Self-contained audio report from the May 2, sentencing of local, medical marijuana provider, Roger Mentch.
rtb_mentch.mp3 (3772 k)
Rockin' the Boat: Roger Mentch Gets Leniency from Courts
Mentch: "I'm real happy with the decision. Couldn't be happier."
Sentencing for local medical marijuana provider Roger Mentch, took place May 2, in the chambers of Superior Court Judge Samuel Stevens. Nearly two years ago, the Santa Cruz County Sheriffs drug task force raided the Felton home of Roger Mentch, managing director of the Hemporium, a medical marijuana consultant and delivery service, with about 20 clients. Laura Elridge has been a client since February 2002, and was at the house during the early morning raid in June 2003.
Elridge: "They sat there and held the gun on me and my daughter, while they checked the house, and they took Roger up to the front porch, then after they cleared the house, they checked my daughter's backpack, and then they let us go."
Mentch, a state-licensed, in-home caregiver for two PTSD patients, complains that almost nine years after its passage, Proposition 215 has yet to be fuilly implemented in California.
Mentch: "We're just trying to deliver medicine, I know people that drive up from Merced. It's outrageous that its not available. State law says it should be. There should be ID programs in place. The implementation has, frankly, been poor, and then here I am being prosecuted for being a caregiver that I hold a caregivers card for."
After numerous delays, the case against Mentch went to trial in March, and he was convicted of felony marijuana cultivation and felony possession with intent to sell, as well as, misdemeanor possession of psilocybin mushrooms. The felonies were enhanced, as the raid team found two, .22 caliber rifles, both unloaded, and inoperable. Two other charges were dismissed. He faced a maximum 7 year sentence.
Mentch: "I was arrested in 2003, this trial was put off five times, and they've never proved that I sold anything but to medical marijuana patients. I was only trying to be honest when they asked me. I said I sold to four or five medical patients that had ID's."
Roger Mentch has continued to provide patients with medical marijuana since the bust, and The Hemporium has grown to include about 25 clients.
Mentch: "I can't believe that they've wasted the money to prosecute somebody that's trying to be law-abiding. I had an excellent job until I did this that was outsourced. Maybe that should be illegal!"
The prosecutor who tried the case, Thanh Ngo, argued for a 150 day jail sentence and demanded the DA's office retain all evidence, particularly the cash seized by sherrif's deputies. Judge Stevens handed down, a 5-day jail sentence, giving Mentch credit for time served, and summary probation for 3 years. He was also ordered to pay $220 in court costs. Throughout the hearing, Judge Stevens repeatedly stipulated Mentch could continue to operate his marijuana deliveries, saying, "If he wishes to conduct himself under the law, he will not be in violation of probation."
Amy Buentello, the public defender assigned to the Mentch case was happy about the sentencing decision, saying, "It was the best outcome possible, at this point."
While, he doesn't fear a second crackdown from local authorities, he is worried that an expected ruling from the Supreme Court will allow the federal government to continue attacks on medical marijuana users in states like California.
Mentch: "We'll see what kind of decision the Supreme Court hands down, whether the federal government will still be allowed to harrass medical marijuana patients. That in itself should be a crime."
Mentch says he'll definitely appeal the felony conviction, and will continue to provide marijuana deliveries.