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LOCAL Commentary :: Health & Drugs

Letter to Judge Samuel Stevens Concerning Roger Mentch

This letter will be e-mailed and personally presented to the Court on Monday May 2 at 8 AM when Roger Mentch, care provider who operates the Felton "Hemporium" will face 7 years in prison for providing medical marijuana to those with county-approved cards.
Judge Samuel Stevens
701 Ocean St., Dept. 4
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Dear Judge Stevens:

I am a broadcaster for Free Radio Santa Cruz as well as an organizer for HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom). I have been concerned with the lack of access to medical marijuana in the City of Santa Cruz--which for the last five years has had no medical marijuana dispensary open and accessible to the public.

Due to a restrictive City ordinance passed in 2000, 3000-4000 county residents have no access in the City to any medical marijuana other than WAMM and Med-Ex, as far as I know. WAMM is a small closed cooperative of 200-300 people with a long waiting list; Med-Ex serves less than 50 people as a delivery service.

The situation, ironically, is worse today than it was prior to 1996 when even the medical use of marijuana was technically illegal but the Maple St. Santa Cruz Cannabis Buyers Club openly made marijuana available for medication on the premises for their disabled and ill patrons, with the knowledge of the local police agencies and politicians.

I first met Roger Mentch in a demonstration on Pacific Avenue several days before his prosecution began several months ago. I interviewed him extensively, attended parts of his trial, and have spoken with him since his conviction in your court.

This conviction, I believe, was largely due to your finding that he could not be considered a caregiver and hence was not entitled to the protections of Proposition 215.

After conversations with established local caregivers and activists such as Andrea Tishler of the Compassion Flower Inn, I have concluded that Roger Mentch’s “Hemporium? distrbutary for medical marijuana was a legitimate and important source of marijuana, particularly considering the five-year absence of medical marijuana clubs in Santa Cruz (as well as in neighboring San Jose, I might add).

I believe that virtually every prosecution for possession and sales alone of illegal “drugs? and/or herbs to adults is a cancer on our police and court system that fills prisons, corrupts police department, spreads violence, and encourages still more black-market activities.

This is particularly true for marijuana, the prosecution of which, as you know, has sent more than ¾ of a million people to jail in the last year nationally. It is even more of an abuse when “medical marijuana? is targeted--apparently to keep state and federal grants for the District Attorney’s office and police rolling in. When this happens, I believe it is the responsibility of the community to make sure that justice is done--for the patients, for the caregiver, and for the general public.

While I cannot fathom how you found Roger Mentch’s sale of medical marijuana to authorized patients with valid cards a violation--as a matter of law, I believe you have the opportunity to limit the damage this prosecution and trial have done.

With the absence of any marijuana dispensary in Santa Cruz, it is important to reassure those in the County who want to legitimately supply marijuana that their efforts will not be punished.

I would like to see Roger Mentch’s agony end. Nor should anyone else face home invasion by police authorities, an abrupt trip to jail, property confiscation, high bail, lingering prosecution over a year and a half, expensive court costs, destructive publicity, and prison for trying to meet a community need.

Please use your power to return Roger Mentch to the community and lessen the damage that has been already done.


Robert Norse (831-423-4833 rnorse3 (at)

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Re: Letter to Judge Samuel Stevens Concerning Roger Mentch

Thank you for your intelligent and persuasive letter, Robert.

Just so people know, sentencing for Roger will be at 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 2. We are asking people to meet at the courthouse steps at 8:00 a.m. to support Roger with words of encouragement, letters to the judge and signs expressing their feelings about Roger's case.

Re: Letter to Judge Samuel Stevens Concerning Roger Mentch

I have probably known Roger longer than anyone reading this web-page. I've known him since he was about 2-years old - I'm his older cousin.

Before you think I'm somehow biased, note that we've not been that close as adults, and that while I've known him to be a a bit of a maverick, I've also recognized him to have a true concern for people. Also note that I am an adamantly opposed to the illicit use of controlled substances of any kind, and in particular to the "general" legalization of marijuana. That said - I support providing any man-made or natural drug that eases in any way the pain suffered by people with chronic or fatal illnesses - under the proper controls.

As a retired Naval Officer who served this country honorable for almost 25-years, a resident and tax-paying Californian, and a security engineer working very hard to help protect us all against the "real" bad guys, I am disgusted at Roger's prosecution. At the same time, I am relieved to see that Judge Stevens finally saw through the prosecutorial fog and brought a lenient end to this miscarriage of justice and waste of taxpayer's money.

I only hope that the appeals process brings true justice to this case and restores Roger's name and reputation. In view of the mis-informed Federal court ruling recently on the medical marijuana issue, while I'm not overly optimistic, I truely wish Roger the best of luck.

C.T. Yengst, USN, RET


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