Sitting in a Sonoma County courtroom this morning waiting for the judge to appear, it struck me that the criminal case involving three West County pot growers is among the most high profile here on the North Coast to highlight the issue of pot cultivation for medical marijuana dispensaries.

At the center of the matter is Joseph Erich Pearson, 34, who co-founded the San Francisco Patient and Resource Center on Mission Street and is one year into a two-year appointment on the San Francisco District Attorney’s Medicinal Marijuana Advisory Board.

Pearson owns the property in the hills above the Russian River where an apparent electrical malfunction from his pot operation set fire to a barn and led Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies to his door.

Pearson grew the product for his San Francisco dispensary. Sheriff’s detectives allege Pearson’s operation looked like a for-profit endeavor. Was he also trying to make a profit on the side, a business effort not supported by medical marijuana laws?

Prosecutors weren’t ready to charge Pearson or co-defendants Alexander Pearson, 33, and Timothy Crites, 32. A judge postponed their arraignment until July 19.

Only Pearson and his pals know the truth at this point, so let’s not speculate on their activities.

But what’s your experience — is it possible to grow such a valuable crop and NOT make a little profit on the side? Can humans resist? What are the telltale signs that dispensary managers or providers are involved in, ahem, extra-curricular activities?

For growers, how hard is it to follow state regulations that guide those who provide product to dispensaries?