Story by Mary Ought Six.
Photos by Craig Lemire for Hello Jazz Productions

On Sept. 7, 2005, local law enforcement raided the Patients’ Alliance medical-marijuana cooperative, confiscating nearly 500 plants. What started off as a “routine” visit with no federal involvement ended poorly, with all of the medicine—growing and processed—confiscated, patients and workers harassed and the disheartening loss of the sense of security they had worked so hard to build.

“Med Mike” officially formed the Alliance in 1998. It started out in Southern California as a place for growers and patients alike to receive help and information on their rights under Proposition 215, California’s Compassionate Use Act, and to provide invaluable tips on growing both indoor and outdoor cannabis. When it moved to Northern California in 2002, the Alliance naturally had to close its indoor gardens and start anew in the sunshine.

As soon as it purchased 54 dream acres in gorgeous wine country, the Patients’ Alliance contacted the local sheriff’s department and other authorities, filing for permits and documenting its intentions to stay within the law. The Alliance shifted focus to outdoor growing for the “patients’ garden,” while developing the technology for its indoor solar crop. By 2005, the cooperative had seen many bountiful harvests and had thus far succeeded in maintaining a neutral relationship with the state government.

The cooperative steadily grew to 100 patients with an average of five plants each. Growing at a higher volume allowed all members to have their medicine at one-tenth of the cost of going to a club or buying street cannabis. Also, when growing outdoors, the cooperative feeds its plants exactly the same as if they were being grown using indoor hydroponics, giving its finished outdoor weed a legendary status among expert growers.

Maybe that’s why the local authorities just couldn’t resist.

“Simply, in the end they wanted the numbers of plants for the government,” stated Med Mike. “The reason that no charges were filed seems to be that when they got back to the office and spoke with the district attorney, who had a little more knowledge, they found that [the officer] had made a mistake and did not proceed with charges.”

He continues, smiling: “That’s the beginning of our story of total success with the most revolutionary solar system ever designed for growing medical marijuana.”