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No Charges Filed Against Novato Man


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Citing medical marijuana issues, the Marin County district attorney's office has declined to charge a Novato man arrested by drug investigators last month in connection with two indoor pot farms.

David Mauroni, 51, appeared in Marin Superior Court on Monday to face potential charges for growing marijuana at two Novato residences he leased, 1208 Chase St. and 682 Olive Ave. But an arraignment judge told Mauroni that no charges were filed and he was free to go.

Mauroni left the courtroom surrounded by a small and jubilant group of supporters. He declined to comment outside court.

District Attorney Ed Berberian said there was insufficient evidence to bring the case before a jury because Mauroni demonstrated he was growing the marijuana for medical users. Berberian declined to comment on how Mauroni supported his claim.

"We look at every case on an individual basis," he said. "We make a determination whether we can prove a case. You still have to make an evaluation of your likelihood of carrying your burden of proof before a Marin jury."

The decision comes as local and county investigators in Marin grapple with an influx of indoor marijuana farms, which allow growers to harvest stronger marijuana with greater frequency at lower risk of detection. Since June 20, police have shut down six indoor pot farms in Novato, San Rafael and Fairfax.

Investigators said the emergence of indoor operations in Marin follows a statewide trend throughout California, where organized residential pot operations have been discovered in the Sacramento area, the Central Valley and California. The number of indoor marijuana plants seized by police in California nearly doubled between 2005 and 2006, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Mauroni became the focus of an investigation last month after the rental house at 1208 Chase St. was severely damaged in a fire linked to a bypassed Pacific Gas & Electric Co. meter. Police said they found 75 marijuana plants, cultivation equipment and 100 pounds of packaged marijuana in the home. But the packaged marijuana turned out to be stalks, leaves and other plant remnants, not the chemically potent buds, authorities said.

After learning that Mauroni was the renter at 1208 Chase St., they got a search warrant for 682 Olive Ave., a home Mauroni was leasing around the corner. Police found another 30 marijuana plants and more cultivation equipment inside.

California's medical marijuana law, the Compassionate Use Act, grants patients and caregivers some immunity to grow marijuana for medical use. Police in Marin enforce a limit of six mature plants or 12 immature plants per patient, but Berberian said the district attorney's office has no set limits on how much marijuana providers can grow.

"We do not have a policy," he said. "The reality of it is, you have to evaluate what you've got that a jury will look at and a jury find to be excessive, regardless of what the statute is. We have gone to trial with more than 100 plants, and juries have not convicted them in this county."

Berberian said that even though prosecutors have thus far declined to file charges, the case is still under investigation, including the issue of the bypassed PG&E meter.

News Mod: CoZmO - 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Marin Independent Journal (Novato, CA)
Author: Gary Klien
Contact: gklien@marinij.com
Copyright: 2007 MediaNews Group, Inc.
Website: Marin Independent Journal
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