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State of California v. Catrina Falbo (2010-2011, Orange County)

posted Feb 2, 2013, 7:49 AM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 16, 2013, 12:22 AM ]
In Orange County, local law enforcement continues to conduct undercover stings of medical marijuana collectives.  Patients are prosecuted under the rationale that any exchange of marijuana for money is an illegal sale.  In one such courtroom case, an undercover officer visited an outdoor exposition for medical cannabis, held on April 20, 2010. Using false identification, the officer was evaluated by a doctor, and after making false statements, he received a recommendation for medical cannabis.  The undercover officer then collected marketing material from collectives, dispensaries, and home-based delivery services that were exhibiting at the event.

Using his false identification and fraudulently-obtained patient credentials, the officer joined the home-based delivery collective of Catrina Falbo and requested cannabis.  After a total of three visits, he raided the home, detaining Ms. Falbo and a member who cultivated at another location.  The haul from this months-long sting operation was three ounces of marijuana and $300 cash.  A community member with a less than year-old patient collective was charged with five felonies.

In addition to a recommendation from her physician, Ms. Falbo was in possession of a state-issued medical marijuana card, articles of incorporation for her non-profit collective, a business license, a record of the $12,000 IRA withdrawal used to start the business, a business checking account which showed a net loss of $8,000, state tax paperwork from the Bureau of Equalization, and a copy of the attorney general guidelines.  The district attorney still wanted to pursue criminal charges of drug dealing against Ms. Falbo, but in this case, common sense prevailed at the preliminary hearing.

In his ruling on June 24, 2011, in the Superior Court of Orange County (Westminster, CA),  Judge Gallivan found that Ms. Falbo was a qualified patient in significant compliance with every rule and regulation for her home-based medical marijuana delivery service.  He also noted that she had collective agreements from her patient members and verified the patient status of everyone she dealt with.  All of these elements led the judge to dismiss the case against Ms. Falbo in the interest of justice. 

In her own words, Catrina explains the events leading up to her raid by the Westminster Police Department:

I entered in to the medical marijuana industry because of my dislike of pharmaceutical drugs and the fact that I enjoy helping others. I started a small delivery service in December of last year and invested all I had in to it. The business still hasn’t reimbursed me for my investment but I continue on because of the bond I’ve formed with some of my clients. In April of this year an undercover detective from the local police department decided to join my collective with all of the correct documentation, and it was verified. After the third delivery he served me a warrant for reason to believe I was making a profit and raided my apartment. My collective is so small that I only had nine plants and approximately 5 oz. of medicine confiscated. It doesn’t sound like a lot to loose but it was all I had. I received a letter from the DA a few weeks ago and they are now charging me with 5 felonies including sales, transportation, and cultivation of marijuana. I found an attorney, Scott Well, who has agreed to take my case for a small down payment and is working with me for the remainder that I’ll owe. This is a blessing because I have nothing left and my last unemployment check is on the way. I need and have been looking for work for months. Had I never gotten raided, my medicine would have been done and I would be in a financially stable place. Law enforcement has cost me all I had, and for what? I have no criminal record, set my business up according to state law, and truly care about my patients whom most of are truly housebound. So to law enforcement and the DA….show me the money because I don’t have it!

~Catrina Falbo, November 2010

Source:

Lux, Jessica. "Orange County Entraps and Prosecutes a Home-Based Delivery Collective For Under $300 and Less Than Three Ounces of Marijuana." Prison Outreach Press 2.2 (2011): 6. Print.
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