Chris Smith: Pot purveyor gets away with medical mission

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Now that marijuana purveyor Dennis Franklin Hunter is released without charges in the wake of Wednesday’s large-scale Sonoma County raids, his followers can get on with their quest to have him canonized.

It’s tough not to mist up as disciples of Hunter extol his efforts to bring the highest professional standards — “the gold standard” — to his company’s production of marijuana products for the thousands of patients who rely on them.

Hunter is so devoted to his mission of bringing the masses the succor of cannabis that following his arrest for illegal cultivation in Mendocino County more than 20 years ago, he defiantly went bigger in Humboldt County. In 1998 he filled a large house in the Three Creeks area east of Eureka wall-to-wall with a 12,000-plant grow operation.

Authorities following up on a tip had never seen the likes of it. As the officers moved in, Hunter scooted into the woods.

He evidently was still pursuing his ministry of medicinal compassion when, three years ago, he landed his airplane for refueling at the airport in Saline County, Ark. Homeland Security officials suspicious that he might be transporting an illegal substance asked local deputies to check him out.

As the lawmen approached, Hunter jumped into the plane and took off. He later landed badly on a country road and scampered again into the cover of the trees.

He has been prosecuted and imprisoned but he will not relent. He seems to believe he has not only right on his side, but the law.

Following Wednesday’s raids, his spokesman, political consultant Nick Caston, said, “We produce medicine as determined by the voters in the 1990s, and we do it with the best practices of any company in the state.”

There the apologist cited 1996’s Proposition 215, the bible for California marijuana growers and dealers and one of the most cynical con jobs ever perpetuated on the compassionate but gullible voters of our state.

The initiative asked to make marijuana available to “seriously ill Californians.” And there’s no question that some of Hunter’s legions of customers do indeed qualify.

But many, I would venture, are fakers of the ilk of those drivers who lift grandma’s handicapped parking placard for a trip to store — the truly needy be damned.

If California legalizes pot for recreational use and regulates and taxes it like it does alcohol, Hunter can rightly claim his place in the vanguard of the cannabis industry. But to suggest he processes and sells weed out of medical compassion is a bit sickening.

A GOOD RUN: Sunday’s footrace in Healdsburg will be a blast for many, and especially meaningful to Joel Billman.

Joel is the former Chalkboard and Oakville Grocery chef who nearly three years fell while hiking on Fitch Mountain and suffered a spinal injury that leaves him barely able to walk.

Healdsburg firefighters rushed to his aid in 2013, and just weeks ago their association gave him a gift: a beauty of a hand-powered cycle.

Joel will ride it today as grand marshal of the Kiwanis Fitch Mountain Footrace that starts at the Healdsburg Plaza.

Joel intends soon to return to a kitchen somewhere in town, and to ride the cycle to work.

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