medical marijuana collectives willing to complay with a host of regulatory requirements permits to grow up to 99 marijuana plants at a time.

Applicants paid $1,500 for the permits, as well as monthly inspection fees of about $500 and an additional $50 each for tags marking individual plants being grown under a permit.

The scheme, administered by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, was abandoned early last year under the threat of a federal lawsuit only after generating close to $830,000 toward the sheriff's payroll.

Some county officials and observers have speculated that the U.S. Attorney's objective in pursuing the subpoenas was to trace and perhaps seize the proceeds that resulted.

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