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Thread: When Pot Clubs Go Bad

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    Ken Estes Just Wants To Share The Miracle Of Medical Marijuana. Everyone
    Else Just Wants Him To Go Away.

    Neighborhood lore has it that before Ken Estes set up his medical-marijuana
    club, the property used to be a whorehouse. The neighbors wish it still
    was. Back then, the customers walked in, took care of business, and got
    out. Bad shit never went down at central Berkeley's local brothel --
    certainly nothing like what happened on the afternoon of June 5.

    At 2:37 p.m., roughly ninety minutes before closing time, a gray Honda
    pulled to the curb and two Latino men got out the car and stepped up to the
    guard. One topped out at 250 pounds and wore a plaid button-down shirt; the
    other was a skinny kid in a T-shirt. The guard walked back to the door, and
    shouted for Estes' brother that there were two guys at the door to see Ken.
    His brother cracked open the door, took a look, and leaned back to yell for
    Estes. At that point, the guard noticed the two men creeping up to the
    door. "No no, you can't come in here!" he reportedly shouted.

    Then he saw the gun.

    Mr. Plaid jammed a black pistol into the guard's back, and the T-shirt
    pulled out a kitchen knife with a four-inch blade.

    According to the police report, they forced the guard through the door,
    rushed into the club, and screamed at everyone to lie face down on the floor.

    Everyone did except for one man, a wheelchair-bound patient who had come to
    get his legally prescribed dose of reefer and now had a gun in his face.
    The two men trashed the place and finally found the stash after prying open
    a locked file cabinet. As terrified neighbors called the cops, the thieves
    ran out of the club, jumped in the car, and floored it.

    It was the third armed robbery at 1672 University Avenue in ten months.

    You get into a lot of creepy stuff when you hang out with Ken Estes. You
    get burglaries, armed robberies, police raids, and felony charges.

    You also get allegations of cocaine dealing, tax fraud, and spousal abuse.

    The thing is, Ken's a really nice guy. With a tanned face defined by a
    sandy goatee, long blond hair, and a disarming air of candor and
    vulnerability, he seems the very picture of California easy living.

    It's only when you notice the wheelchair supporting his shriveled legs, or
    the limp handshake born of two decades of nerve damage, that you catch a
    glimpse of the tragedy that has been his companion since 1976. Shortly
    after a motorcycle accident left Estes paralyzed below his chest, he became
    a devoted advocate of medical marijuana. He carefully organized his club to
    offer every possible comfort to the sick or dying.

    Berkeley Medical Herbs, which didn't exactly traffic in St.-John's-wort,
    operated out of a cute little cottage that neighbors call the "hobbit
    warren." A modest wooden fence fronts the street and a path leads through a
    mulch lawn to a white security door. Beneath the rich, sloping redwood
    ceiling, a spacious brick fireplace keeps patients toasty-warm in the
    winter. Once a week a woman comes in and provides free massages on a table
    in the corner.

    And unlike other East Bay pot clubs, most of which stress a clinical
    pharmacy's atmosphere, patients can sit down and light up right there,
    beneath rustic paintings of Jimi, Janis, and Jerry. If it weren't for the
    crime that has plagued his club's operation, Estes might be the patron
    saint of Berkeley stoners. "We have the best prices and the best medicine."
    he boasts. "If you know buds, we have the bomb."

    But ever since Estes first got involved in the medical-marijuana movement,
    men with drugs, guns, and evil intent have followed him everywhere he goes.
    They have robbed him, exploited his generosity, and endangered the lives of
    everyone around him -- even his three children.

    But "Compassionate Ken," as his friends call him, doesn't seem to learn.

    He always picks the wrong friends.

    At least that's Ken's side of the story.

    His estranged lover, Stacey Trainor, told a darker version to the Contra
    Costa district attorney's office. She alleged that Estes is a former coke
    dealer who lied to secure his club's lease, that he has a Berkeley doctor
    in his pocket who will sell pot prescriptions for $215 a pop, and that up
    to thirty percent of his customers buy his product without any medical
    notes at all. Police and University Avenue merchants, meanwhile, claim that
    high-school kids used to line up for a taste outside Estes' club, and that
    his security guards scared away neighborhood shoppers and even got involved
    in fights on the street. His fellow cannabis-club operators even tried to
    drive Estes out of town.

    Whether Estes is a character out of The French Connection or one out of The
    Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, he couldn't exist without the peculiar
    politics of Proposition 215, which decriminalized medical marijuana in
    California. In the six years since its passage, mayors, district attorneys,
    and state officials have been so focused on protecting patients from
    federal prosecution that they've neglected to implement any sort of
    regulations about how pot should be distributed. No state or local agency
    or mainstream medical group has offered any comprehensive guidelines on who
    should hand out pot in what manner.

    As a result, medical pot is not just legal, but superlegal, perhaps
    California's least-regulated ingestible substance.

    And yet marijuana remains a powerful intoxicant with a vast underground
    market, one whose dealers inhabit a shadowy criminal world populated by
    dangerous men.

    In the absence of official regulation, it has fallen to pot-club operators
    themselves to craft some sort of system.

    Over the last six years, groups like the Oakland Cannabis Buyers
    Cooperative and the Alliance of Berkeley Patients have, through a series of
    trials and sometimes embarrassing errors, arrived at a protocol for
    verifying medical ailments, providing security from criminals, and
    operating safely in quiet residential and commercial neighborhoods. But
    however sensible their rules may be, they have no means of forcing club
    operators to abide by them. All they have is a gentlemen's agreement.

    Ken Estes broke that agreement, whether by design or neglect.

    And no one may have the legal power to make him stop.

    Estes is that rare breed of Bay Area native who spent his teenage years
    here in the '70s and didn't smoke pot. Born in Martinez, he moved to
    Concord and became a star athlete at Ygnacio Valley High. He excelled at
    soccer and was offered a scholarship to Santa Clara University, but that
    all changed one day in 1976, a month after he graduated from high school.

    Estes was riding his motorcycle back from a Walnut Creek McDonald's, where
    he worked as a manager, when a car swerved into his lane and hit him head
    on. Estes flew over the car and broke his neck. The damage was so extensive
    that for the next two years, he couldn't even move his arms. He struggled
    through physical therapy hoping to regain just enough mobility to kill himself.

    Estes was wracked with chronic pain, living in a rehab center and dependent
    on others to bathe and clothe him. The morphine and the pills didn't help,
    and he began to waste away. "I probably got down to a hundred pounds, and
    I'm six feet," he says. "I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, the physical
    pain was horrible, a nightmare.

    But about six or eight months into it, a group of Vietnam vets I was in
    rehab with were smoking marijuana.

    They said, 'Look, man, we know you're not eating or sleeping, why don't you
    come over here with us?' I said no, 'cause I was still thinking about
    keeping my body clean. But they said, 'Man, they're popping pills in you
    and morphine.

    This is a lot less than that.' So I said, 'Alright, lemme smoke.' That
    night, I slept all night.

    When I woke up, I ate. They brought the doctors in, they said, 'Lookit,
    he's eating!' My doctor wrote it on the chart, he wrote that this marijuana
    is doing what you want the pills to do."

    After that first toke, Estes put his life back together.

    He regained limited use of his arms, enrolled in junior college, and by the
    early '80s was offered another scholarship, this time to UC Santa Cruz.
    Estes decided instead to open a string of tanning, hair, and nail salons in
    Concord and Davis. He met his future girlfriend Stacey Trainor while she
    was working at a mini mart next to one of his salons. "I kept coming over
    there, and she would always have the banana drink ready for me, get the
    burrito ready," he says. Within a month of their first date, Trainor left
    her husband and moved in with Estes. Together they would raise three children.

    But something always bothered Estes. Before he began growing his own, he
    typically took his business to Haight Street or Telegraph Avenue. It was a
    dangerous pastime; just because he wanted to relieve his discomfort, he was
    mugged three times and occasionally suffered the indignity of being dumped
    out of his chair.

    In the '80s, as AIDS swept through the country, Estes began clipping press
    accounts of "Brownie Mary," the elderly woman who used to walk the halls of
    San Francisco General Hospital, handing out marijuana-laced treats to the
    terminally ill. Slowly, he began to think that this wasn't just a drug, but
    a cause.

    In 1992, he signed over his share of the salons to his business partner and
    started distributing pot, going to demonstrations, and working to
    decriminalize medical cannabis. "Everyone thought I was crazy, but I said I
    wanted to pursue this," he recalls, "I'm tired of being looked at as a
    doper, as a pothead, as somebody less than somebody else because I used
    marijuana."

    Yet as Estes became a fixture in the medical cannabis scene, his life
    became increasingly chaotic and dangerous.

    At the very time that Proposition 215 liberated thousands of
    medical-marijuana smokers from prosecution, Estes began a long, almost
    farcical slide into crime.

    Even scoring on street corners didn't compare to what was to come. "No guns
    in the face at that point," he says of his early years. "That came later,
    with the medical-marijuana movement."

    Estes began his cannabis activism by volunteering at the Oakland Cannabis
    Buyers Cooperative. From the beginning, the co-op has been at the cutting
    edge of the movement; where San Francisco clubs have a looser, anarchic
    spirit, it's all business at the Oakland Co-op, whose members have
    pioneered security and medical protocols with a determined air of
    professionalism. Jeff Jones, the co-op's executive director, doesn't even
    smoke pot. Growing up in South Dakota, Jones watched his father waste away
    and die from a terrible illness and vowed to find a way to bring medical
    marijuana to the terminally ill. Jones first joined the co-op in 1995 and
    soon found himself making home deliveries of dope to AIDS and cancer patients.

    If Estes is a creative but befuddled libertine, Jones is rigid and dogmatic.

    From the start, the two rubbed one another the wrong way.

    After passage of Proposition 215, the co-op emerged from the shadows and
    began distributing pot out in the open. But no one had any idea how to go
    about it. There were simply no rules; one day medical pot was illegal, the
    next day it wasn't.

    Proposition 215 is one in a long series of brief, poorly conceived
    initiatives whose implementation has proven to be a giant headache.

    The "Compassionate Use Act of 1996" offers no guidance on how pot should be
    distributed; indeed, the initiative is a single page in length and merely
    encourages the federal and state governments to "implement a plan to
    provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all
    patients." Six years later, no one in Sacramento has figured out what this
    means.

    No state agency has ever issued binding directives on how to distribute
    pot, or to whom. Until the California legislature passes a law to govern
    distribution, neither the attorney general nor the state health department
    has the legal authority to innovate any such protocols. "Proposition 215
    did not address prescriptions," says Hallye Jordan, spokeswoman for
    Attorney General Bill Lockyer. "The initiative did not authorize or spell
    out any specific scheme for dispensing marijuana.

    Nor did it say who is entitled to it, or how much marijuana is required for
    which ailment.

    I think everyone recognizes that Proposition 215 was not the best-written
    initiative. But the voters passed it."

    With the state paralyzed, it has fallen to local governments to regulate
    medical marijuana.

    But most localities have adopted a strictly laissez-faire approach and done
    virtually nothing to ensure that the distribution of pot adheres to the
    spirit of Proposition 215. The portion of the Berkeley municipal code
    governing medical pot, for example, is so ridiculously lax that it plays
    right into the city's worst stereotypes, and yet it's as strict as
    virtually any other Bay Area city. Although the code limits the amount of
    pot a club can have on hand, there are no provisions limiting how close a
    pot club can be to a school, or requiring doctors to conduct an actual
    evaluation of patients, or requiring background checks for pot distributors
    - -- which is standard practice for anyone who wants to run a liquor store.

    Yet the code does encourage pot clubs to "use their best efforts to
    determine whether or not cannabis is organically grown."

    City Councilmembers Linda Maio and Dona Spring say the city can't even
    write up a specific-use permit for cannabis clubs, because doing so would
    violate federal law. The end result is that medical pot is actually less
    regulated than candy bars, which must at least have their ingredients
    printed on the wrapper. Anyone can distribute medical pot anywhere, in any
    fashion they please, and virtually no one is watching them.

    Club operators disagree on whether this is good or bad. Jeff Jones wants
    the government to step in and bring some common sense to pot's
    distribution. "We thought the government would get involved in distributing
    medical marijuana as per the state law," he says. "I never though that five
    or ten years later, we'd still be operating in a vacuum." Others worry that
    if the state takes a firmer hand, a conservative governor or attorney
    general might interpret the law so narrowly as to effectively recriminalize
    medical cannabis.

    But everyone agrees that since the government hasn't set up rules, club
    operators must police themselves. The Oakland Cannabis Buyers Collective
    was at the forefront of this effort, keeping and verifying patient records,
    hiring security guards, and establishing a rigorous dual-identification
    system, in which patients had to pass through multiple checkpoints. "To be
    a member, they had to turn in a note from a licensed physician that we
    could verify," Jones says. "Even cancer and AIDS patients had to renew the
    note every year. They were a little mad about this, but we had to confirm
    that their medical status hadn't changed, and they still needed our services."

    Once Oakland officials were assured that, unlike at San Francisco clubs,
    patients would never smoke dope at the site, relations between the co-op
    and the city have generally been cordial.

    The city council contracted with the co-op to distribute pot to seven
    thousand patients on its behalf, and the co-op's membership cards became
    the definitive means of identifying medical pot patients throughout the
    East Bay. Jones even teaches classes on medical marijuana to recruits at
    the Oakland police academy. "We've never given them a reason to question
    what we're doing here," he says, "The local police like us because we give
    them an alternative to going out on the street.

    Our group have never done anything that has been deemed illegal, and we've
    never gotten complaints from anyone -- except the federal government."
    Berkeley's three clubs went through the same process, experimenting with
    various security and patient-verification protocols.

    In the beginning of 2001, the Berkeley Patients Group on San Pablo Avenue,
    the Cannabis Buyers Cooperative on Shattuck, and the Patients Care
    Collective on Telegraph formed the Alliance of Berkeley Patients and agreed
    upon a ten-point platform.

    This included organizing as a collective or nonprofit, contacting
    physicians to confirm a patient's medical condition, scrupulously keeping
    patient records, hiring security guards, and maintaining good relations
    with their neighbors. "We agreed to police ourselves, so we don't have to
    have any outside regulators that might not have the patient's best
    interests in mind," says Berkeley Patients Group member Don Duncan.

    There was just one problem: none of these regulations had the force of law
    behind them. Even the police, hamstrung by a city council cognizant of the
    overwhelming public support for medical pot, can do virtually nothing to
    crack down on rogue clubs.

    If someone wanted to hand out pot like candy, no one could stop him. His
    neighbors along University Avenue soon figured this out.

    Accounts differ as to what Estes did when he first showed up at the Oakland
    co-op's door in 1995. Some say he taught the co-op's pot cultivation
    classes; others claim he weighed out the baggies and sampled the wares to
    categorize their potency.

    Estes says he did both. But one thing seems clear: he and Jeff Jones didn't
    get along. "Jeff always thought Ken should cut his hair -- look more
    appropriate for you guys, the media," says one co-op member who asked not
    to be named. "Ken was like, 'You know, I don't have to look right for the
    press.

    I'm a patient.'" Jones won't say much about what he thought of Estes, but
    Estes recalls, "Jeff said, 'Look, if you cut your hair, you'll go places
    around here.' I said, 'C'mon, you're sounding like the people on the
    streets I've been dealing with for years.

    You're sounding like the conservative white guy who doesn't like anyone
    lookin' different from himself.' So yeah, we had a lot of trouble.

    I told him one time, 'I wanna get out of my chair and beat your ass.'"

    Whether the Oakland co-op itself was entirely above-board is a matter of
    some dispute.

    According to Trainor's statement to the Contra Costa DA, the co-op paid
    Estes in pot and unreported cash. "Part of the marijuana he received as
    payment from the club he would sell to other people, including persons who
    had no medical prescription for marijuana," her statement reads.

    Jones denies paying Estes in under-the-table cash, but refuses to comment
    on whether he paid Estes with dope. Estes claims he received a paycheck,
    not cash. But he acknowledges the pot-for-labor arrangement. "I got herb
    for working," he says. "They gave me herb, that was the trade-off. I worked
    there till it closed, and then I went out and opened my new shop."

    In October 1998, the feds managed to get an injunction prohibiting the
    Oakland co-op from dispensing marijuana.

    The co-op fought it all the way to the Supreme Court, where it eventually
    lost. Jones and his lawyers are preparing a new challenge, but except for a
    one-month period during which the injunction was lifted, the co-op has not
    handed out a dime bag since 1998. Seven thousand patients needed another
    supplier, and Estes jumped in to fill the void.

    But he needed customers, so Trainor says Estes called a friend who worked
    there. This employee gave Estes the names, addresses, and phone numbers of
    five hundred patients, and Estes soon started drumming up customers.

    No one at the co-op knew the two had done this; certainly the patients had
    no idea that their confidential information was being bandied about like
    just another mailing list. Estes concedes he made no effort to call their
    doctors and confirm their medical condition -- he just started making
    deliveries to anyone with a card from the Oakland club.

    By the time that Estes went into business for himself, he, Trainor, and
    their three children had moved to a house in Concord, where he began
    growing pot to supply his growing army of patients.

    On September 20, Concord police officer David Savage took a call: Estes'
    neighbor claimed that she could see a bumper crop of pot plants growing in
    his backyard.

    Savage stopped by and peeked over the fence.

    Later that afternoon, he returned with a search warrant. Savage's police
    report indicates that he found pot everywhere. He found roughly fifty
    plants in a makeshift greenhouse in the backyard.

    He found an elaborate hydroponic system in the garage; behind sheets of
    dark plastic, dozens of plants were growing on plastic trays and in
    children's swimming pools; grow lights wheeled back and forth on a track
    hanging from the ceiling. He found baggies of weed stuffed in desk drawers
    and scattered along the floor, and plants hanging in the closets.

    In the master bedroom, underneath a crib where one of the children slept,
    Savage found two garbage bags with dried marijuana in them. "None of the
    growing and dried marijuana was in a secure place," Savage wrote in his
    report. "Most of the marijuana was accessible to the children in the residence.

    Estes told [me] he was not concerned with the children having access to the
    marijuana because 'They know it is for daddy.'" Estes denies leaving bags
    of dope near his children's cribs. But Savage didn't know what to do with
    Estes. Estes had an Oakland co-op card certifying him as a patient, as well
    as patient records indicating he was a legally valid caregiver.

    How much dope did Proposition 215 allow him to have? "They got a judge on
    the phone, and I talked to the judge," Estes says. "I said, 'Please don't
    make me pull these plants out. These are good strains with medical
    benefits.'" In the end, the cops confiscated the plants and the growing
    system, and ratted him out to Child Protective Services. In deference to
    Proposition 215, they left Estes with three plants and an ounce for his own
    use. But Estes complains Savage took all the kind buds, and left him just a
    bag of leafy shit. Fifteen months later, the cops would be back. By then,
    Estes had bought some property near Clear Lake, and Trainor had moved up
    north with the kids, growing more dope in a shed behind the house.

    Meanwhile, Estes' cousin Tim Crew had moved into the house to help him grow
    a crop that dwarfed his prior stash. This period marks the beginning of one
    of Estes' most foolish habits: keeping massive amounts of drugs and money
    lying around. "People told me, 'Don't put more than a certain amount in the
    bank, or you could get in trouble,'" he says. "We had a lot of money, and I
    kept it with me. I'd hide it in my closet, hide it in my suitcase.

    I just didn't want to put it in a bank." As more and more people got hip to
    Estes' stash, his cavalier attitude would provoke a spate of armed
    robberies that left his University Avenue neighbors terrified.

    The first robbery happened in Concord on January 1, 2000. Neighbors called
    the cops and reported that several men had burst out of Estes' house and
    raced down the street, leaving the door ajar. When Concord officers arrived
    at the scene, they found that the front door had been forced open. They
    also found no fewer than 1,780 marijuana plants in various stages of
    cultivation, even after the break-in. This time, the cops wouldn't be
    satisfied with confiscating his stash.

    The DA charged Estes with four felony counts of possession and cultivation
    of marijuana for sale, and will probably argue that the volume of pot on
    hand proved that he was an outright dealer, not a medicinal caregiver.

    His trial is set to begin on August 5.

    With the heat coming down in Concord, Estes eyed Berkeley. Taking out a
    business license and a zoning permit to sell "herbs and other homeopathic
    remedies," Estes set up shop at 1672 University Avenue. From the very
    beginning, Berkeley Medical Herbs was characterized by his permissive
    business style.

    Michael "Rocky" Grunner showed up at Estes' door just months into his new
    operation and handed him a bag of quality product.

    Estes says Grunner told him there was more where that came from, and he was
    certainly happy to buy it. Grunner began hanging out at the club, and Estes
    thought everything was working just fine. The massage table was up and
    running, patients were streaming through the door, the smoke was flowing
    freely.

    But over time, a tense, nervous atmosphere infected the club. Finally,
    Estes claims, a friend came to him and broke the bad news: Grunner was
    dealing crank out of the back room. Estes says he promptly threw Grunner
    out of the club.

    But the club's neighbors were beginning to worry about the sketchy new
    element. Machinist Richard Graham is a longtime area resident and has been
    known to take a hit upon occasion.

    But he even he draws the line at Estes' way of doing business.

    A few months after Estes opened the club, Graham dropped off a package
    mistakenly delivered to the wrong address.

    When Graham asked the man behind the counter how business was holding up,
    he offered to set him up with a physician for $200. "I asked them how their
    operation works, and they told me you just need a note from the doctor, and
    we have a doctor, and you can get a note for just about anything," Graham
    says. "Then he told me the prices, the registration fee to get the note,
    $200 per year. I got what I thought was an aggressive sales pitch.

    He said their doctor will help me get it. He looked at me and profiled me,
    said 'You're 51, you've got arthritis, we can help you.'... I just got the
    impression that these are people in it to sell marijuana as a business.

    I didn't feel that these were people motivated to help sick people, which I
    think other people are. It was a decidedly unclinical atmosphere, let's put
    it that way."

    In fact, Estes' operation was so unclinical that it even advertised in the
    Berkeley Daily Planet. Superimposed over the image of a big fat bud, the
    club announced that it had plenty of pot for sale, listing killer strains
    such as "Jack Frost, Mad Max, Romulin, G-Spot, and more." Other club
    operators groaned in dismay when they read the notice: "One-source shopping
    for all your medicinal needs!

    First visit, first gram free with mention of this ad!"

    Soon, kids were lining up outside, neighbors and police report, and the
    club's busiest hour was between three and four in the afternoon, when
    Berkeley High students got out of class. "The biggest complaint was the
    kids going in and out of there," says Lieutenant Al Yuen, head of the
    Berkeley Police Department's Special Enforcement Unit, which handles
    narcotics investigations. "We looked into that and watched kids going in
    and out. We never caught him selling to kids without a card. He claims that
    the kids had medicinal cards, but he doesn't keep records on who he sells
    to. ... He was advertising in the papers, he allowed tons of kids going
    though his place. He didn't have a screening process, didn't have security."

    In fact, Trainor told the DA's office that Estes sold his product to anyone
    with the cash. She estimated that seventy percent of the club's buyers were
    patients from the Oakland co-op, and that the other thirty percent were
    recreational users.

    And Trainor alleged that even many of the so-called patients may have had
    fraudulent doctor's notes.

    She claimed that Estes referred everyone without a card to Dr. Frank
    Lucido, a Berkeley family practitioner who allegedly charged a fee for
    every note. "Estes would tell his buyers to go to Lucido, give him $215,
    and he would give the person a prescription. ... Trainor said that
    regardless of whether a buyer told Estes they had a medical problem or not,
    Estes would refer the buyer to Lucido to get the prescription."

    Trainor said she knew how Lucido operated because she went through the
    process herself.

    During her interview, she meticulously described her visit from start to
    finish. "Trainor went to the doctor's office, where she met a nurse who
    collected $215 from her. She was brought into an exam room, where she
    waited until Lucido came in and asked her what she wanted.

    She told him she had a bad back and wanted a prescription for marijuana.

    Trainor said the doctor performed a mini physical, checked her blood
    pressure, and had her bend over backward to check the condition of her
    back. ... Lucido then wrote her a prescription for marijuana.

    Lucido did not ask her questions about treatment or diagnosis from any
    other physician.

    Lucido gave her no advice on the amount of marijuana to use and did not
    advise her of any other therapy or medication that might treat back problems.

    Lucido did not tell her to come back for a follow-up exam."

    For a while, Estes says, he even accepted photocopies of Lucido's notes,
    and neighbors used to find them littering the sidewalk in front of his
    club. One neighbor, who asked not to be named, still has a copy of one such
    note from Lucido's office.

    The patient is a mere 21 years old and suffers from back pain.

    Lucido says he used to write such notes and rely on patients to provide
    verification later.

    But he says he discontinued that practice two years ago, and now requires
    independent verification of his patients' ailments from another physician.

    Lucido says Estes has been a headache for his medical practice. Two years
    ago, the doctor says, Estes printed business cards that claimed he was
    working in conjunction with Lucido. The physician says that as soon as he
    found out, he had a lawyer call Estes and tell him to stop making that
    claim immediately. "I'm not connected with the clubs, and I don't refer
    people to the clubs," he says. "I'm sure people mention my name, but it's
    never the case that we work in conjunction with each other." Lucido said he
    couldn't remember Stacey Trainor.

    Why is Trainor telling so many tales out of school?

    It all began two years ago, when she began an affair with Rocky Grunner.
    The feud culminated on August 31, 2000, when Trainor swore out a temporary
    restraining order against Estes, claiming that Estes threatened to kill
    her. When the Lafayette cops arrived at his house to serve it, they found
    more plants growing in the basement.

    Back went Estes into the pokey, and the cops even raided the club and
    seized product and financial records.

    Two months later, Lafayette narcotics agents raided Grunner's own house and
    seized seventeen pounds of marijuana.

    Trainor eventually broke off her affair.

    Grunner could not be reached for comment.

    Six months ago, as Estes became the subject of a Contra Costa district
    attorney investigation, Trainor met with assistant district attorney
    Phyllis Franks and county investigator Tony Arcado. Over the course of
    several hours, she told the story of their life together.

    According to her statement, Estes didn't start his new career dealing
    medical pot -- but cocaine. "After selling the tanning salon, Estes earned
    income by selling cocaine," Arcado wrote in his summary of Trainor's
    interview. "Trainer [sic] said the income from the cocaine business ran out
    in 1993, and Estes switched to selling marijuana."

    Estes vehemently denies the charge and claims that Trainor, who declined to
    comment for this story, is lying as part of a child-custody dispute.
    "That's false, not true at all," he says. "No, I didn't sell the salons, I
    didn't sell cocaine.

    She was lying because she thought she was moving to Canada with the kids,
    and she thought that before she left, she could throw a bunch of stuff in
    the mix to mess me up in court.

    Because she downright hates me for dumping her." It was bad enough when
    neighbors watched police raid the club and kids line up for weed -- then
    the robberies began.

    On the evening of Friday, October 12, 2001, the club was winding down after
    a long day when someone knocked on the door. An employee pulled the door
    open and stared straight down the barrel of a silver handgun. "We opened up
    the door, same as for everybody: 'Hey, what's up?'" Estes says. "The guys
    came in. They put everybody on the ground and took everything."

    Time was running out for Estes. The kids and the police raids were bad
    enough, but now men were waving guns around and racing off with drugs.

    At the time, Estes had no security guards, no iron gate on the door, just a
    lot of cash and pot. Soon, the other pot-club operators came a-callin'. The
    robbery put new heat on all of them as City Councilmember Linda Maio
    started making noises.

    If Estes is convicted, he will pay a terrible price for this lack of
    precision; the charges carry a possible prison sentence of three years and
    eight months.

    But his complex reputation also could be laundered overnight. When Estes
    turned himself in, forty demonstrators accompanied him to the station, and
    his image -- the martyr of medical marijuana, persecuted by vindictive
    prosecutors -- was flashed across the nightly news throughout the Bay Area.

    Stacey Trainor's allegations aside, Ken Estes seems a kind, generous man,
    ready to take you into his company at a moment's notice.

    But nothing out there can protect us from his tendency to trust the wrong
    people, of whom there are still plenty in the shadowy, twilight world of
    marijuana.

    Estes admits he's made some mistakes, and vows to improve his operation.
    "We began something here, and we didn't know where it would go," he says.
    "I've made mistakes in retrospect, but we tried to work it out. Stacey and
    all that stuff was a big problem -- I had no problems before that. I
    believe I know who's behind this, the robberies.

    All this stuff that's gone on has happened since Stacey went to the police,
    and the police believed her. They told me that many times women turn on
    their drug-dealing boyfriends, and this seems like a case of that. I wish I
    could have hired better people, but I can't say that I would have done
    anything different.

    I really didn't foresee the criminal element making its presence like it
    did. But I can only do so much."

    And should Estes revert to his old, seat-of-his-pants ways, we may have no
    choice but to put up with him.



    Pubdate: Wed, 24 Jul 2002
    Source: East Bay Express (CA)
    Copyright: 2002 New Times
    Contact: letters@eastbayexpress.com
    Website: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/
    Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1131
    Author: Chris Thompson
    Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)
    Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?115 (Cannabis - California)

    Being a Co Founder of Oaklands CBC & Knowing
    Ken Estes personally, this is the most through understanding
    of how Ken's long decent into Medical Cannabis's World.
    Ken was an amiable sort & that because of his terrible
    accident unfortunatly his life changed. Dr. Lucido, who practiced
    for 19 years in Berkeley, generally did a very perfessional
    Interview. Most everything in this article, including Stacy's involvment
    and his cousin Tim is acurate and its a shame that Ken's Karma
    followed him to more Rip Offs than would generaly occur in a small
    period of time. Generaly Ken is a nice person and projects
    an aura that he is one cool guy, He used to be, and I haven't seen him since
    his Holistic Cannabis Club was busted, reborn & bused again. The
    last I heard , Ken was packaging his Grandddady, as Kens own. I
    will say this, he was one hell of an excellent grower, unfortunally,
    he is not one now.
    Last edited by Keith Lake; 06-28-2009 at 06:28 AM. Reason: deleting guest (thread originator) retaining content
    [
    Counselor H.:smokin3:

  2. #2
    Plant, Nug, and 2nd Place Member of the Month Winner (July 10') greenisland's Avatar
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    Re: When Pot Clubs Go Bad

    Ummm, well. Id like to Just point out that this doesnt only happen to people who are involved in crime. Here where I live there have been numerous robberies at the local walgreens drug stores, why, because they have pills and have a relatively high street value(which is where anything thats stolen will be sold ultimatelly) So this may have absolutally nothing to do with him having "bad" aquantaces or necessarilly meen he hangs out with the wrong crowd. I mean if you have money in a store, its likely that at some point no matter how meticulously "clean" you try to keep your place that your going to be robbed, period. Its no surprise at all that its happened to him, and security gaurds arent placed at every pharmacy or bank for that matter either so why does everyone expect that you should be any more secure at this dispensary than you would be say walking into your neigborhood pharmacy. I would say your just as likely to encounter something of this sort at your local corner mart, which most likely has been held up multiple times recently. I also feel like its probably a lot easier for someone to look down on how someone else handled the situation when most of us have never been in his position before. He had to start something that noone has done before(or very few people have) and there were no set ways of doing things. The pioneers of any great ideas have gone through many many trial and error situations. Also I realise that we need to put the best face forward if we want to make this legal, and in court they care less about whats right and more about how they will be perceived after they make a ruling than they should. right is right, period, and its wrong to prosecute non threatening pot smokers, period. I strongly disagree with the whole having pot around children thing and yes i do think it would be a good idea to have set regulations for dispensaries ie: NO SELLING CR*NK OUT OF THE BACK ROOM!!! damn, that was a HUGE screw up on his part! But as far as the whole getting a doctors notice thing, yes paying a doctor to simply write you a script is wrong, but in the end I feal like if someone wants to smoke pot recreationally they should have the full right to do so, and have a decently safe place to purchase it, ie a dispensary. However until that becomes lawfull I agree they shouldnt be handing it out to just anyone, we need to do this by the book so we dont have huge setbacks and questions arising of whether this kind of thing (dispensaries) should even exist, because they definetally SHOULD exist. Most of us feel like It shouldnt be dealt with any different than alcohol. Anyhow those are my two cents.... wait, oh yeah.. saying you have to cut your long hair in order for you to be someone and go somewhere with yourself is absolutally ridiuculous and I would want to kick that guys ass too. That kind of thinking is the same shit that got us in this kind of position in the first place, that guys just talking out his ass when he says that shit, JUST RIDICULOUS! And honestly Im ashamed that someone in his place would even make such a comment. thx guys! GO FIGHT THE GOOD CAUSE!!!!
    Last edited by Keith Lake; 06-28-2009 at 06:30 AM.