On August 22, 2014, Tehama County Sheriff’s deputies stopped a vehicle heading south from California’s Emerald Triangle, the marijuana heartland of America. They seized 250 pounds of ready-for-market marijuana, four sample bags, a live marijuana plant, 11.7 grams of weed for personal use, several cell phones and a laptop, a pair of walkie-talkies, and a binder containing information about California’s Prop. 215, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Prosecutors charged Shelton and three of his associates with possessing and transporting marijuana for sale, felony charges that could have sent them to prison for two to four years.
Yet not only did Shelton not go to prison, but prosecutors declined to even file the case against him and the three other defendants. But what about the weed? On April 3, Tehama County Superior Court Judge C. Todd Buttke ordered the Tehama County Sheriff’s Department to return all 250 pounds of Shelton’s seized marijuana, along with the rest of the seized property. “Our client, Brad Shelton, went up to Northern California to pick up an allotment of cannabis for Patient Med-Aid,” says Shelton’s OC-based attorney, Christopher Glew, referring to the Anaheim dispensary that OC Weekly profiled in 2012. “As they were returning on the way back to donate medicine to sick patients in Orange County, they were apprehended by law enforcement.”
According to Glew, prosecutors initially wanted to send Shelton and his friends to prison, but he presented evidence showing that the seized cannabis wasn’t part of any blackmarket smuggling operation but rather a legal delivery to Patient Med-Aid. Eventually prosecutors backed down, offering Shelton’s friends misdemeanor plea deals. “They began to sweeten the offer to the point where they were enticing us to take the bait and run.”
When Glew told the prosecutors his client intended to take the case to trial, they dropped the case. “We waited about six months after dismissal and filed for a motion for return of property,” Glew says. At first, prosecutors refused, saying that they still hadn’t decided whether to re-file charges. “During that hearing the judge indicated that they do have the right to hold the evidence if they are going to legitimately pursue filing the case. The judge denied our motion but told the prosecutors if they were just holding it and no additional work was being done he invited us to renew the request.”
After California voters passed Prop. 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, last November, thus legalizing recreational weed for adults statewide, possessing and transporting marijuana for sale dropped from a felony to a misdemeanor and the statute of limitations shrunk for three years to one. “Our client filed a new request for the property, and it was granted.”