Yuba County landlord guilty in marijuana cultivation case
Special to The Union
A Yuba County horse rancher was convicted Tuesday of four marijuana-related felonies for subleasing property to a marijuana grower.
Although the marijuana was never harvested, and there was no evidence the rancher ever received any money for the 85-plant garden, Yuba County Superior Court Judge Benjamin Wirtschafter found Jose Cardenas guilty.
Cardenas was convicted of planting marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, sale of marijuana and maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully selling a controlled substance.
Sentencing was scheduled for March 7.
Wirtschafter summarized the evidence in the cultivation trial, saying the defendant rented property where marijuana was grown, received a bogus Proposition 215 recommendation and the marijuana would be taken by Fabian Lemus at the end of the season.
“(Cardenas) is criminally liable because he aided and abetted,” Wirtschafter said.
Cardenas — who faces possible deportation after Tuesday’s conviction — said he will appeal. His attorney, Philippa Lauben, had argued to rule the marijuana would be sold is speculative.
“Let everyone learn from what’s happened to me. Don’t let anyone talk you into renting your ground,” Cardenas said outside the courtroom.
Evidence in the case indicated Lemus planted the marijuana and also paid for Cardenas and his housemate, Linda Mitchell, to obtain doctor recommendations to possess marijuana plants under the Compassionate Use Act, known as Proposition 215.
Mitchell testified she obtained the “script” to “protect herself,” and neither she nor Cardenas intended to use the marijuana. Lemus was to harvest the marijuana plants at the end of the grow season. A deputy said Cardenas was to be paid for subletting the property for the grow, according to testimony.
Documentation of their doctor’s recommendations was attached to a post in the garden when deputies searched the property in July 2014. Cardenas had called for compliance check of the grow about a month before.
“This cultivation was not protected and is outside the scope of (Proposition) 215,” Deputy Brandon Spear testified. Neither Cardenas nor Mitchell would use the marijuana, and “there is no evidence that the marijuana would go to a coop or dispensary.”
“Cardenas was going to profit from Fabian,” he said. “You cannot profit from Prop. 215.”
After that testimony, Cardenas took the stand and said he was expecting to be reimbursed for the expenses of the grow, specifically for the increased Pacific, Gas & Electric bill for the agricultural water pump used to water horses and the marijuana garden.
In closing arguments, Lauben argued the deputy never contacted two other people whose scripts were found at the grow at an earlier date. Deputies never contacted the property owner, and they never contacted Lemus.
The sublet was legitimate, Cardenas did not profit and to rule the marijuana was grown for the purpose of sales would be speculative, Lauben said.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Byrne said Cardenas previously told a deputy he would be paid $2,000 for allowing the garden, and the next year he takes the stand to say the payment was only to cover expenses.
“He is aiding and abetting growing marijuana,” Byrne said.
Monica Vaughan is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat and can be reached at 749-4783 and on Twitter @MonicaLVaughan.
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