Siskiyou County District Attorney J. Kirk Andrus is declining to file charges and ordering authorities to continue an investigation into a well known outdoors writer arrested in a narcotics task force raid on his home in the town of Weed.
San Francisco Chronicle writer and hiking and camping author Tom Stienstra 55, and his wife were arrested last Thursday for investigation of possession of marijuana for sale after authorities served a search warrant at their property.
Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said in a statement that members of a local narcotics task force uncovered a "sophisticated marijuana cultivation operation" in a barn on the property.
She said officers seized 31 mature marijuana plants and 21 immature plants, 11 pounds of dried marijuana, packaging materials and scales.
But Stienstra, his wife Stephani Ann Cruickshank and their 18-year-old son, who was not arrested, all had medical marijuana recommendations, authorities said.
And in an interview this afternoon, Andrus said he has "declined to file charges at this time" and that he wants authorities to do more work in the case.
"We have submitted the case back...for further investigation," he said.
Stienstra was released last Friday from Siskiyou County Jail after posting $75,000 bail. His wife was released from custody on Monday, along with two other people who were arrested. The others were identified as Henry Warren Lincoln, 32, of Medford, Oregon and Nathan Jacop Koopman of Gazelle in Siskiyou County.
Siskiyou County policy allows individual medical marijuana patients to possess six mature or 12 immature plants and 8 ounces of dried pot - the limit set by the Legislature in 2003. Local governments are allowed to set higher guidelines.
In January, 2010, the state Supreme Court threw out the state possession limits, saying lawmakers improperly amended the Proposition 215 medical marijuana law without the consent of voters.
Legal observers say police can still make arrests based on local plant standards but likely have to establish in court that the marijuana quantity exceeds what is needed for reasonable personal use or that there are other factors indicating criminal behavior.
"In an case involving medical marijuana that has a (physician's) recommendation, you can be sure that is something we would be looking to document," Andrus said. "It's an absolute defense in the state of California as long as it can be proven to be reasonable."
Ward Bushee, editor and executive vice president for the San Francisco Chronicle, said Stienstra's employment status is unchanged. Besides writing for the Chronicle, he has a program on radio station KCBS.
"There are no charges filed, and we know very little about the allegations against Tom and hope it is resolved quickly," Bushee told the Chronicle. "In the meantime, we will continue to publish his popular outdoor reports."
Pictured: Stienstra in sheriff's department booking photo.