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Even Mendocino Crumbling to Feds on Pot

County shutting down innovative sheriff-supervised grower program
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2012 12:53 AM CST
Updated Feb 14, 2012 5:12 AM CST
Even Mendocino Crumbling to Feds on Pot
Geroge Hanamoto checks the bud of a marijuana plant he's growing in Mendocino County.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(Newser) – The US county with one of the highest concentrations of pot farms—and tokers—is finally caving in to pressure from the feds. California officials in Mendocino County are snuffing out an innovative medical marijuana program that put pot growers under the supervision of the county sheriff. The program was the first of its kind in the nation, and was generally a hit with locals—but not with federal law enforcement, reports NPR. Sheriff's Sergeant Randy Johnson supervised some 100 growers in the county and earned his department more than $500,000 in fees. "I can't describe the joy of feeling that we were finally part of the county, not the outcasts," said one grower.

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But the system had been "hijacked by profiteers who are motivated not by compassion, but money," complained the region's US attorney, Linda Haag. Besides, even though medical marijuana was legalized by the state 16 years ago, pot is still illegal under federal law, said Haag, who demanded the county end the program or face costly litigation. The program is set to end today. "It means it's going to go back underground. It's going to become more dangerous. It's going to become more profitable for the black marketers," said County Board Chairman John McCowen. "I don't see that this represents progress." (Read more medical marijuana stories.)

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