No dope

While the nation was preparing for a war on terrorism, the war on drugs continued to rage in Sacramento County and across the country, claiming Michael Urziceanu as another victim … again.

Urziceanu operated the Sacramento area’s only cannabis club—FloraCare in Citrus Heights—which distributed marijuana to those who may legally use it for medical reasons under California’s Proposition 215 (see “Pot Power,” SN&R 2/1/01 and “Growing Pains,” SN&R 8/24/00).

Proposition 215 says it’s OK. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer says it’s OK. Still, the federal government classifies marijuana as a “Schedule 1” drug (the worst kind) with “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” So once again, just like last year, the club was raided and its proprietors arrested. And this time, the club was shut down.

On Tuesday, September 18, Michael Urziceanu (aka Michael Riggs) and Susan Rodgers, who run FloraCare, were arrested by county sheriffs and Citrus Heights police on charges of illegal marijuana sales, marijuana cultivation and criminal conspiracy. Law enforcement was accompanied on the raid by building inspectors who condemned the site as “an unsafe and uninhabitable dwelling.” Over 150 plants were confiscated.

“How many people are they hurting by doing this?” Urziceanu asked rhetorically from behind the glass of the interview booth at the county main jail. He was referring to the 2000 or so members of FloraCare, most of whom he says are disabled and either physically unable to grow their own pot or too scared of the consequences. At the club, which began in 1996 after the passing of Prop. 215, members receive not only ganja, but also information on the law and on how to grow their own pot and make medicinal tinctures. Urziceanu has said it is “a learning environment,” and it doesn’t sell pot, per se. “These plants are community property,” he says, explaining that members chip in however they can, usually by helping to maintain the plants or the organic vegetable garden on the site. Members can also donate funds.

But according to police, Urziceanu sold pot to an undercover agent a couple of weeks ago, precipitating the search and arrests. Urziceanu disagrees with the police report, insisting that he and Rodgers are meticulous about checking identification and prescriptions before giving out the goods. He believes the charges have been made under “false pretenses.”

While Urziceanu seems genuinely worried about the now resourceless members of FloraCare, he’s also facing weapons charges, including being a felon in possession of loaded firearms. After an armed robbery was carried out at FloraCare several months ago, during which Urziceanu was shot, he began keeping guns on the premises, claiming that in the wake of the robbery a Citrus Heights police officer told him he was free to protect himself with firearms.

Add it all up and a certain odor seems to rise out of it. Whether it’s the odor of criminal intent or of police misconduct, one thing’s for sure: it’s beginning to cover up the scent of what some people believe is medicine.