Charges against owners of second Vallejo pot dispensary dropped

Charges against owners of second Vallejo pot dispensary dropped

Vallejo : CA : USA | Jan 15, 2013 at 3:13 PM PST
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Medical marijuana on display at a dispensary in Los Angeles, California

Solano County law enforcement officials are apparently backing away from their federal government-influenced crackdown on storefront dispensaries selling medical marijuana.

Charges were dismissed this week against operators a second Vallejo medical marijuana dispensary who were arrested when their facility was raided and closed down in April.

Hakeem Brown, 37, and Robert Matney, 27, had been charged with marijuana possession for sale and related charges after Vallejo police raided their Benicia Road dispensary, Life Enhancement Services.

A series of police raids since February 2012 forced the closure of nearly all of Vallejo's dispensaries, said to have numbered as many as 25 at one time.

Many of the dispensaries are still believed to be operating underground, even though California voters approved cultivation, distribution and use of marijuana for medical purposes by passing Proposition 215 in 1996.

Marijuana possession still is illegal under US law and federal authorities assisted Vallejo at the start of the crackdown.

On Thursday, the Solano County District Attorney's Office dismissed all charges against Brown and Matney "pending further investigation," the newspaper said.

The dismissal, which came the day before prosecutors were scheduled to present preliminary evidence to a judge, comes less than a month after similar charges against operators of the old Better Health Group dispensary on Sonoma Boulevard were likewise dismissed.

In the Better Health Group case, a Solano County judge ruled there was no evidence of any crimes because medical marijuana dispensaries were allowed under Prop. 215.

Marijuana dispensaries have been barred by most Solano County jurisdictions but not by Vallejo.

Still, county officials apparently have not given up.

Deputy District Attorney Jack Harris refused to say whether the decision to drop charges against Brown and Matney was related to the judge's ruling last month.

His office still is considering an appeal, the newspaper said.

San Rafael attorney Scot Candell, who represented Brown and Better Health Group founder Jorge Espinoza, told the newspaper that both dispensaries had registered to pay a special city tax on the facilities that was approved by Vallejo voters in 2011.

"The courts have said the collectives are operating legally, the collectives would like to work with the city to pay taxes and be members of the business community, and we will once again be going to the city and trying to work something out so we can move forward together," Candell said.

But Vallejo City Manager Dan Keen told the newspaper that there was too much legal confusion over the status of medical marijuana distribution to give dispensaries tacit approval by enforcing the voter-approved tax.

"We're still waiting for the state legal situation to get resolved so there's clearer direction to those of us out in the cities," he said.

Keen advised Vallejo's City Council in March not to press the issue until the courts had finished sorting out the matter, the newspaper said.

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medical marij
A representation of Santa Claus smokes medical marijuana atop San Francisco's Cafe Flore on Christmas Day in 2009. Strange de Jim/Wikimedia Commons
Nathan Salant is based in San Francisco, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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