Merced Pot Grower Seeking Hearing

February 24, 2004

, Merced Sun-Star

Merced County supervisors Tuesday morning heard Dustin Costa discuss medical marijuana - this, after he was arrested last Thursday when police found about 1,000 marijuana plants in his home.

Costa said his marijuana is grown for medical use only, and he wants the county to realize that. He said officers told him there was no such thing as medical marijuana, so he was requesting help from the county. He said people who give marijuana away for free can’t be prosecuted.

“I came in peace. We are in a battle, we’re waving a white flag. Leave us alone, please,” Costa said.

John Volanti, Merced County public health director, said that a state law, SB420, requires county health departments to provide approval to medical marijuana users, if a doctor has approved the use of the drug.

But because the state Department of Health Services has no regulations in place yet, the county has no ordinance either.

“My hands are tied until the state moves forward,” Volanti said.

Merced County Undersheriff Bill Blake said that the Merced-Mariposa Narcotics Task Force had a search warrant for Costa’s residence, where 980 marijuana plants were found, half of which were over five feet high.

“This is not about medical marijuana. He had sophisticated scales and boarded-up windows. He’s a drug trafficker. He just dresses the pig up a little differently,” Blake said.

Costa requested to be put on the supervisors’ March 9 agenda.

In other board action, a request for a public hearing for March 9 to consider an appeal by Lydia Miller was approved. Miller has appealed the decision by the Merced County Planning Commission to give a conditional use permit to the Vander Woude Dairy.

That dairy has been given a permit to have a 7,613-animal unit dairy on 123 acres near Rahilly Road and Highway 59.

Supervisors also approved a request to list the Veterans Memorial Building on West Main Street in Merced as a historically significant building.

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