Mendocino County Today: April 2, 2012
by AVA News Service, April 1, 2012
THE THIRTIETH (yes, 30!) Annual Boontling Classic 5K footrace (and walk) will take place Sunday, May 6th at 10am at the Anderson Valley Elementary School. Ribbons are awarded to the winners in each age group, but the real draw is the drawing for prizes donated by local businesses — all entrants are eligible to win wine, gift certificates, etc. Entry forms can be picked up at the Boont Berry Farm Store and All That Good Stuff in Boonville. If you or your business would like to donate one more great prize, please call Bruce Hering at 707-895-3589 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
TAKE BACK OUR FORESTS, an educational forum convened Friday night at Fort Bragg's Cotton Auditorium, was sponsored by the newly formed Jere Melo Foundation. Melo, a forester, was shot to death last year by a deranged young man named Aaron Bassler on property managed by Melo. Bassler had been growing, or attempting to grow, opium poppies at the site when Melo fatally encountered him.
SEVERAL HUNDRED PEOPLE attended Friday night's forum. Keynote speaker Congressman Mike Thompson lamented the illegal marijuana grows on public and private property throughout Mendocino County. The Congressman's address followed a short video that documented the widespread environmental devastation caused by trespass marijuana grows, not that some non-trespass growers are any more conscientious. The video, apparently shot northeast of Westport, featured an illegal water diversion and impoundment, the apparent toxic pollution of streams and the environment, wildlife killed by grower pesticides, large-scale land clearing and erosion, and several tons of plastic pipe and garbage left behind by the growers.
SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN & Tommy LaNier, Director Of The Obama Administration’s National Marijuana Initiative, led a panel that also included Chris Kelly, Program Director of the Conservation Fund, and Bruce Hilbach-Barger, a representative of the Willits Environmental Center. When event MC Lindy Peters invited the panelists, starting with Allman, to take two minutes each to give their perspective on the issue, Allman drew a laugh by exclaiming “Two minutes? I thought you said ten!” and then proceeded to take the better part of ten minutes.
ALLMAN DREW APPLAUSE when he made reference to the 40 miles of black plastic pipe removed from the forest during last summer's Operation Full Court Press to eradicate commercial marijuana in the Mendocino National Forest. Allman drew another round of applause when he pointedly thanked by name three members of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors who voted to sponsor the forum. Allman's reference, and the applause, was a not-so subtle rebuke of the two supervisors, Hamburg and Pinches, who voted against supporting the forum; the two no votes maintained that the root of the problem is the fact of the drug's ongoing illegality.
TOMMY LaNIER, An old-school drug warrior, who still seems to think the failed War On Drugs can be won, explained that his role was “coordination of nationwide market disruption.” LaNier, Director of the White House funded National MJ Initiative, called for doubling the penalty for growing dope, added enhancements for trespass growing on federal property and streamlined cross-deputization of local, state, and fed narco cops. He said his role was to “target the most egregious individuals” and “go after major trafficking targets that operate across the nation.” It was LaNier, Obama's federal pot czar, who most likely ordered US Attorney Melinda Haag to take down the Mendocino County marijuana cultivation program that provided permits to grow 99 plants inspected by the Sheriff's Office. LaNier never reconciled how taking out 99-plant growers operating in full compliance with state and local laws squared with his stated purpose of going after major traffickers. In fact, the black market price has reportedly increased as a result of the fed campaign to drive medical marijuana back underground.
CHRIS KELLY, from the Conservation Fund, which manages timberland in the Gualala area, said they had to abandon a timber harvest plan because of a trespass marijuana growing operation.
BRUCE HILBACH-BARGER, from the Willits Environmental Center, who has helped organize clean-ups of several grow sites, mourned the loss of favored back country sites, now off limits to ordinary citizens because of the fear of pot-related violence. He also raised the threat of extinction to the summer steelhead population in the Eel River because of widespread water diversion and pollution.
WHEN ASKED what one piece of legislation they would most welcome, the panelists, except for Allman, dutifully called for more laws, more penalty enhancements, and more federal prosecutions. Alllman remained uncharacteristically silent as the obvious solution of ending federal prohibition hung in the air. Allman had earlier said “CAMP Days” would be curtailed this year but held out the promise of another major operation to target trespass growers on public lands. (CAMP is the state funded Campaign Against Marijuana Planting which has had its funding drastically cut in the last year). Allman probably avoided mentioning the federal elephant of prohibition because any hope of repeating last year’s major campaign depends upon funds from his co-panelist Tommy LaNier, Pres. Obama's top pot cop.
DESPITE THE PRESENCE of Obama’s Top Weed Cop, the forum lived up to its billing as an educational forum designed to raise public awareness of the environmental devastation caused by trespass marijuana growing operations on public and private lands. MC Lindy Peters, who served with Melo for twelve years on the Fort Bragg City Council, made it clear in his opening remarks that the Jere Melo Foundation took no position on marijuana, medical or otherwise, but was only interested in stopping the violence and environmental damage caused by illegal trespass growing operations.
WHEN MADELEINE MELO was introduced for closing remarks, the crowd rose to its feet for a sustained round of applause that reflected the respect that the community of Fort Bragg holds for Madeleine and her murdered husband, Jere. The Melos were both deeply entwined in the fabric of the town, and Jere Melo's absence leaves some gaping holes that others are scrambling to fill. Madeleine, initially overcome by the standing ovation, took a minute to compose herself before speaking in a clear, forceful voice about the depth of the problem and the need to take action, reading a statement from a colleague of Jere Melo's that illustrated her late husband's commitment to protecting the forest whether it was single handedly cutting a fire line or piling his truck high with trash he personally hauled out of the forest. After detailing her late husband's personal commitment “to take back the forest,” Mrs. Melo ended by challenging the crowd “What will you do?”
IF THE GOVERNMENT’S top pot cop is not
going to let Mendo set up shop with rules for pot
And completely omits
Marijuana grower permits
Then there will always be lots of pot hot spots with shots.