U.S. Drug Enforcement Agents on Thursday raided a medical marijuana cooperative that holds a Mendocino County sheriff's permit to grow medicinal pot, further demonstrating the gaping discrepancy between state and federal marijuana laws.
The seizure of 99 pot plants came less than a week after U.S. Justice Department prosecutors in California attorneys announced they would be cracking down on medical marijuana, which continues to be illegal under federal law 15 years after the state's voters approved it.
DEA officials declined to comment on the raid on Northstone Organics, located about 10 miles north of Ukiah in Redwood Valley.
The early morning operation shook the medical marijuana community because Northstone has been a model of compliance with local and state laws.
"I am really puzzled. There are plenty of illegal marijuana organizations in Mendocino County," said Aaron Smith of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a business lobbying organization formed last year.
Medicinal marijuana advocates suspect the federal agents chose Northstone because it has been in the limelight. Northstone founder Matthew Cohen, an advocate of regulation, has been included in television documentaries as well as news articles on medicinal marijuana.
At a press conference Oct. 8 in Sacramento, the state's four U.S. Attorneys announced a crackdown on the medical marijuana business. "The California marijuana industry is not about providing medicine to the sick," said Laura Duffy, the San Diego-based U.S. Attorney. "It's a pervasive, for-profit industry that violates federal law."
Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, said dispensaries near schools, parks and other areas where children gather would get special attention from her office.
The Northstone co-op is in a rural area far from schools or parks. It is not a conventional dispensary in that it does not operate a store, but it does deliver marijuana to its members.
Cohen was among the first to obtain a permit from Mendocino County for his operation. County regulations allow up to 99 plants to be grown on a land parcel with a permit.