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

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.

Two factors helped ensure the club would be a success. First was the fact that 215 Agenda offered premium-quality cannabis for $50 an eighth instead of the $75 and more charged by most dispensaries in Orange County; the club audaciously advertised in the Weekly that first-time customers would receive a free “pre-roll” or joint or an edible marijuana product for joining up. Second was the dispensary’s proximity to the retirement community Leisure World, which quickly formed a solid customer base for Moen’s operation.

Before long, 215 Agenda was pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars per month. “We had $50,000 per month going to Wells Fargo for payroll and $15,000 going to state taxes,” Moen says. “We gave free marijuana to every new patient and to every returning patient.” To meet his patients’ rising demand for medical marijuana, Moen drove north to Humboldt County in Northern California every two weeks to meet with growers who were members of his collective, returning to Orange County with up to $100,000 worth of marijuana per trip.

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

Everything went smoothly until late June 2009. Moen, who usually made the bimonthly trip north with a few friends, was going alone for the first time, and Jennifer was worried because of that and it was a long drive. “I woke up at some point in the night—around 3 in the morning—and called him, and he didn’t answer,” she says. “And I kept calling and he didn’t answer, so I knew something was wrong. Then he called me in the morning and said he’d been arrested for a warrant in Orange County.”

On Nov. 13, as deputies were raiding 215 Agenda, Jennifer was running errands. She called her husband at work and was told by him, “I’m getting robbed. There are people with ski masks coming through the door.” She called 911, and an operator promised to get back to her with any news. The next call she got was from her neighbor, who told her there were cops all over her house.

“They kicked my door in and just wrecked our house,” she says. “There wasn’t any money at the house, but they pulled out some of Mark’s plants and took all our computers and cameras.” Although deputies didn’t visit the house again on March 5, when they raided 215 Agenda the second time and arrested her husband, Jennifer says she constantly worries they will show up once more. “It’s scary,” she says. “It affects your security. It freaks you out.”

She’s not working and has three kids to take care of with little support from friends and family. Her older son has had trouble dealing with his dad’s arrest. He says he hates cops and that he’s tired of everyone telling him he has to take care of his mom. Although he’s doing well in school, he acts out at home and refuses to do his homework. “He’s just a kid,” Jennifer says. “He needs to be a kid, but he also needs to do his homework. Sometimes I freak out on the kids because it’s hard. Am I resentful? I cry every day. This has torn our family apart. I’m lost without [Mark] and don’t know how to pick up the pieces.”

*     *     * 

Inside the Orange County Jail, Moen has been talking for nearly two hours and is still going strong, despite the phone constantly slipping from his shoulder and the metal chain around his waist riding up his back. “These things are biting into me,” he complains, shifting his weight on the small stool. Moen seems intent on confessing his sins, detailing his long history of drug addiction and criminal behavior with a palpable sense of shame. “The day I got arrested was my son Justin’s first day of Little League,” he says, tears welling up. “I used to play catch with him every day. If they give me 39 years, I’ll die in prison.”

Amazingly, of all the terrible things he’s done in his life that Moen regrets, the one that brings the most emotion to the surface seems remarkably banal. During the eight or so years Moen worked as a pipe-fitter, he says, he got to know a hard-working co-worker. “This guy was a Christian, and I used to give him a hard time about it,” Moen says. “He was such a nice guy, and I could be so mean. I insulted him, but he was always so happy. He worked so hard because he had six kids, and one day, he was driving home and was so tired he crashed his fucking car because he fell asleep driving home to see his family.”

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