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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Drug War

Medical Marijuana Forum Thursday; Roger Mentch on Trial Again
by Robert Norse ( rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com )
Tuesday Aug 15th, 2006 12:23 AM
Hemporium Medical Marijuana provider Roger Mentch is on trial again; Mentch's attorney, Ben Rice, will be speaking about medical marijuana on Thursday at the County Building
The Santa Cruz Sentinel (8-14) announced a medical marijuana discussion Thursday August 17 3-5 PM in the afternoon in room 525 (701 Ocean, County Building), hosted by the Santa Cruz County Law Library. See http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2006/August/14/local/stories/06local.htm .

The Sentinel reports that local Attorney Ben Rice and Allen Hopper, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Drug Reform Project. A question and answer period will follow.

Rice is currently defending Roger Mentsch, again on trial for selling medical marijuana. See the earlier stories:

Medical Marijuana Provider and In-Home Caregiver on Trial in Santa Cruz
http://santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display/16819/index.php

and

Roger Mentch will continue the Hemporium, LLC. a Professional Caregiving Service
http://santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display/17607/index.php

and

Roger Mentch Gets Leniency from Courts
http://santacruz.indymedia.org/feature/display/17103/index.php

I interviewed Mentch for Free Radio on last week. [Go to http://www.huffsantacruz.org/brb.html and download that 8-10-06 show; the 12-minute Mentch interview is about 100 minutes into the show]

Due to a pending trial involving more marijuana "felonies", Mentch felt he couldn't be as informative as he might be. Mentch was arrested and jailed in August of last year--again for cultivating and selling marijuana through his Hemporium. He reports he was held for 7 days in jail on a probation violation hold. Not satisfied, the Marijuana Enforcement Team then went to a second judge (Almquist) and got a search warrant, tore up his entire crop, and destroyed it. There was only enough, he said, to supply himself and his two patients.

Said Mentch, "they wiped my computer, seized my phone, and tried to destroy my life." He has kept a low profile on this case, hoping it would be dismissed. At a hearing last Wednesday (8-9), the D.A. declined to do that.

This arrest was made in spite of Judge Stevens finding in the previous case that Mentch had the right to operate the Hemporium, in spite of being on probation. Mentch told me he is still appealing his sentence from the trial mentioned above. He didn't feel comfortable saying whether the August arrest and his current trial have hampered his medical marijuana operation--but it seemed obvious to me that he felt it had.

His trial is scheduled for October, and Stevens is apparently allowing, this time, a caregiver defense. Which he refused him last time. I guess this shows "progress'.

Neither Andrea Tessler, Valorie Corall, Anita Henry, Lisa of Greenway, or other activists have spoken out about this case yet. I hope they do.

It would also be nice if the well-funded ACLU's Drug Policy Project (which is also represented at the Thursday forum) would take a little time off from their spiffy third floor offices at Pacific Ave. and Cathcart. Maybe they can condescend to walk down a few flights and walk a few blocks across theriver to address the local drug war here against medical and recreational users. A war that's being run by fake liberal D.A. Bob Lee.

Maybe the local ACLU,which meets regularly, and has Mike Rotkin on the Board of Directors, could venture a few words attacking this absurdity. The Drug War, we should remember, was the model for the War on Terror. I believe ACLU has raised mucho dinero over the last five years, balleyhooing its support for civil liberties. It's now time to put their mouths and their money to good use.

I need more information on this case, but it seems outrageous that D.A. Bob Lee is going after him again. If anyone has any info on this, I urge them to post it. It might also be helpful to call the D.A.'s office at 454-2400.

Mentch also noted wearily that the local media and Board of Supervisors have had no interest in what he regards as a clear violation of SB420, the state law activating Proposition 215.

I've put through a call to Councilmember and Council candidate Mike Rotkin--who, I believe, wrote a letter for Mentch for his last trial. Perhaps he can throw some light ont his matter.

I hope to be checking his court file shortly (which anyone can do at the Municipal/Superior Court window on the main floor of the County Building).

We do know that Bob Lee and Sheriff Robbins are still accepting out-of-county government money that fund a D.A.and a Sheriff's position (or half of one) specifically for the purpose of prosecuting (and persecuting) marijuana providers.

We need to act now on this issue--and not wait until Proposition K (or whatever the City's "lowest priority" marijuana Initiative is called) passes in November.

The Drug War is happening daily to innocent people, whose lives are being torn apart. The assholes in business suits who pose as Santa Cruz liberals and facilitate this activity need to be called on their shit, loudly and clearly.

Perhaps Ben Rice, Mentch's attorney, can give us a thumbnail sketch of just how many people are getting the axe from Bob Lee in our local courts. There is a question-and-answer period on Thursday, for those who want to attend.

Perhaps when folks leave this meeting--if they leave a little early--they can drop by Bob Lee's office on the 2nd floor and let him know what they think of the latest prosecution of Mentch.

Roger says his trial date is October 16 in Dept. 6, presumably at 9 AM.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Hiraeth
Thursday Aug 17th, 2006 1:13 AM
Anyone who knows Roger can attest to what a kind, gentle and decent person he is. This conviction is ridiculous and the only motiviation must be an outside, political one.

Wake up, folks. Do not think that your silence on this issue will protect you. After they come after Roger, they will surely come after others. The time is now to speak up against this injustice and demand that the will of the people of California be respected over the agenda of multi-national drug companies (the real pushers). Ultimately, they are the ones who are pushing for this harassment. They are well aware of the proven safety and efficacy of medical marijuana and know that they will lose significant profits if medical marijuana use becomes a common substitute for mood-modulating, high-profit yielding prescription drugs.

I repeat the call for a unified response from all those members of our community who support civil liberties in any and all forms to speak out on Roger Mentch's behalf.
by Ben Rice (probably) posted by Norse
Sunday Aug 20th, 2006 12:27 AM
After a brief survey of the thick Mentch file (Case #HF12008) at 701 Ocean St. 1st floor, Criminal Court window, I found the following

Memorandum of Points and Authorities
Factual Background

According to discovery provided to the defense to date, the defense expects that at the preliminary hearing of this matter the prosecution will introduce evidence tending to show the following. On August 26,2005 authorities contacted defendant's son, nineteen year-old Sean Mentch. Sean resided on a property in Felton his father rented. Sean had had an argument with his father.

Sean told authorities that his father, Roger Mentch, grew marijuana for medicinal users. Roger gave Sean free room and board in exchange for Sean's assistance witht he medical marijuana work, specifically, in distributing the product to other patients in Santa Cruz county. Sean allegedly said Roger sold the marijuana for $350 an ounce. Deputy Kerr has asserted the street value for marijuana is about $300 an ounce.

Roger rented a property in Felton with three structures. He had an option to buy the property from its current owner. Roger and his partner, Laurie Eldridge, for whom he cares and for whom medicinal marijuana has been recommended, reside in one of the structures. Another man, Leland, disabled from a vehicle accident, resided with them in the home; Roger also cared for him. Leland is a medicinal marijuana patient as well.

Sean, the son, had resided in one of the other two structures on the property, although Roger had served an eviction notice on him. Sean also had a recommendation from Dr. Helen Nunberg for medicinal use of marijuana to treat his headaches and ADHD. A third, unrelated party rented the third structure in a sublet agreement with Roger.

After authorities commenced searching the property pursuant to warrant, Roger and Laurie drove up. Deputy Kerr interrogated Roger. Roger explained that he has several medical conditions for which he takes prescribed medication, including marijuana. He showed the authorities Dr. Talleyrand's recommendation for him to use marijuana medicinally for the three-year period 7/21/04 to 7/21/07. Authorities also observed Laurie's medical marijuana recommendation from Dr. Talleyrand for the same three year period 7/21/04 to 7/21/07. Roger explained that in his caregiving to Laurie and Leland, he provided them with marijuana.

Roger admitted growing marijuana and making hashish for medicinal purposes for two years. Roger explained that hewas the managing director of "The Hemporium" which specialized in delivering marijuana and hashish to medical patients. Roger stated that he was the one designated caregiver of twenty or twenty-five medical marijuana patients in Santa Cruz County.

Roger showed authorities his client list of twenty names of persons who had designated Hemporium, LLC as their primary caregiver. Roger said that at that time, as the sole employee of Hemporium, he furnished marijuana and hashish to about ten of these patients, along with advice on how to use and grow marijuana. [Footnote:Roger explained that ine xchange for living expenses Sean had helped out with the Hemporium project for a couple of months. Heprimarily delivered marijuana products to patients. But that arrangement hadn't worked out.]

In searching the deputies found not only the documents designated Roger as the patients' caregiver, but also the physicians' recommendations for marijuana use for several patients. Deputy Kerr noted that six names on the list had out-of-county phone numbers, although in this day and age of cell phones, a phone number says little about a person's county of residence.

Deputy Ramirez later called some of the people who had designated Roger or Hemporium as their primary caregiver. He learned that all are legitimate medicinal marijuana users. They had designated Roger as their primary caregiver so that he could lawfully furnish them with marijuana. Under an apparent misunderstanding of the law, deputy Ramirez asked these patients where Roger had other caretaking functions in their lives. The deputy naturally learned that Roger did not have that role in their lives; he took care of them by providing them with the medicine they needed. With two exceptions all the people Ramirez contacted resided in Santa Cruz county. One of these out-of-county residents, Mark Graser, hadn't secured marijuana from Roger in months.

Roger told Ramirez that his patients paid about $40 per gram has and between $300 and $330 per ounce of marijuana. Roger emphasized he wasn't making a profit, but was simply covering his costs and earning reasonable compensation. Roger estimated grossing about $5000 a month from providing marijuana to his patients, enough to cover his production expenses and his living expenses.

In the ensuing search of the home and automobile, authorities located 85 plants in various stages of growth (primarily little starter plants), 840 grams of marijuana (about 29.5 ounces, or less than 2 pounds), and aobut 13 grams of hasish. Authorities also located some ammunition: two .270 caliber rounds, two boxes of .40 caliber rounds, and a handgun clip with .40 caliber ammunition. No firearms were present and the ammunition could have been left over from the weapons seized by the police in a previous raid in June of 2003.

Specifically, on June 6, 2003, authorities searched Roger's home and found he was growing marijuana. Although he was supply medicinal marijuana to needy patients, he was arrested. He was tried in March of 2005. (Santa Cruz Superior Court No. F77429) In the jury instructions, the trial court erroneously applied the law that existed at the time of Roger's arrest. After Roger's arrest and before trial, on October 12, 2003, the legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Program (SB 420) which significantly expanded patients' and caregivers' rights to produce and distribute medical marijuana. Although the trial judge at Mr. Mentch's trial would not give the legislature's action retroactive application, the Courts of Appeal have routine held the act dopes require retroactive application. (People v. Urziceanu [2005] 132 Cal. App. 4th 747, 883-884; People v. Frazier[2005] 128 Cal App. 4th 807, 825-826.)

As a result of the erroneous jury instructions, the jury found the defendant guilty of the felony cultivation of marijuana and possession of it for sale, as well as misdemeanor possession of psilocybin. The jury also found two true firearms allegations made pursuant to Penal Code section 12022(c) and 12022(a)(1). On May 2, 2005, the trial court sentenced Roger to credit for time served; five days in jail.

In sentencing Mr. Mentch, Judge Stevens commented:
"If he continues doing what he has been doing, as long as it's meeting the letter of the statutes, I will not--that will not be a violation of probation...
"I'm not preadjudicating what conduct would qualify or not qualify under the law. In terms of whether he's vioalting probation, if he's violating the law, he'd be violating probation. If he's not violating the law, int erms of what he's doing with growing marijuana, distributing, then it won't be a violation of probation.

-------------------------------


There's a lot more in Mentch's file (actually two thick files-one for his previous trial, the other for the current case). The DA prosecuting him as of last year is Pamela Kiyomi Kato, who disqualified Judge Stevens (apparently regarding the probation condition as too liberal), sending it to the court of Judge Salazar. Kato tried to challenge Mentch's attempt to make bail ($10,000) by claiming the money was part of an "illegal enterprise", but failed. Mentch has been at liberty since last year.

As with his previous case, Mentch seems to have followed a "keep a low profile" strategy in hopes that the prosecution will see the light or get tired--or somesuch. It didn't work in 2003-5, and it doesn't seem to be working now.

I haven't closely read the transcripts of the preliminary hearings (available in his file). But I have noted that prosecutors and/or cops are claiming that Greenway, for instance, is also operating illegally. They seem to be saying that unless you are an all around "caregiver", not just a medical marijuana dispensary, you can't operate within Proposition 215 and SB 420.
Another prosecution argument made is that dispensaries must be collectives or cooperatives, and can't just be providers.

This kind of twisted argument--which apparently is being taken seriously by D.A. Bob Lee's prosecutors--puts all dispensaries in jeopardy.

It's not clear to me why the D.A. and his pet Marijuana Enforcement Team haven't gone after the Greenway dispensary, unless we're talking about some kind of special favoritism (such as WAMM's Viking Hall enjoyed for five years, while everyone else was frozen out).

I didn't get to Thursday's medical marijuana forum at the law library. But from brief conversations I had with those who were there, I understand that little if no attention was given to Mentch's case (even though Ben Rice, his attorney, was one of the principal speakers).

Hopefully I've got incomplete information on this. I'd love to hear from those who did attend or who have more info. It appears the same kind of "posture nationally, hide locally" mentality may be at work here.

When I brought this matter to Councilmember Rotkin's attention (831-420-5023), he returned the call promptly, but seemed to be under the misunderstanding that the current prosecution revolved around guns or ammunition. Rotkin promised to contact Rice.

In fact, Mentch is charged with five felonies, only one of which concerns possession of ammunition (a probation violation if his earlier gun conviction is not overturned, which Mentch expects it to be). The other felonies are for possession for sales, cultivation, transportation, and possesion of concentrated cannabis.

However Rotkin has been timid on this issue. His recent record includes refusal to change the city's zoning laws, failure to endorse the "tax and regulate" lowest priority marijuana initiative on the ballot, failure to support that initiative as a earlier law, & failure to vote that Council support the Initiative in ballot arguments. He and Mathews (who is even worse than Rotkin on this issue) should be voted down in November for a great many things, but the local Drug War issue is a particularly important one.

In the next few months, there will be a rare opportunity to exert leverage on Mathews and Rotkin. In all honesty, though, their record on homeless issues, community control of police, expanding bureaucratic police power, city council repression, and gentrification is so bad--that I'd have trouble voting for them if they showed up in front of the jail with picket signs demanding that all our own drug war prisoners be freed.

Lee's office needs to be held accountable in as public and embarrassing a way as possible. They are taking out-of-county money to harass medical marijuana growers (not to mention recreational users). City Council and the Board of Supes won't stop it. This will require direct persistent citizen action.

by Robert Norse
Monday Aug 21st, 2006 7:43 AM
My title for the previous comment may be confusing ["Factual Background from the Mentch File Ben Rice (probably) posted by Norse"]. Ben Rice is currently attorney for Roger Mentch (or was when I spoke with Rice last Wednesday). I believe he was also attorney when the "Factual Background" was submitted to the court, but I read the document hurriedly. Hence the caveat "probably".

If anyone was at the Medical Marijuana Forum at the Santa Cruz Law Library last Thursday--please post a description of what happened, particularly if there was any mention of the Mentch case and the LOCAL drug war.
by Jim Lohse
Tuesday Aug 22nd, 2006 8:51 PM
Hey,

This totally sucks. We have been so busy in Mountain View and San Jose State I missed this one. I hope Roger's appeal is alive, I am out to say that

I STAND WITH ROGER MENTCH, a real mensch!

I'll have to call in with an update after our Friday protest at SJSU, I promise that Jeff Dowder went back to San Diego.

Good article, see ya,
Jim Lohse 650 669 4175
by Robert Norse
Wednesday Aug 23rd, 2006 5:02 PM
I spoke with a Muni-Superior Court clerk on the first floor of the County Building today and learned the following:

Mentch's next court date is 9 AM Dept. 6 (Almquist's court) Thursday September 21st.

It's a date for setting of Probation Violation Hearing and for trial readiness for a jury trial set for October 16th.

Strange for two reasons. If he violated probation a year ago by selling marijuana without being an "involved caregtiver" (which seems to be the claim), why didn't they take him to court then and simply revoke his probation?

Second, trial readiness usually happens a few days before the trial (hence my trial readiness date for my "disrupting a public meeting" jury trial on September 25th is on September 20th). Why a month in advance?

The clerk also noted that Mentch had been to court at least 25 times on his first set of charges (which he is now appealing). Since his second arrest in August 2005 (the current charges), Mentch has had 17 probation hearing court dates (without a probation revocation hearing, apparently) and 18-20 court dates around the current charges. Some of these court hearings may have involved both the old probation and the current charges.

An outrageous bite out of a man's life. All of these hearings stem from the same bogus arrest for cultivation, sales, transportation of medical marijuana.

Not a peep from the Sentinel, the Metro, the Good Times, any other medical marijuana providers, his attorney publicly, the local ACLU, or the Drug Policy Project of the ACLU here in town--that I've heard.

For evil to flourish, all they need is that good folk be silent. Pretty quiet out there.
by Lance
Wednesday Aug 30th, 2006 2:00 AM
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1jack-daniels-logo.gif

Due to a pending trial involving more marijuana "felonies", Mentch felt he couldn't be as informative as he might be. Mentch was arrested and jailed in August of last year--again for cultivating and selling marijuana through his Hemporium. He reports he was held for 7 days in jail on a probation violation hold. Not satisfied, the Marijuana Enforcement Team then went to a second judge (Almquist) and got a search warrant, tore up his entire crop, and destroyed it. There was only enough, he said, to supply himself and his two patients.
by Jess
Tuesday Nov 25th, 2008 2:35 PM
San Francisco I Am has a great video on whether illegal cannabis clubs are really hurting medical marijuana patients with California Attorney General's recent crackdown down on medical cannabis clubs.

You can check out the video here:


http://www.sanfranciscoiam.com/videos/0faa12024b6c


San Francisco Iam also has a lot of other interesting video journalism bringing us stuff that the mainstream media isn’t.