River Views

by Malcolm Macdonald, December 11, 2012

Federal authorities arrested five Mendocino area residents last month, charging each with one count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute drugs. This is part of a larger drug trafficking case involving the Bay Area and Kansas (USA v. Dahda), with more than a hundred counts charging 30-40 individuals from Kansas to Hayward to Fort Bragg.

Marijuana continues to be a touchy subject not only on the Mendocino Coast, but in the county as a whole, accentuated with the recent federal grand jury subpoena in regard to the medical marijuana zip-tie program. Readers may recall that this column moved to the AVA because the powers that be at the Mendocino Beacon deemed it inappropriate to write about the reported annual value of marijuana in this county.

I do not grow marijuana. I have never used marijuana in any form; however, I believe it is just as foolish for our federal government to prohibit the use or sale of marijuana as it was to similarly prohibit alcohol. The concept of marijuana as medicine is abused by many, though I can attest to at least one acquaintance for whom marijuana apparently provides relief from alarming pain. Further on in the case against marijuana criminalization rests the absurdity of overcrowding our court system as well as jails and prisons with those caught up in drug cases.

Federal laws have regulated the production, sale, and use of marijuana for quite some time and federal law is not to be trifled with, no matter how many people hereabouts may feel a sense of regional autonomy. On the Mendocino Coast, the area I am most familiar with, there exists a certain culture that turns at least blurred vision, if not a blind eye, to marijuana production.

I would make a poor juror in the case of the alleged Mendocino pot growers. I have had a distanced acquaintanceship with one of these defendants for years. That defendant has been growing marijuana for decades. I don’t have absolute first hand knowledge to prove this; let’s say it’s a reasonable assumption based on strong circumstantial evidence. Do I believe that person belongs in jail or prison? No. Do I believe something is inherently wrong with making six figure profits for years and not paying the same taxes as the local hardworking mechanics and plumbers and waitresses, and above ground business owners?


The person I know is not producing marijuana to ease the suffering of someone in pain. That individual has been growing marijuana to make lots of money. That’s the bottom line of marijuana on the Mendocino Coast.

Contacted by phone, another of the Mendocino defendants commented about the AVA, “We’ve taken quite a beating in that paper,” and added, “We’ve been told by the big bosses not to say anything.”

Presumably the “big bosses” are attorneys. That defendant is represented by a San Francisco lawyer who has his own Wikipedia page. Another of the Mendocino marijuana defendants is represented by an attorney who co-authored Proposition 215. Where does the money for these high profile lawyers come from?

I just saw the film Flight, which is essentially the story of an addict’s bumpy ride to bottoming out and admitting his addiction (the first and most vital step on the road to recovery). We, as a nation, apparently have not yet bottomed out and kicked our addiction to over-punishment. In the meantime, the good people of the Mendocino Coast, this county and this region need to stop whining when their hands are caught in the cookie jar of greed.

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