Laytonville pot club staying open

June 15, 2005

Quincy Cromer, Ukiah Daily Journal

A cannabis club owner in the Laytonville area said he will not close in response to the Supreme Court's June 6 decision that federal agents could continue to prosecute medical marijuana growers, patients and caregivers.

Les Crane, owner of Mendo Remedies, opened his cannabis cooperative on April 1, 2004, and continues to support Prop. 215, which was approved by voters in 1996 making medical marijuana use and cultivation legal.

Crane said he plans to change the name of his business to Mendo Spiritual Remedies and will focus on what he says is his right to cultivate and distribute marijuana as written in the Bible.

'We are going to stay open. They can't take from us what God gave us. It appears to me that the Supreme Court will uphold more of the Bible and people's religion than they will scientific proof,' Crane said. 'We were hoping that the medical marijuana would work because scientific proof is better than anything else, but it doesn't look like that matters.'

With some 500 current patients and approximately 800 on file who have been customers in the past, Crane said some medical marijuana patients from Ukiah have been directed to his co-op for medical marijuana.

'The one club in Ukiah has been sending patients to us because they are not serving them any more. They want to help the patients and people are stopping in from Ukiah,' he said. 'I can't be scared. I just have to keep trudging on. I don't believe that the government has any right to take away what God has given us.'

Dane Wilkins, executive director for the Northern California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said it's important for dispensaries to stay open and serve patients until the situation is clarified by state officials.

'I think the dispensaries should stay open until we have a definitive answer from the state attorney general as to the legal point of view of the state. I know they are investigating and studying it and doing the legal work,' Wilkins said.

'It is very important that the patients who are utilizing their services for medical marijuana still have the resource to get their medical marijuana, but at the same time there are many legal issues surrounding this and we want to do things the right way.'

United Medical Caregiver Clinic on North State Street closed last week after warnings that federal agents may come to close dispensaries, but Crane said he has not received any phone calls or cautions that his cooperative is in jeopardy.

'When the government pulled cannabis out of the circle, they messed up the whole world. It is all a part of the circle that is the world,' Crane said. 'We are changing the name and I am talking to people about the Bible and spirituality of it. It is a sacrament and it always has been; we just haven't been distributing it as that.'

Crane, who is now referring to himself as a 'reverend,' said deeming marijuana illegal violates his religious rights, which he said he will take to court if federal agents try to close his cooperative.

'I will go to court and we will try to get an injunction against them (federal agents) coming. We are going to the church and I am slowly checking into other religions and I am sure it is in the King James version in many instances,' he said. 'We will go to the Supreme Court and we hope that the Supreme Court will uphold our right to have religion and interpret the Bible the way we are interpreting it.'

'It says (in the Bible) that they are using cannabis. It is the tree of life that will heal all of the nations. It is the only plant out there that could cure all of the world.'

Through his experiences from owning and operating a cannabis club, Crane said he thinks cooperatives should be regulated by the government, and the right to distribute marijuana should be his religious privilege.

'There should be regulations and the government should be doing this whole thing, but they aren't so I have to do it. If they are selling alcohol and cigarettes, how dare they say no to cannabis,' Crane said. 'God gave us all of the roots and the things to take care of us. Everything we need is right here on earth; all we have to do is use it. I am trying to make a difference and I am trying to change it.'

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