Marijuana Records: Advocates Urge County To Fight Feds’ Subpoena

Following a federal subpoena issued to Mendocino County for marijuana program records kept by the local sheriff, county officials are seeking outside legal advice. personalfiles.jpg

Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers understand that the county is being pressed by local residents as well as marijuana advocates not to simply hand the records over, but instead to fight the request in court.

The board of supervisors recently met in a closed door session to discuss the matter with the county attorney, and reports indicate the county is trying to find out what their liability is if they refuse.

The federal government has requested records from the program, but have so far refused to say what their interest in those records might be. Speculation has been that they intend to prosecute those who were participating in the program legally under state law.

This has been a big part of the contention regarding the demand. Because the subpoena does not list specifics, it appears overly-broad. As one district supervisor worded it, it is the “kitchen sink approach.” That is, federal prosecutors are requesting “everything but the kitchen sink” in the hopes of finding some evidence of criminal activity that may stick.

That’s not how criminal investigations are supposed to work.

The closed-door meeting among county officials earlier this month followed nearly an hour of public comment from those involved in the local medical marijuana industry. They want the county to withhold from federal authorities any personal information about those who paid the county in order to obtain permits for their collectives. Such permits allowed participants to cultivate a maximum of 99 plants. They also allowed growers to obtain zip ties, which indicated their crops were grown lawfully in accordance with state and local regulations.

This arrangement worked well for everyone involved, and raked in a fair amount of money for the local government. Then in March, the U.S. Attorney’s Office threatened to slap an injunction on the county’s marijuana grow ordinance, while simultaneously pursuing legal against individual county officials who had supported it.

The county immediately ended the program.

One of the supervisors speculated at that public meeting that the federal government was not so much after those who had permits, but instead wanted to confiscate the money that the county had collected under the program, adding, “That does not sit well with me.”

The subpoena was issued in late October, and was for “any and all records” relating to the county’s medical marijuana grow ordinance from the beginning of 2010 to the present. This includes financial records.

Case law on such matters has been spotty. A federal subpoena for the records of nearly two dozen patients in Oregon was quashed in 2007, when that state’s attorney general successfully defended patients’ privacy rights. But then last year, the Justice Department was able to get records of half-dozen medical marijuana patients from the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Here in California, Attorney General Kamala Harris hasn’t yet made a public comment on the Mendocino County subpoena.

The county has requested an extension, and has until the second week of January 2013 to respond.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Medical Marijuana Advocates Urge Mendocino County Officials to Fight Federal Subpoena for Records, Dec. 4, 2012, Staff Report, Thedailychronic.net

More Blog Entries:
Marijuana Dispensary Novices Need Legal Counsel to Avoid Trouble, Thrive, Dec. 7, 2012, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog