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Legality of Ukiah tribal pot operation questioned

Mendocino County law enforcement officials are investigating the legality of a proposed large-scale indoor medical marijuana growing operation on tribal land outside of Ukiah, casting a cloud of doubt over the future of the unprecedented venture.

Mendocino County’s sheriff and district attorney are seeking details about the proposal, revealed earlier this month, by the Pinoleville Pomo Nation and Kansas-based FoxBarry Farms to build an estimated 2.5-acre indoor pot production facility just north of Ukiah.

FoxBarry officials said Wednesday they are scheduled to meet with the sheriff and district attorney as well as local marijuana growers to discuss the $10 million, 110,000-square-foot plantation plan.

“We are fully committed to being in full compliance with local ordinances,” FoxBarry president Barry Brautman said in an emailed response to questions about the potential hitch in his plans.

FoxBarry earlier said it expects to grow thousands of plants year-round in greenhouses on the rancheria.

Sheriff Tom Allman said he’s not convinced the operation would be legal. He’s spoken with officials at the U.S. Attorney’s Office who said they have not been asked for or given permission for such an operation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to comment on the issue.

But federal authorities in the past have quashed other large-scale, off-reservation cannabis cultivation operations.

Allman said that any operation that wouldn’t be permitted off-reservation is unlikely to be allowed on Indian land.

Allman’s queries have triggered an investigation by District Attorney David Eyster, spokesman Mike Geniella said. Eyster has requested details about the plans from the tribe and FoxBarry, Geniella said. Eyster will not comment on the plan until his review is concluded, he added.

The proposed tribal growing operation is believed to be the first of its kind. It’s the first of three such operations planned in California by FoxBarry, a sign of marijuana’s growing attraction as a business venture. FoxBarry, which also invests in tribal casinos and gas stations, has declined to reveal the locations of the other proposed marijuana operations.

As proposed, FoxBarry Farms will fund and operate the tribal facility, which will be a nonprofit. The operation will grow award-winning brand-name pot developed by United Cannabis, a marijuana research and development company.

The marijuana will be sold only to California medical marijuana patients through dispensaries, in keeping with state law, Brautman said. There currently are no plans for a dispensary on site, he said.

Construction of the facility, which will employ between 50 and 100 people, is slated to begin in February, Brautman said.

You can reach Staff Writer ?Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 ?or glenda.anderson?@pressdemocrat.com. On ?Twitter @MendoReporter

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