In an ominous development, the United States federal government has subpoenaed financial records kept by Mendocino County, California, regarding its medical marijuana program, official sources have confirmed.
County officials on Tuesday confirmed that a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to the Mendocino County Auditor-Controller’s Office for records of fees paid to the county under its medical marijuana ordinance, County Code 9.31, reports Tiffany Revelle at the Ukiah Daily Journal.
The subpoena arrived in late October, according to one source. The reason for the federal request isn’t clear; neither local nor federal authorities have made a statement.
The federal subpoena seems to confirm the darkest fears of those within the medical marijuana community who are reluctant to cooperate or participate with state- and county-level medicinal cannabis programs, since the herb is still illegal for any purpose at the federal level. Many have argued that filing paperwork with any local or state government puts medical marijuana growers at risk of federal prosecution.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, under the leadership of Sheriff Tom Allman, until recently issued permits under 9.31 for collectives growing up to 99 cannabis plants, an exemption to the county’s normal 25-plant limit.
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Back in February, former County Counsel Jeanine Nadel suggested that the county stop issuing the permits and revert to the 25-plant limit for all growers. This was after the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent letters threatening to file an injunction against the county’s medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, and seek legal action against county government officials who supported it.
Sheriff Allman’s office still sells zip ties for authorized cannabis plants at $25 apiece under 9.31. The zip ties can be affixed to plants to show they are being grown in compliance with California’s medical marijuana law.
The popular program had brought in about $500,000 to the Sheriff’s Office from sales of zip ties and permits, before the permitting portion stopped in March.
Officials from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Attorney’s office said they would “neither confirm nor deny” that a subpoena was issued.