By Danielle Silva
A retired UC Davis firefighter who runs a gardening supplies business named Lil’ Shop of Growers, Paul Fullerton still finds himself dumbfounded that he is able to smoke a joint while on formal misdemeanor probation for possession of marijuana for sale.
On Feb. 29, 2016, Fullerton’s home and business were raided by the police after he gave a small quantity of marijuana to an undercover officer on two separate occasions. In the case of “sale,” Fullerton had finally accepted money after the officer had insisted. The case, headed by the Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team, or YONET, had 23 officers seize marijuana which Fullerton used for medical conditions, including a spinal cord injury and back surgeries.
Following the raid, Fullerton would become charged with possession of marijuana for sale, child endangerment, and a weapons charge. In the light of Prop. 64, the possession of marijuana for sale became a misdemeanor charge. After his wife, Maricel, also received charges, Fullerton signed a plea agreement that dropped the charges against his wife and sentenced him to 90 days house arrest and probation.
The court received multiple letters which talked about Fullerton’s goodwill and character, including several letters from former fire captains and a woman who states Fullerton ran a fundraiser for her daughter who was suffering from brain cancer. Fullerton also had no criminal history prior to this case. Attorney Joseph Tully of the Tully & Weiss law firm noted that the money given by the undercover officer went to “a boot (Fullerton) collects for charity all year long.” Fullerton, however, received formal misdemeanor probation with an exception that allowed him to use medical marijuana.
The case, however, is not over. Fullerton stated that the civil case had already been settled, with Reason Magazine writing, “The Yolo County District Attorney finalized a settlement on Monday to return $53,000 that the Yolo Narcotics Enforcement Team (YONET) seized from the Fullertons.” Fullerton and his attorneys are also currently filing a motion to terminate the formal misdemeanor probation early, though the hearing has been continued to Oct. 21.
“There’s a stigma that comes from this,” Fullerton stated. “People say put it behind me and I say, ‘I’m trying to put it behind me, they just won’t let me!’”
Fullerton expressed his interest in teaching at firefighter schools again, something he used to get calls for even after he had a spinal injury. For his whole 20 years at the UC Davis Fire Department, Fullerton stated he always ran the auto-extrication unit, a skill taught to firefighters to remove people safely from cars.
“There’s no car I can’t get into,” Fullerton stated. “I know every aspect of it.”
Following the raids, Fullerton reports that he hasn’t received a single request to teach an auto extrication class.
“I just want to teach people how to save people,” Fullerton stated. “I want to exercise this need to serve.”
While Fullerton hasn’t been invited to teach in fire classes, he and his screenplay and book writer, Matthew Breno, believe another opportunity to teach has opened up.
“It’s like the angels paved the way themselves,” Breno stated as he and Fullerton headed down to LA to meet with Hollywood executives.
Last year, Fullerton had been approached by a fellow marijuana grower who found the retired firefighter’s story compelling. Fullerton had then been introduced to a producer which led to talks of a feature film.
“(This story) had everything Hollywood loved – corruption, cops with a bone to pick, firefighters, cannabis,” Fullerton stated. “They called it ‘the perfect storm.’”
Fullerton reached out to Breno after discovering the other worked as a freelance writer. In addition to the screenplay for the feature film, Breno is working on Fullerton’s book. In his viewpoint of his general approach, Breno noted he wanted to take an objective angle to maintain honesty and integrity – the film was taking a documentary route while the book would focus on the information as is.
“Nothing needs to be tilted,” Breno stated. “We want a solid objective eye on what’s going on.”
In his general focuses for the film, Breno listed themes of corruption and nepotism, cannabis and its effect on cancer, as well as other effects on fields like academics and a lesson to “accept the consequences of your choices.” He specifically noted consideration to the culture that comes with cannabis, describing it as “not homogenized, but harmonized.”
“It’s not about me,” Fullerton stated, regarding the story as a whole. “It’s about getting the story out. I have a whole industry on my shoulders. It’s about us.”