This article originally appeared in The Sentinel
An interview with attorney Michael E. Cindrich on the sale of marijuana for profit in California
July 27, 2013 10:45 am • By Dennis Beaver
“I have been reading your column for years in The Sentinel, and what makes You and the Law so popular is that you tell it like it is, care about the people who contact you and provide common-sense guidance. That’s why I am writing now, Dennis, because I am afraid of my wife’s business plan and need some objective direction.”
Thus began an email from — of all possible occupations — an attorney who we will simply call “Nick.” As we would soon learn, his financial success led to an addiction, but not the type which usually comes to mind.
Months of the year in dangerous countries
“As a personal injury lawyer, I earn close to $500,000 a year, and my wife finds ways of spending most of it, even giving a substantial allowance to her 40-year-old leech of a daughter. She thinks nothing of frequently dropping $10,000 on a credit card in one afternoon for things we do not need, but the really huge amounts of money are spent when — for months at a time — she travels to some of the most dangerous areas in the world.
“Name a revolution or war-torn place on the globe and she has traveled there, often. I’m talking the Congo, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, to list just a few. She has a college degree in photojournalism and is a highly competent videographer, so her stated reason is the making of documentaries.
“But she hasn’t made a single one! Mentally no longer connected to our life in California, all I hear is how much she is needed by the people there. For so many reasons, this is deeply worrying.
“We are in our late 50s and there is no way to save for retirement if she continues spending this way, because each of these trips — which last for months — can easily cost over $100,000.
“Finally, I manned up and told her this had to end or she could pay for it some other way.”
Nick’s wife soon found “that other” way.
I’m in the marijuana business with our gardener!
“Two weeks later, she took me out to the backyard and announced that, with our gardener, she had gone into the marijuana business! There, in a somewhat covered part of the yard, she showed me rows of cannabis plants — it was a real pot grow! Then she took out her medical marijuana card, obtained from a Los Angeles doctor.
“‘See, I got the card, legally purchased the plants, and we can probably make well over $150,000 a year this way.
“‘So you don’t have to worry about financing my trips anymore. Oh, and I also spoke with a lawyer in Berkeley who told me that this is perfectly legal,’ she told me in an arrogant tone of voice.
“Dennis, she also reads and likes your column. I do not want to lose our house and my reputation because of her addiction to money.
“What is the law? Her business plan can’t possibly be legal — or can it? And please hurry, because I do not want to see a bunch of guys wearing DEA jackets yanking plants out of our yard!”
I hope his wife enjoys wearing jailhouse orange jumpsuits
You and the Law contacted San Diego attorney Michael Cindrich, who is an advocate for the responsible use of medical marijuana and viewed as one of the state’s top lawyers in this field. When we ran the facts of this case by him, his response was clear: Don’t!
“Tell the lawyer’s wife to find some other way of earning money, because this could get the couple arrested, their home seized by the DEA, and he would no doubt face disciplinary action by the state bar — possibly losing his license to practice law.
“While under federal law, it is still illegal to possess, cultivate or sell marijuana, in California, and some other states, for medical purposes, possession of relatively small amounts may be legal,” he pointed out.
“This is a highly complex, changing area of the law, and no one size-fits-all answer can be given as to how much or where you may legally possess marijuana. The law is different, depending upon which state, city and county you are in,” he said.
“Where the motive is profit — which is exactly what the lawyer’s wife has in mind — this alone makes the venture illegal,” Cindrich concluded.
To that, we add something that no one else mentioned: the risk of blackmail. That’s right, blackmail, extortion — by the gardener:
“Hey, counselor, I need a little loan, and by the way, nobody knows about what’s growing in your backyard. And you do want to keep it that way, right?”
Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to him at 661-323-7993 or emailed to him at email@example.com.