Mark Moen, Marijuana Martyr

The arrest of 215 Agenda's owner has OC's medical-pot community wondering if it has a prayer of avoiding trouble with the cops

Two of the activists in that meeting, Tracey Neria, an activist with Americans for Safe Access, and Kandice Hawes, the president of the Orange County chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (OCNORML), organized an April 8 protest in front of the Superior Court building in Santa Ana to denounce the DA’s prosecution of dispensary owners, including Moen and Wick. (On April 6, Wick, 26, pleaded guilty to selling pot and possessing it with the intent to sell and received a three-year prison sentence, says Glew, who also represented Wick.)

“Those two collectives were the good ones in Lake Forest,” Hawes says as she waved at a passing motorist who slowed down to honk his support. “Both Mark and Steve really cared about the patients.”

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Marijuana martyr
Jason Edmiston
Marijuana martyr
Jennifer Moen with Jagger (left) and Justin
John Gilhooley
Jennifer Moen with Jagger (left) and Justin

Until he landed in jail, Moen had been living in the same one-story, three-bedroom house in Westminster in which he grew up, the one that witnessed his chaotic evolution from 1970s punk rocker and surf bum to present-day medical-marijuana martyr.

Moen grew up in Northern California but moved to Orange County during junior-high school. Because he lived so close to the beach, he would often ditch classes, hop on a bus and ride down Goldenwest Avenue to surf the bluffs north of the Huntington Beach pier.

He started using cocaine at age 16. “A lot of people in my high school had coke,” he says. “I liked it and started injecting it.” One time, a rich friend injected him with a mixture of coke and heroin. “He did that without telling me, but I liked it. You feel like God for a couple of seconds on coke, but then you feel really shitty. But with the heroin, you feel like you’re in the eddy of a stormy sea.”

When Moen turned 18 in the late 1970s, his parents divorced, and he moved in with his grandmother in Huntington Beach. He spent the next six years there, although he admits that most of the time, he wasn’t sleeping at his grandmother’s home, but rather in his Oldsmobile Delta 88, which he usually parked in Santa Monica. “I just surfed and skated,” Moen recalls.

Before long, Moen’s drug habit had led to several stints in jail. His parents disowned him, and he fell in with a group of surfers he describes as “basically a bunch of thieves who are now doing 25-to-life.” Their lifestyle consisted of surfing, shooting heroin and stealing money from other surfers.

By far the most karmic (and bizarre) arrest in Moen’s long history of burglaries was the time he was arrested for shoplifting at a Home Depot. “I tried to walk out of the store with a Moen water faucet so I could resell it for drugs,” he says, shaking his head at the absurdity. “Instead, I went to state prison.”

Moen met his wife in March of 1998, shortly after being released, and the two quickly fell in love. “On our first date, Mark came and picked me up, and then I pretty much ditched him,” Jennifer recalls. “I was using drugs at the time, and I wanted to protect him from that because I knew he was trying not to do that because he had just gotten out.” But it wasn’t long before both were using heroin together and getting in more trouble. In August 1998, the pair was convicted of stealing a car. Jennifer spent 120 days in jail, and Mark went back to state prison for a three-year sentence.

In the next eight years, Moen managed to hold down a grueling job as a pipe fitter for an oil refinery company, working more than 80 hours per week, and fathered three children: Justin, 7, Jacquelyn, 3, and Jagger, 1. Raising a family introduced some stability into his life, but only temporarily. Jennifer fell back into drug use after becoming addicted to painkillers after her first pregnancy. “From 2003 to 2006, things got pretty bad again,” she says. “But we ended up getting sober again.”

The burglary case that led to Moen’s arrest in Ukiah stemmed from this dark period in his life. Moen remembers little more than waking up in an office building he’d broken into the night before, shortly after he got into an argument with his wife and left the house in a drug-fueled rage. He hadn’t stolen anything that night, although he’d planned to, and apparently the police had finally traced him through DNA he unwittingly left at the crime scene.

That same year, Moen fell ill with hepatitis C and had to submit to weekly chemotherapy treatments that left him nauseated and unable to eat. “I lost 65 pounds, and my hair was falling out,” Moen says. His gastrointestinal doctor recommended he smoke marijuana to ease the nausea and increase his appetite. “I had to drive up to LA, and OG Kush was selling for $90 an eighth, which I couldn’t afford.”

His frustration with the high prices and long distances faced by patients in Orange County inspired him to form a collective closer to home. After spending months doing research at the Orange County law library and contacting various city agencies to inquire about applying for permits, Moen learned that the only city in the county where he could operate a cannabis club without a business license was Lake Forest. On April 20, 2009, Moen opened 215 Agenda in a somewhat-dilapidated storefront in a nondescript mini-mall off El Toro Road near Interstate 5.

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