When Pot Clubs Go Bad 

Ken Estes just wants to share the miracle of medical marijuana. Everyone else just wants him to go away.

Page 6 of 9

In fact, Estes' operation was so unclinical that it even advertised in the Berkeley Daily Planet. Superimposed over the image of a big fat bud, the club announced that it had plenty of pot for sale, listing killer strains such as "Jack Frost, Mad Max, Romulin, G-Spot, and more." Other club operators groaned in dismay when they read the notice: "One-source shopping for all your medicinal needs! First visit, first gram free with mention of this ad!"

Soon, kids were lining up outside, neighbors and police report, and the club's busiest hour was between three and four in the afternoon, when Berkeley High students got out of class. "The biggest complaint was the kids going in and out of there," says Lieutenant Al Yuen, head of the Berkeley Police Department's Special Enforcement Unit, which handles narcotics investigations. "We looked into that and watched kids going in and out. We never caught him selling to kids without a card. He claims that the kids had medicinal cards, but he doesn't keep records on who he sells to. ... He was advertising in the papers, he allowed tons of kids going though his place. He didn't have a screening process, didn't have security."

In fact, Trainor told the DA's office that Estes sold his product to anyone with the cash. She estimated that seventy percent of the club's buyers were patients from the Oakland co-op, and that the other thirty percent were recreational users. And Trainor alleged that even many of the so-called patients may have had fraudulent doctor's notes. She claimed that Estes referred everyone without a card to Dr. Frank Lucido, a Berkeley family practitioner who allegedly charged a fee for every note. "Estes would tell his buyers to go to Lucido, give him $215, and he would give the person a prescription. ... Trainor said that regardless of whether a buyer told Estes they had a medical problem or not, Estes would refer the buyer to Lucido to get the prescription."

Trainor said she knew how Lucido operated because she went through the process herself. During her interview, she meticulously described her visit from start to finish. "Trainor went to the doctor's office, where she met a nurse who collected $215 from her. She was brought into an exam room, where she waited until Lucido came in and asked her what she wanted. She told him she had a bad back and wanted a prescription for marijuana. Trainor said the doctor performed a mini physical, checked her blood pressure, and had her bend over backward to check the condition of her back. ... Lucido then wrote her a prescription for marijuana. Lucido did not ask her questions about treatment or diagnosis from any other physician. Lucido gave her no advice on the amount of marijuana to use and did not advise her of any other therapy or medication that might treat back problems. Lucido did not tell her to come back for a follow-up exam."

For a while, Estes says, he even accepted photocopies of Lucido's notes, and neighbors used to find them littering the sidewalk in front of his club. One neighbor, who asked not to be named, still has a copy of one such note from Lucido's office. The patient is a mere 21 years old and suffers from back pain.

Lucido says he used to write such notes and rely on patients to provide verification later. But he says he discontinued that practice two years ago, and now requires independent verification of his patients' ailments from another physician. Lucido says Estes has been a headache for his medical practice. Two years ago, the doctor says, Estes printed business cards that claimed he was working in conjunction with Lucido. The physician says that as soon as he found out, he had a lawyer call Estes and tell him to stop making that claim immediately. "I'm not connected with the clubs, and I don't refer people to the clubs," he says. "I'm sure people mention my name, but it's never the case that we work in conjunction with each other." Lucido said he couldn't remember Stacey Trainor.

Why is Trainor telling so many tales out of school? It all began two years ago, when she began an affair with Rocky Grunner. The feud culminated on August 31, 2000, when Trainor swore out a temporary restraining order against Estes, claiming that Estes threatened to kill her. When the Lafayette cops arrived at his house to serve it, they found more plants growing in the basement. Back went Estes into the pokey, and the cops even raided the club and seized product and financial records. Two months later, Lafayette narcotics agents raided Grunner's own house and seized seventeen pounds of marijuana. Trainor eventually broke off her affair. Grunner could not be reached for comment.

Six months ago, as Estes became the subject of a Contra Costa district attorney investigation, Trainor met with assistant district attorney Phyllis Franks and county investigator Tony Arcado. Over the course of several hours, she told the story of their life together. According to her statement, Estes didn't start his new career dealing medical pot -- but cocaine. "After selling the tanning salon, Estes earned income by selling cocaine," Arcado wrote in his summary of Trainor's interview. "Trainer [sic] said the income from the cocaine business ran out in 1993, and Estes switched to selling marijuana."

Estes vehemently denies the charge and claims that Trainor, who declined to comment for this story, is lying as part of a child-custody dispute. "That's false, not true at all," he says. "No, I didn't sell the salons, I didn't sell cocaine. She was lying because she thought she was moving to Canada with the kids, and she thought that before she left, she could throw a bunch of stuff in the mix to mess me up in court. Because she downright hates me for dumping her."

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