Wheel of Misfortune
Charles Monson was awakened at 7 a.m. on Oct. 30 by a loud pounding at the door of his Orange home. The quadriplegic couldn't get out of bed to answer it himself, so his care provider responded.
Unknown to his provider, Roger Mondragon, a dozen or so Orange Police Department officers and detectives waited impatiently on the other side, search warrant in hand.
The door opened, and the officers flooded in and soon had Mondragon and another care provider, who didn't want to be named for this story, on the ground. Their real target: Monson's marijuana.
Monson, who was the subject of an OC Weekly cover story ("Roll Player," Aug. 24) for his work helping fellow quadriplegics get wheelchairs when they've been denied them by Orange County's Medi-Cal agency CalOptima, says the police confiscated 16 immature pot plants and some 3 ounces of weed (about a month's supply).
Monson says he showed the officers his prescription to no avail: They charged him with felony cultivation but didn't take him to jail. However, they did arrest Mondragon and, according to Monson, turned him over to the INS. As Mondragon was in the country illegally, he was deported to Mexico.
The Weekly's Nick Schou has written extensively on the continued medical-marijuana-related confiscations, arrests and prosecutions in Orange County by various police agencies and the sheriff's department (see "Dude, Where's My Pot?" May 18). Although Monson did have 10 more plants than he's legally allowed, he says he was growing a "collective garden" for eight other people, including quadriplegics, paraplegics and arthritis sufferers. It is unclear why the police decided on an early-morning raid.
Contacted by the Weekly, the detective in charge of the case, Miguel Cuenca, says he's not cleared to discuss it until it is adjudicated. The search warrant given to Monson was sorely lacking in detail; Cuenca requested that the information that led to the issuing of the warrant be sealed, a move that usually is made to protect confidential sources.
The district attorney's office, headed by Tony Rackauckas, who famously said medical-marijuana users just want to "escape from the realities of life and get high for a while," declined to pursue charges against Monson. However, a DA's office representative told Monson the office has up to three years to file charges against him if they receive additional evidence against him.
Monson, who broke his neck at age 16 while swimming in the ocean at Newport Beach, says for him, marijuana is a legitimate and irreplaceable medicine. Until he began smoking pot, he says, he was unable to sleep through the night due to muscle spasms. Although he doesn't feel normal pain below his spinal injury, he says, marijuana also helps reduce pain signals his body sends, known as neurogenic pain, such as profuse sweating. Other prescription medications either interfere with the few motor skills he has left or have dangerous side effects, he says.
Monson, who has begun jokingly to refer to himself as "Kingpin Quad," says that despite the threat of charges being revived in the future, he's not going to be quiet. He plans to address the Orange City Council to possibly seek a settlement and try to recoup the $2,000 cost of the equipment that was taken from him,. Monson says the episode has made him a medical-marijuana advocate in addition to wheelchair advocate.
But even though he lost his medicine, he had the daylights scared out of him, and his friend and care provider was deported, he credits the Orange P.D. as some of the "most courteous" law-enforcement officers he's ever had to deal with.
Monson says when he informed the cops they were taking all his medicine, one said, "I'm sure if you look hard enough, you'll find something."
He did find something, he says. They didn't take one small jar containing about 2 grams of marijuana. About a day's worth for Kingpin Quad, he says.
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