Thursday, October 19, 2006

People v. Mentch (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 18, 2006)

Sorry about not posting yesterday, but I was up in Los Angeles doing good things, and (sadly) had no internet access in the City of Angels.

But, on the upside, I returned to San Diego and read this case. Which is hilarious. Albeit in a largely unintentional way.

The most amazing thing about the opinion is that it basically consists of a thirty-page primer on how to sell and grow pot indoors. I mean, it's incredible. There's everything you need to know about how to grow your own weed in here, including treatises on growth and harvesting, how (and why) to use lights and ionizer, how to create hybrids (and clones), how to create and maintain mother plants to ensure consistent supply, pricing of both equipment (hood lights, irrigation, energy, etc.) and well as the pot itself ($40-60 for an eighth, $150-200 for a half ounce, $300-400 for an ounce, and $4000 for a pound), how to extract hash oil from your weed, and a plethora of other fascinating details critical to the guy who would like to enter the exciting world of marijuana cultivation for fun and profit.

It just struck me as very, very funny that Justice Elia wrote an opinion that almost reads like it's designed to help people grow their own. I mean, I can understand reading something like that in the Anarchist's Cookbook. But in the California Reporter? Not something I'd expect to find in there.

Oh, yeah, there's some other helpful hints in there as well. For example, how not to be an utter moron and get caught. Don't, for example, do what Roger Mentch did, and come into the same bank week after week and deposit large sums of cash in small bills. Especially if you live in a place like Santa Cruz. Because, well, dude, we can sort of figure out where that cash came from, thank you very much, and one of the tellers will probably file a supicious activity report with the Sheriff's office. Who'll then get a search warrant and bust you.

Oh, one more thing. When you do deposit all your small bills week after week, could you please, please make sure that the money don't totally reek of marijuana. Which is precisely the case here; indeed, the pot smell on the cash was so strong -- it literally stunk up the entire bank -- that the bank had to remove the money from circulation! Hilarious.

Ultimately (and this was worth a chuckle as well), notwithstanding all of this, the Court of Appeal reverses the convictions here, and probably rightly so, since the trial court didn't really give the proper instructions about the Compassionate Use Act as applied to a defendant who claims that he was getting "reimbursed" for his costs rather than "selling" the dope. So it's sort of funny that all of the above is actually irrelevant. Still, there seems to me only a slight possibility that Mentch will be acquitted on remand, as my strong view of the evidence was that he was pretty clearly selling the stuff. (I especially liked the defense expert witness who testified that the fact that Mentch had scales to weigh the pot wasn't really relevant to whether he sold it or not. Yeah, right. I know that I always care deeply about precisely how much the stuff weighs when I'm simply giving it all away.)

Still, it's Santa Cruz. Who knows what a jury will do up there with a pot charge. The guy might well get off. So maybe the message really is: "Go ahead and grow your own. No biggie. And here's an opinion to help get you started." Nice.

P.S. - Did I mention that in addition to the grow operation, Mentch also had some 'shrooms in his safe? Well, he did. And he was convicted on that count as well, and the Court of Appeal doesn't reverse that one. This is probably another lesson as well. Don't possess illegal mushrooms -- especially if your "innocent" explanation for your possession of them is utterly, utterly lame, as it is here -- in the middle of a huge pot grow. It doesn't help your story at trial.

P.P.S. - All that said, even at trial, with all these convictions -- including a conviction for possessing rifles in connection with the grow operation -- Mentch was still only sentenced to probation. No jail time. So I guess my final lesson of the day is that if you're going to do all this stuff, do it up in Santa Cruz. Which, by the way, is hardly a shock to anyone, I'm sure.