Fresno County Sheriff Raids Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
There are about 20 medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Fresno County. On June 1, 2011, it was announced that Fresno County Sheriff ‘cracked down’ on the dispensaries in Fresno. The dispensaries are legally selling marijuana to people who have recommendations from doctors, for the most part. Following the June 1st raids, the sheriff announced that the purpose of this particular raid was irregularities in the paperwork and a possible violation of the law, by the dispensary.
The sheriff has frequently cited crime around the dispensaries and neighborhood complaints as the reason for scrutinizing the dispensaries. To be completely candid, as a defense attorney I am aware of about four cases involving dispensaries. In three of those cases, the dispensaries were victims of commercial burglary. The fourth case did not directly involve a dispensary, that case involved a person who grew marijuana and sold it to dispensaries. Unfortunately, the owner of the marijuana garden shot and killed a person who was attempting to steal the marijuana.
I am not aware of a single instance of neighbors of dispensaries being victimized. I am not saying that it has not happened, I am saying that it must not be rampant or we would have heard about it in the news. In fact, if there were a bunch of victims around the dispensaries, I bet they would parade them around and put them out as the poster-child for why the dispensaries should be shut down.
I personally do not have a recommendation for marijuana from a doctor and I do not use marijuana. I have a friend who has brain cancer, he uses marijuana for medicinal purposes. He struggles with pain and loss of appetite, marijuana alleviates those symptoms as well as other symptoms. His use of marijuana is not phony, or based on false pretenses, you can see the indention in his skull from one of the surgeries he underwent to remove part of tumor in his skull.
Appropriate Allocation of Resources
The primary issue I have with ‘cracking down’ on the dispensaries is the scarcity of resources. Everyone has heard about the sheriff closing floors of the jail and releasing inmates due to overcrowding. As a direct result of the releases, auto theft in Fresno has skyrocketed. There have been murders committed by defendants who should have been incarcerated at the time they committed the murder. Some defendants have stolen cars, been arrested and released, then stole more cars only to be released again. I know of one defendant who was arrested and released eight times that I know of.
I do not know how many deputies participated in the raids on dispensaries on June 1st, nor do I know exactly how many inmates were released due to overcrowding on June 1st, however it seems the two figures are related and should be considered. Even if only one deputy participated in the raid on the dispensaries, which is highly unlikely, that deputy could have been at the jail, guarding inmates. It is far more likely that ten or twenty deputies participated in the raids. I am not criticizing the deputies themselves, those officers put their lives on the line and deserve respect.
I do question allocating deputies to raid dispensaries while letting inmates out because the jail is short staffed. Los Angeles County has ten times the population of Fresno County, with more than 20 times the number of marijuana dispensaries than Fresno. They also have jail overcrowding, however they do not release felons, only inmates that are charged with non-violent misdemeanors.
Sheriff Is Ultimately Responsible For Safety in the County
Within the City of Fresno, Fresno Police Department and the Fresno County Sheriff are responsible for law enforcement and crime control. Fundamentally, the sheriff of each county is responsible for law and order for the entire county. In most counties, cities incorporate and divert some of the revenue that would ordinarily go to the county. The city uses that revenue and other sources of revenue to provide for specific services like sanitation, police, and fire. The fact that a city incorporates, does not relieve the sheriff from the duty to uphold the law and protect citizens, it merely adds an additional agency to help with law enforcement within city borders.
The property crime rate in Fresno is twice the national average. Crime density is much higher in Fresno, compared to the national average. Nationally, about 50 crimes occur per year, for every square mile of area, in Fresno, 305 crimes every year per square mile. Violent crime occurs in Fresno at nearly double the national average, your odds of being a victim of a violent crime in Fresno is 1 in 122. Nationally, a person’s odds of being a victim of violent crime is approximately 1 in 240.
I think the Sheriff should focus on protecting the citizens of Fresno from violent crime or reducing property crimes, instead of ‘cracking down’ on marijuana dispensaries. The deputies that raided the dispensaries probably passed multiple meth labs, prostitutes, and gang infested neighborhoods, on their way to raid the dispensaries.
You can read more about this at FresnoUrban