Growing weed? Caught by Police? Pay a fee, get off scott free! (relatively)

May 9th, 2011

MarijuanaMendocino County, CA, is undergoing a unique shift in its marijuana policy which is causing some controversy, according to Press Democrat.

The idea, implemented by Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster, allows those who’ve been charged with felony marijuana cultivation to knock that charge down a notch to a misdemeanor possession charge on the condition that they pay a $50-per-plant eradication fee.  They are then placed on probation and given a 100 to 200 hours of community service sentence.

In terms of cash flow, the project has been a resounding success for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.  Since implementation, this new marijuana policy has raised more than $117,000 from around 31 growers.  However, according to the article, “Profiteers and trespass growers are not eligible”.

This comes as a relief to the Sheriff’s Office, which, like many government run institutions today, is in desperate need of money.  In the coming year, Eyster hopes to raise more than $500,000 through this new marijuana regulation method.

Some marijuana proponents are saying that this is a step in the right direction, after all it saves first time offenders from a life long felony and allows them to grow again with proper medical marijuana credentials if they pay a $50 per plant registration fee after their probation.

However, some are not so optimistic.  Says Bob Boyd, a Ukiah marijuana defense attorney, “People are saying ‘I have to pay my  extortion fee.’… It’s a very odd and slippery slope.”

Says commenter Sean Bennett on the Press Democrat article, “Surely others must see a conflict of interest here – initially it sounds good, the problem is once you start down this path where do you draw the line. Our public officials should only draw a salary based tax revenues, not revenue based on the misdeeds of their citizens.”

“It’s a ‘positive feedback loop'” responds fellow commenter Micheal Schupbach, “the more that the police come to depend on this ‘income’, the more that they are going to want.”

This new policy indeed raises some interesting questions.  After all, in terms of the growers, some of whom where in the process of becoming legal medical marijuana growers, they get off relatively easy, which in my opinion is a good thing.  Also, law enforcement get’s its much needed funding, also a good thing.  But should the Sheriffs Department depend on growers for a large chunk of its income?

“Eyster’s approach is consistent with his promise to streamline marijuana prosecutions and halt what he said was the overcharging of pot crimes,” says the article, “He’s also spearheading state legislation that would allow district attorneys to decide whether cultivation cases should be charged as misdemeanors or felonies.  Currently, cultivation is a felony.”

By S. Cody Barrus, Senior Managing Editor

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