“We are actively pursuing legal solutions,” says Kristin Nevedal, the chair of the Emerald Growers Association in response to a subpoena served by the federal government on Mendocino County for records associated with the 9.31 Ziptie program. Her group is hoping to protect patients’ rights and keep addresses etc. from being revealed to the federal government.  The federal subpoena could be used to gain access to addresses as well as possibly confiscate the fees associated with the innovative program. This legal motion appears to contradict the statement by Attorney General Eric Holder that promised not to prioritize the prosecution of those that followed state marijuana laws.

Mendocino County’s Ziptie program allowed the legal growing of 25 plants or less for a fee or up to 99 plants in the case of medical collectives.

According to a piece in today’s Ukiah Daily Journal, the Mendocino Co. Sheriff’s Dept. is preparing to hand over the requested records to the federal authorities.

“We’re going to comply with the subpoena,” [Sheriff] Allman said, adding that while he couldn’t reveal what kind of records it specifies, the subpoena covers all records pertaining to the county’s medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, County Code 9.31. “We’ve collected everything and delivered it to the County Counsel’s Office, and that’s where we are.”

However, the Emerald Growers Association (EGA), CANorml and Americans for Safe Access (ASA) are looking to encourage the Mencocino County Supervisors to file a motion that would allow the Supervisors to not turn over the records. “Our attorney’s are working together with counsel from outside the area to look at case law that could help to allow a motion to quash the subpoena… We are meeting tomorrow with attorneys,” explained Nevedal.

The above cannabis groups believe that there is case law in the state of Washington that will provide precedent for such a response.  According to Nevedal,  a Washington dispensary was requested to turn over patient records to the federal government. The state of Washington “shot that down.”  The state used the defense that the federal government did not have the right to invade the privacy of the patients. The state of Washington won their case.

Nevedal says that her medical marijuana group as well as the others want to “encourage people to call their supervisors and politely ask them to stand behind [the Ziptie] Program.  She says that the patients and growers believed that the County would protect their records. 

The Ziptie Program does have participants sign a waiver saying they understand they don’t have immunity from prosecution by the federal government.  However, the EGA believes that the participants felt that the County would not give their personal records to those seeking to prosecute them.  Nevedal says, “I think if the supervisors hear from their constituents that will help them stand up to the federal government.”

Furthermore, Nevedal says the EGA believes that the Ziptie Program was protecting all the Mendocino County residents. According to her, “This program was setting the bar on water diversion…They were looking at sediment runoffs…Having people get permits… …They had embarked on a best practices program that would have raised the bar.  It would have encouraged farmers to embrace good environmental practices.” According to Nevedal, the program helped protect the County from environmental problems.  Therefore, she believes, people who care about those issues should call their Mendocino County supervisors and request that they do all they can to protect the records of those growers who were pioneers in the effort to work within law. 

“We have these environmental issues happening all over the state,” Nevedal says. “When you close dispensaries and permit programs, you are encouraging black markets and underground markets.  This further breeds the negative aspects of [the marijuana industry.]”