By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
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According to Glew, 215 Agenda is no exception. “I know Mark was trying to obey the law,” he says. “He says he was making monthly payments to the state board of equalization. If that’s true, that shows he was trying to operate within the law. They are picking on Mark because he’s an easy target. There are more raids going on than when the feds were involved. . . . It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
Glew—who, like Moen and many other medical-marijuana-related businesses, advertises his services in the Weekly—handles an ever-growing roster of medical-marijuana cases, both criminal and civil. Earlier that morning, he’d sparred in court with a Lake Forest city attorney seeking to retroactively prohibit a dozen dispensaries from doing business there, including Moen’s now-shuttered 215 Agenda. “We are here lawfully asserting our police power right to defend the health and safety and public protection of the people of Lake Forest,” Jeffrey Dunne, representing the city, had told Judge David R. Chaffee. “Marijuana is illegal under federal law.”
Glew countered that because the city did not have an ordinance specifically outlawing cannabis clubs, it had no right to retroactively enforce such a ban. “Everything the collectives are doing is mandated by state law,” he argued. “The city is just making up this category of marijuana dispensaries to make them look bad. They don’t know what these clubs are because they are private. They’re not open to the public.”
Glew represents 215 Agenda and four other dispensaries in Lake Forest’s ongoing legal effort to run them out of town. Attorney Derek Bercher is handling Moen’s criminal case. “Mark is a good person,” Bercher argues. “He was trying to help people. He was trying to do a good thing in the right way, but he got caught up in the vagaries of the law.”
By “vagaries,” Bercher is referring to the fact that prosecutors are claiming that every bank deposit or payroll transaction Moen made on behalf of 215 Agenda is nothing short of laundering cash from drug sales. “Mark couldn’t have been more aboveboard,” Bercher says. “For a supposed criminal, he was hiding in plain sight. Everything was through banks. He was donating to charities and libraries. The DA has a view that you simply cannot distribute medical marijuana without running afoul of the law.”
The DA’s press release on the raid served as a warning to anyone else contemplating a high-volume marijuana dispensary in Orange County. “Distribution and sale of marijuana to individuals with a physician’s recommendation without any other relationship, such as through a dispensary, is not permitted under California law,” it states. “The three defendants are accused of selling marijuana to any person with a physician’s recommendation without any relationship to the purchaser and without requiring or requesting them to participate in collectively or cooperatively growing marijuana.”
Although some cannabis dispensaries try to stay on the good side of the law by insisting that all their marijuana is grown locally by club members—as opposed to being trucked south from Humboldt County, as in the case of 215 Agenda—Jeff Schunk, the deputy DA prosecuting Moen, believes that the law prohibits all dispensaries simply by virtue of the fact that they sell marijuana. “We believe what they are doing is illegal,” he argues, asserting that only a “primary caregiver” can provide marijuana to a patient. “The wording of the state law is what it is, and it means you have to have consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health or safety of the patient.”
Schunk insists his office isn’t out to get medical-marijuana smokers. “It is really well-established that if you have a valid recommendation from a licensed doctor and all indications are you possess marijuana for medical uses, there’s no reason for an arrest,” he says.
DA spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder refused to comment on the specifics of Moen’s case, but she stated that all cases handled by her office are “fact-driven” and examined on an individual basis. “We are looking at the facts and circumstances of each case,” she says. “It’s a fantasy to suggest that these people are being wrongfully prosecuted.”
The DA’s office and sheriff’s department are hardly the only agencies seemingly intent on putting medical-marijuana dispensaries out of business in Orange County. Among the cities that prohibit any such clubs from operating legally are Aliso Viejo, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Orange and Seal Beach. Lake Forest has filed the aforementioned civil suit to retroactively prohibit dispensaries, and Dana Point has filed a separate lawsuit to force dispensaries operating in that city to hand over all patient files.
Although Costa Mesa has yet to pass such an ordinance, the city has begun cracking down. On Feb. 4, police raided West Coast Wellness and arrested three people on suspicion of selling marijuana. On March 16, Mayor Allan Mansoor met with several medical-marijuana activists to discuss the city’s policy while cops simultaneously raided yet another dispensary, Doc’s, arresting its owner for selling pot.