A judge found sufficient evidence to hold a local man to answer on marijuana cultivation and sales charges, despite his attorney’s contention that he was growing for a de facto collective.
Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies had gone to West Gardner’s property in late October on a compliance check aimed at enforcing the county’s medical marijuana cultivation ordinance. Deputy Jeff Martin testified Tuesday in Nevada County Superior Court that the Narcotics Task Force became aware that Gardner was growing marijuana on his Banner Quaker Road property after conducting a fly-over in June.
Martin and Deputy Mark Hollitz conducted the compliance check and met Gardner at the gate to the property, Martin said.
According to Martin, they found 16 plants, each about 5 feet by 3 feet, with some cola on the plants. The majority had been topped, he said.
Martin testified that there was a Conex storage container on the property that contained about three or four plastic totes, all holding loose cola, or buds; a separate metal container held more bags of freshly trimmed marijuana.
The total weight of the marijuana found in the Conex container was just under 25 pounds, Martin said.
Gardner told Martin he was growing for a friend in Oakland named Adam; there were two recommendations at the site, for Adam and his girlfriend.
“He said he was going to sell it to Adam,” Martin said, adding that the price Gardner said he expected to get fluctuated as they spoke, from $200 an ounce up to $500 to $1,800 a pound.
Gardner allegedly told Martin if he didn’t sell the marijuana to Adam, he might sell it to a dispensary.
During cross-examination, Martin testified that at one point, Gardner did say he did not have an agreement with Adam, and that he might give the pot to him.
Gardner identified himself as the property owner, and said he worked part time as a landscaper.
He allegedly told Martin he was not a caregiver, and Martin testified there was no evidence the grow was for a collective.
Gardner’s attorney, Jennifer Granger, asked Martin why he waited until the end of October — the height of harvest — to conduct a compliance check; Martin responded it was due to his case load.
Granger presented two “grower’s certificates” that had been posted on the property, which stated the marijuana was being grown for personal medical use. Gardner had told Martin his personal recommendation had expired.
During the preliminary hearing into the evidence, Martin agreed during cross-examination that the plants being grown were hermaphrodites and thus not as desirable.
He maintained that the net weight after trimming would still have been about 20 pounds, however, not including the cola still on the plants in the ground.
Martin said he considered the “large amount” of marijuana to be for sale rather than personal use, adding, “The scrips seemed sketchy at best.”
Deputy District Attorney Jim Phillips told Judge Linda Sloven there was sufficient evidence to hold Gardner over for formal arraignment on the charges, saying she should be cynical about any compassionate use defense.
Granger argued that Gardner’s expired medical marijuana recommendation could still be a defense and would make the amount of plants permissible, adding that Gardner renewed his recommendation this year. She told Sloven the two grower’s certificates implied a collective grow and said Gardner should not be held simply on the basis of his multiple contradictory statements.
The marijuana itself was the evidence, Phillips retorted, pointing out that the two people with posted scrips had never even visited the property and that Gardner was not listed as their caregiver.
“It doesn’t have to be a socialist enterprise ... where they all toil on the land together,” Granger said, arguing that active participation is not necessary for a collective.
In the end, Sloven agreed there was enough evidence to proceed with the charges against Gardner, who is set for formal arraignment May 17.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.