The zip-ties are in. So says Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman.

The zip-ties are an effort by Allman to reduce the element of fraud in the medical marijuana industry.

Allman said that the zip ties are available at the sheriff's offices in Ukiah, Fort Bragg and Willits. This year the cost will be zero, according to Allman, but next year Allman hopes to sell the ties at $25 apiece. Each tie has a serial number blazoned onto the plastic; next year the ties may be able to contain a microchip. Allman said that each person who wishes to purchase a zip tie must have a valid state medical marijuana card.

Allman said that the zip ties will help his officers determine whether a medical marijuana plant is legitimate or not, but not having a valid zip tie will not automatically mean that any unzipped plant that comes across the eyes of law enforcement will be confiscated.

"My deputies have been told, if you go to a house that has medical marijuana zip ties, unless the patient has died (and it nullifies the prescription) it's no questions asked. You can look at the zip ties, you can see if it's a good number. You can even check to see if it's registered to that patient.

"Now with people who are not in the program, what I have told my deputies is, don't automatically eradicate it if you don't see a zip tie. Because Senate Bill 420 says that the state ID card is optional. It's not mandatory. But you do conduct an investigation, to find out."

Allman acknowledged that setting a price for a medical marijuana zip tie is the province of the board of supervisors. However, he suggested that, should the zip tie program catch on and if the price is set at $25 a piece, it could if the board also elects to set the limit of permissible plants at 25 at a hefty injection of cash for the county.

Allman estimated that it could bring in a bit more than $1 million. He said that he plans to hire three seasonal marijuana compliance officers and also to pay the salary of the Dept. of Public Health employee who is charge of administering the state medical marijuana card program.

Allman added that it would be his recommendation that the fee for the zip tie be cut in half down to $12.50 for medical marijuana patients who are on Medi-Cal.