By QUINCY CROMER/The Daily Journal
The owner of Mendo Spiritual Remedies in Laytonville and Hemp Plus Ministry in Ukiah -- who says he provides medical marijuana to more than a thousand people in Mendocino County -- will be in court next week to face charges for cultivation of marijuana.
Les Crane, founder and self-proclaimed reverend of the two churches where medical marijuana is available locally, said some 5,000 cannabis plants and his life savings -- about $6,000 converted into gold -- were seized by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office on May 16.
"They came here because a guy was coming to rob my house. I called them to come and solve the problem and then they found out about the grow. We showed them all the documentation and they left and went and got a search warrant and came back and searched my church," Crane said.
"I bought those plants for $8 a piece from someone else and they came in and killed them and took my life savings."
According to Crane, he had permission from District Attorney Norm Vroman to grow as much marijuana as possible in a 10-foot by 10-foot space, but the deputies were not satisfied with the documentation provided for the medical cannabis.
"We told them that we had more patients and if they would just wait we could get more patients' notes and they said they didn't care," Crane said. "I was doing everything that Norm Vroman said and now I am being charged."
Mendo Spiritual Remedies serves some 800 people in the Laytonville area and Hemp Plus Ministry, which just opened last month in Ukiah, already has 200 patients, according to Crane.
Vroman said he does not remember talking individually with Crane about medical marijuana, but attested if distributors do not produce more than they are legally allowed, law enforcement officials only check to see if the operation is legitimate.
"I don't believe I ever told anyone it was legal to grow marijuana unless they have a doctor's recommendation or they have the documentation from someone who has a doctor's recommendation," Vroman said.
Crane said that after his money and property was seized, he filed a lawsuit to get his belongings back, which was when he was served notice that he was being charged with cultivation of marijuana.
"I am suing them in another court because I want my property back and as soon as they were served with the papers, they charged me," he said. "What they want to do is scare me."
According to Vroman, Crane is being charged for illegally cultivating marijuana to enforce the law, which has nothing to do with scare tactics.
"These are tactics that we use when we think someone is breaking the law and I guess the best place to sort that out is in the court room," Vroman said.
Crane will be in the Mendocino County Superior Court branch in Willits at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 2 for arraignment and said he plans on fighting the charges.
"Anyone that is a patient that would like to stand up, please join me and stand up against the tyranny," Crane said. "It isn't a controlled substance to me. This is a medicine and those laws do not apply to patients.