Mendocino County Today: Sunday, July 31, 2016
by AVA News Service, July 31, 2016
MENDO’S HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY is going to tell the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the transition of mental health services from Ortner to the County and Redwood Quality Management Company is going pretty well and is only a few weeks behind with only a few things left to do. We’re willing to take their word for it, although there’s no substantiation to accompany the update in the Board’s packet. Nevertheless, it does seem that at least administratively, the transition is better than we expected. (Never mind that all of this could have been avoided five years ago if the County had not hired Tom Pinizzotto and allowed him to wire the unnecessary privatization of mental health services to his pals at Ortner where he had recently been employed as a top executive.)
A FEW EXAMPLES:
MHSA Documentation: OMG to provide County with all program and fiscal documentation. Status: Cultural Competence list received, waiting on list of contractors and contract amounts, CSS & PEI quarterly – due 8/15/16.
Fiscal Documentation: OMG to provide County with all fiscal documentation. Status: County is waiting for June invoices, Q4 MHSA fiscal report
Transition of Treatment Authorization Request: OMG to provide all treatment authorization requests. Status: Transfer nearly complete, County is processing TARS and hospital charts
Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement Logs: OMG to transfer all tracking logs to County. Status: Transfer nearly complete, County is reviewing data.
EQRO Reporting Information through 6/30: OMG to transfer all EQRO tracking data to County Status: Transfer nearly complete, County is reviewing data.
Electronic Health Records (EHR): Status: In place for all specialty mental health clients served
Medication Services. Status: Transferred from OMG to County.
Crisis Services. Status: Transferred 24/7 adult crisis services to RQMC.
Adult Services Transition Completion. Status: Services transitioned from OMG to County and/or RQMC
And, OMG has notified clients of service change.
* * *
WHAT ABOUT THE ACTUAL SERVICES and their cost? Fortunately for Mendocino County, Ortner set the bar so low that just about anything would be an improvement that the County can belatedly claim credit for. (— Mark Scaramella)
CANNABIS TAX ORDINANCE SUMMARY
by Mendocino County Counsel Katherine Elliot
This [proposed] ordinance adds Chapter 6.32 to the Mendocino County Code to impose a County general tax on commercial cannabis businesses in the unincorporated area of Mendocino County as of January 1, 2017. The ordinance establishes a tax rate for the cultivation of commercial cannabis of 2.5% of the gross receipts per fiscal year; provided, however, that cultivators shall pay not less than the following amounts: persons cultivating less than or equal to 2,500 square feet of cannabis shall pay a tax of no less than 1,250 per growing cycle; persons cultivating 2,501 and up to 5,000 square feet of cannabis shall pay a tax of no less than $2,500 per growing cycle; and persons cultivating more than 5,001 square feet of cannabis shall pay a tax of no less than $5,000 per growing cycle. The ordinance also provides that, beginning July 1, 2020, the tax rate for cultivation may be increased in 2.5% increments, not to exceed the maximum tax rate of 10% per fiscal year on gross receipts; incremental increases in the tax rate shall occur following an approval by the Board of Supervisors at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors, and occur not more than once per fiscal year.
The ordinance establishes a tax rate for all commercial cannabis dispensaries of 5% of gross receipts per fiscal year through June 30, 2020, and provides that, beginning July 1, 2020, the tax rate for cultivation may be increased in 2.5% increments, not to exceed the maximum tax rate 10% per fiscal year on gross receipts; incremental increases in the tax rate shall occur following an approval by the Board of Supervisors at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors, and occur not more than once per fiscal year.
The ordinance provides that for all other commercial cannabis businesses, including manufacturing, nurseries, testing, transporting, distributing, and delivery, the tax rate $2,500 per fiscal year through June 30, 2020, and that beginning on July 1, 2020 and on July 1, of each succeeding year thereafter, the amount of tax imposed on all cannabis businesses, excluding cultivation and commercial cannabis dispensaries, shall be adjusted up to the equivalent to the most recent change in the State Department of Industrial Relations (or successor agency) in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all urban consumers (California); though no CPI adjustment resulting in a decrease of any tax imposed shall be made.
The tax applies to commercial medical cannabis businesses, and if legalized under state law, to nonmedical cannabis or marijuana businesses. Cultivation for personal medical use, as further delineated in the ordinance, are exempt from the tax. The ordinance contains payment and reporting requirements and enforcement provisions and authorizes the County Treasurer-Tax Collector to administer the tax.
The tax is for general governmental purposes and will go into effect only if the tax is approved by a majority of the voters voting on the tax at an election.
AS OF 28 JULY — MLB 2016 Season So Far: It Sucks!
by Jonah Raskin
Hasn’t everyone noticed by now that it sucks? No, I’m not talking about the race for the Presidency, which has offered plenty of fireworks, but the second half of the 2016 Major League Baseball season. Ever since the All-Star break at the start of July, no team in the National League, except the Chicago Cubs, have put together a respectable string of wins, and as of July 28 the Cubs had not won more than three games in a row. The San Francisco Giants had lost eight of ten and yet they were still in first place in the National League West. That shows how bad the other teams, including the five-and-five Dodgers, have been. Washington had lost six of ten and yet they were in first place in the National League East. Cleveland and Texas, which were atop their divisions in the American League, had both lost six of ten.
Chris Sale, the ace for the Chicago White Sox, is 14-4 with a 3.17 era, but the Giants pitching staff — including over-the-hill Jake Peavy, who has won five and lost nine, and Matt Cain who is two and six — looks shaky at best. Madison Bumgarner is ten and six, but he hasn’t looked sharp since the All-Star break. Only the Giants, Johnny Cueto, who is 13 and 3 looks like he might have a chance to win 20, provided the team begins to hit, and that seems unlikely.
Nobody but nobody in the staring line-up is hitting over .300. Catcher, and sometimes first baseman, Buster Posey, comes the closest at .285. With 12 homeruns, Posey leads the Giants, but that’s a paltry figure when compared with Mark Trumbo of the Baltimore Orioles who has hit 30. The Red Sox’s David Ortiz, better known as "Big Papi,” has hit 25 homeruns and at 40 he’s probably in his last season.
Posey doesn’t even make the top 50-home-run hitters and he’s 11 years younger than Ortiz.
Houston’s Jose Altuve is hitting .357 and Washington’s Daniel Murphy is close behind at .351. All the teams in the cellar of their respective divisions have disastrous records. Tampa Bay is 39 and 61 and Arizona is a disgraceful 42 and 60.
The Yankees, who had a disastrous first half of the season and who are 52 and 49 — just barely above .500 — have been hot of late. They have won seven of their last ten. No major league baseball team has more won more than seven of its last ten.
All this could change as quickly as it takes a fastball from Cueto to travel from the mound to the batter’s box. One team might get suddenly hot. Another might get colder and colder. It’s still a long way to October. My prediction: the Cubs will go on winning, the Giants will go on losing steadily and the Yankees will gain ground on Boston, Toronto and Baltimore. Oakland, which is 47-56 won’t make it much above .500, if that.
I pick the Cubs to beat Texas in the World Series.
So far my hero for the 2016 season is bad boy Chris Sale of the White Sox who refused to wear the dumb uniform the front office insisted he wear. He was suspended for five games. The odds are he’ll continue to dominate hitters. Let’s hope so. We gotta have someone to root for. Play Ball!
AMERICANS EXHIBIT near-heroic aversion to history and the consequences of American policies that now constitute the core of the Democratic Party’s domestic agenda. The IMF has been pushing these policies on ‘client’ (victim) states for the last half-century. The capitalist lootocracy that the Democrats (and Republicans) serve has long installed puppet governments to reign with impunity as long as they deliver local wealth to back ‘up’ to it. The Clintons are corrupt puppets who serve this system of un-enlightened self-interest as domestic agents of international capital. The sooner the youth of America and the residual Left realize that there is no hope for a better, or even livable, future through establishment politics the sooner we can get to the task at hand: a (real) political revolution.
— Rob Urie
FAR OUT, NEARBY
Man passes out in Ukiah KFC drive-thru
A Sebastopol man was arrested for driving under the influence Monday after reportedly passing out while using the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant, the Ukiah Police Department reported.
According to the UPD, officers responded to the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in the 1100 block of North State Street around 4:45 p.m. July 25 when someone reported that a man in the drive-thru was passed out in his vehicle, possibly due to a medical problem.
When the officer arrived, he reportedly saw a red Chevrolet Camaro exiting the parking lot, driving over a curb and through some landscaping while it did so. As the vehicle continued northbound, it reportedly nearly collided with an officer’s vehicle.
After officers stopped the vehicle, the driver was identified as Ruben Aguilar, 27, of Sebastopol, who was soon placed under arrest for driving under the influence. He was cited and released.
Motorcyclist ‘Showing Off’ Arrested With Drugs
A Sacramento man was arrested for possession of suspected meth and heroin Sunday after being stopped for speeding on his motorcycle near Oak Manor Elementary School, the Ukiah Police Department reported.
According to the UPD, an officer saw a motorcycle travelling about 65 mph on Oak Manor Drive around 3:30 p.m. July 24, and pulled over the driver in the 100 block of North Orchard Avenue.
The driver, a 42-year-old Sacramento man, told the officer he had been “showing off” for his nephew, who was watching near his residence on Oak Manor Drive.
The driver was reportedly on probation, driving on a suspended license and in possession of methamphetamine, heroin and drug paraphernalia. He was then booked into Mendocino County Jail.
Stolen Truck Had Keys In Ignition
A truck left on Yosemite Drive with its keys in the ignition was stolen last week, the Ukiah Police Department reported.
According to the UPD, Redwood Heating and Cooling on East Gobbi Street reported that around 4:40 p.m. July 21, an employee of the business had driven a company vehicle to the 700 block of Yosemite Drive to work.
There he parked a 2001 GMC Sierra, license plate number 6P66508, on the street and left the keys in the ignition. When he returned to it 10 minutes later, it was gone.
The vehicle is described as a single cab truck, with a black lumber rack and several Redwood Heating and Cooling emblems on it.
Gun Stolen From Car
A gun left in a vehicle was reportedly stolen last week, the Ukiah Police Department reported.
According to the UPD, a resident of Washo Drive reported at 4:14 p.m. Sunday that he had accidentally left a .357 magnum revolver on the front passenger side floorboard of his vehicle two days earlier after returning from the Ukiah Gun Club.
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
NEWS TIP? LETTER? MONEY!
Somehow I just feel that this should be printed in an American newspaper — the Philippine Star on July 27 reporting on the continuing drug war bloodbath:
MANILA, Philippines — The United States has vowed to provide the Philippines $32 million to support the Duterte administration's intensified law enforcement efforts.
Washington's support for law enforcement activities was one of the topics discussed by President Rodrigo Duterte and visiting US State Secretary John Kerry during their meeting Wednesday in Malacanan.
"The US committed $32 million in training and services," presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing. ... Abella confirmed that Duterte had also briefed Kerry about his crackdown on drugs and crimes.
Asked if Kerry, who emphasized the need to uphold human rights in his previous engagements, was alarmed by the spate of killings in the country, Abella said: "There was no alarm that was mentioned there."
"Although, President Duterte did mention about the way he has been handling the war against crime and especially the narcotic plague," he added.
Pressed on what the US state secretary said about Duterte's anti-crime and drug campaign, Abella replied: "He was listening very intently."
A total of 239 drug suspects were killed in law enforcement operations as of July 22, data from the Philippine National Police showed. More than 120,000 drug pushers and users, meanwhile, have turned themselves over to authorities.
Human rights advocates are worried that the government's crackdown on illegal drugs would result in extrajudicial killings and abusive practices.
In his first State of the Nation Address, Duterte said he would not stop the war against narcotics until the last drug personality is punished.
"There will be no let-up in this campaign. Double your efforts. Triple them, if need be. We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier and the last pusher have surrendered or put behind bars or below the ground if they so wish," the president said.
"To our police officers and other officials, do your job and you will have the unwavering support of the Office of the President. I will be with you all the way. Abuse your authority and there will be hell to pay," he added.
So, I guess it could be worse here, a lot worse. Vigilantes there are dispensing "cardboard justice," where bodies just turn up with cardboard signs declaring "pusher." About a dozen each day and ramping up.
Look for my postal money order in the snail mail. I look forward to another year's enjoyment before I pike off to the dusties. The other papers don't hold a candle to the AVA, especially when it comes to getting a fire going in my cabin.
Yours & etc.
PS, Some years back Sheriff Allman acquired a bread oven for the jail. I'm curious how it has worked out, as the early signs were quite hopeful.
ED NOTE: Allman’s bread-jail program has worked out well. We personally know several graduates who have moved into related jobs after release and we’ve tasted the bread and it is as good as anything you can buy in a store.
THERMAL MAP: US Fire & California/SoCal Fires
Fort Bragg is the blue dot at the far left center.
AND PEPPER SPRAYED, TOO
My ex-wife pepper-sprayed for no good reason
Anna-Marie Stenberg, my ex-wife, was pepper-sprayed at the "Democratic" Convention for not showing enough respect for the masters of war. (See attachment)
Anna-Marie is a GRANDMOTHER, born in the USA and has been trying to free the country from fascist tyranny since she was a kid in the 60s.
She deserves a fucking medal not punishment before trial. I hearby award her the Peoples' Medal of Honor. Objections will be duly ignored.
Tom Cahill, Cluny, France
FROM NEW ZEALAND ON NOVEMBER'S PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Donald Trump goes on a fact-finding visit to Israel. While he is on a tour of Jerusalem he suffers a heart attack and dies. The undertaker tells the American diplomats accompanying him, 'You can have him shipped home for $50,000, or you can bury him here, in the Holy Land for just $100.'
The American diplomats go into a corner and discuss for a few minutes. They come back to the undertaker and tell him they want Donald shipped home. The undertaker is puzzled and asks, 'Why would you spend $50,000 to ship him home, when it would be wonderful to be buried here and you would spend only $100?
The American diplomats replied, ‘A long time ago a man died here, was buried here, and three days later he rose from the dead.
We just can't take the risk.'
THE NEXT MEETING of the Mendocino County Fish & Game Commission will be Tuesday August 9th, 6:00 PM at the Willits Library located at 390 E Commercial St, Willits.
The Mendocino County Fish & Game Commission is charged to insure that renewable natural resources including fish, game and wildlife and their habitats are conserved for this and succeeding generations of Mendocino County residents.
Mendocino County residents, sportsman, outdoor enthusiast, and conservationist who care about our fish and wildlife heritage are encouraged to attend these bi-monthly meetings.
The full Agenda can be reviewed on the Fish & Game Commission website.
I hate television. There’s nothing about it I like: quiz shows, variety shows, sports, interminable series, the “news”.
The news shows are propaganda for the Chamber of Commerce and The State Department: even the most acclaimed and most popular are dreadful, one dimensional, and mendacious.
R.E.M. does a wonderful parody of news programs in the video for their song, “Bad Day”. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hyk-Vdd_Qrk)
The problem is that television is ubiquitous. You cannot escape it. Doctors’ waiting rooms, almost all offices, bars, restaurants, gyms, supermarkets, and even libraries have wide screened TVs in the wall. Requests to turn them off or lower the volume are met with incredulity, resentment, condescension, and insolence.
I have a very good ophthalmologist. He’s in most ways a very civilized human being. However, he has installed a television set in his waiting room that plays infomercials constantly, is never off, and is loud enough to disrupt reading.
Dr. F was annoyed when I complained about it.
—Most patients like it.
—Did you do a survey?
—No, I didn’t do a survey. But you’re the only one to complain.
—Perhaps other patients are intimidated or are too polite to complain.
—With all due respect, Mr. Bedrock, this is my office. The television stays.
Another doctor, whom I like a lot, Dr. S, always has time to discuss computers, his travels to exotic parts of the world, his children’s progress in medical school, and cars. He’s a fan of Formula One and owns a couple of sports cars. When I mentioned that I once owned a bug-eyed Sprite, he was impressed. He knows everything in the world about MacBooks and I consult with him instead of going to an Apple Store.
When he installed one of those infomercial TVs—I think pharmaceutical companies provide them to doctors free, I left a note in a suggestion box that he keeps in his waiting room. To my surprise, Dr. S called me about a week later.
—Mr. Bedrock, I read your note, watched some of the infomercials, and agree with you that they are dreadful. I’ve ordered the program removed.
—Thank you for reading my suggestion, considering it, and acting on it.
—You’re welcome. I’m replacing it with a television that will offer regular cable programming.
—Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! (I did not say this; just thought it.)
The people at the Westfield Library were sympathetic. The librarian at the main desk said the volume on the library’s TVs was very low and some people seemed to like them.
—But what are televisions doing in a library?
—I’m not sure. But I’m not the one who decides.
She referred me to the director, called him, and he agreed to see me immediately. He listened to my complaint, nodding in agreement as I spoke, but then responded,
—I know how you feel. Many of us at the library agree with you. However, the world is changing, people who use libraries are changing, and libraries are changing.
There are television screens broadcasting Oprah’s show or other dreck next to the checkout lines of ShopRite supermarkets. They’re in all the best and worst restaurants. When I asked the hostess of a good local diner for a seat away from the television screens, she smiled and said she was sorry, but there weren’t any.
They are becoming common in gyms. Perhaps the image of the porcine Rush Limbaugh inspires gym rats to accelerate their workouts. They are indoors everywhere and now increasingly in outdoor public spaces like train stations.
One day I’ll find one in my bathroom where the mirror used to be.
Orwell had it wrong: our dystopian society doesn’t need to be constantly watched; it can be anesthetized by constantly watching drivel.
–Louis Bedrock, Roselle, New Jersey
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 30, 2016
Beck, Beers, Bethurum, Curtis
DYLAN BECK, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
MICHAEL BEERS, Ukiah. Vandalism, probation revocation.
CHRISOTPHER BETHURUM, Santa Rosa/Fort Bragg. Vehicle theft, drunk in public.
RICKIE CURTIS, Willits. Drunk in public.
Hensley, Humphries, Jimenez-Lopez, Rickman
CHARLES HENSLEY, Ukiah. Probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
NICOLE HUMPHRIES, Potter Valley. DUI.
ROLANDO JIMENEZ-LOPEZ, Clearlake/Ukiah. DUI.
BILLY RICKMAN, Ukiah. Battery, assault with deadly weapon not a gun, resisting, conspiracy, community supervision violation.
Shannon, Steele, Stencil
TASHEENA SHANNON, Willits. Under influence.
EDWARD STEELE JR., Ukiah. Ammo possession by prohibited person, conspiracy, resisting. (Frequent flyer.)
BRYAN STENCIL, Willits. Battery with serious injury.
SECRET MARIJUANA GARDENS TARGET OF ERADICATION CAMPAIGN ON NORTH COAST
by Julie Johnson
Kelseyville — This was far from the cocktail-hour networking meetings for cannabis companies, worlds away from sterile laboratories measuring THC levels and the marketing teams channeling a great entrepreneurial push fueled by California’s recent embrace of the medical marijuana industry. This was the Lake County wilderness, where an orange peel, a crushed Coca-Cola can and a cairn of rocks marked a footpath leading into the chaparral-covered hills southwest of Kelseyville.
A sheriff’s detective in camouflage gear pushed through a dense thicket until the underbrush lightened between manzanita trunks. He stepped into a clearing and onto a line of black quarter-inch hose, something that’s become as ubiquitous in North Coast backcountry areas as poison oak.
Nearby, two men sleeping on cots under low-slung tarps were startled awake by the sound of deputies sneaking into their camp. They bolted, running through the woods wearing only underwear as the two officers chased after them, weighted down in vests and gear belts.
“When we hike in, almost every time we run into someone,” Lake County Detective Frank Walsh said standing in the abandoned campsite several hours later. “They split up, heading somewhere toward Kelsey Creek. There are too many places for them to run to.”
Three years after the state cut funding for its now-defunct marijuana eradication program, local law enforcement agencies backed by federal dollars continue to battle against clandestine marijuana farms that proliferate in the region’s rugged hillsides.
Law enforcement officials across the North Coast say they are using U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration grants to target the largest and most environmentally damaging pot gardens, often those planted by people trespassing on public or private lands. Nationally, the DEA spent $18 million last year on pot eradication, $5.3 million of that in California.
Lake County’s 1,329 square miles are rural and wild. About half are public lands, mostly in Mendocino National Forest. County officials, including Sheriff Brian Martin, say it’s one of the top marijuana producers in the state. It is a hard claim to verify for an industry that sources marijuana from a wide variety of places, from six pot plants in grandma’s garden to illicit plots hidden in the remote mountains. But state marijuana eradication reports regularly put Lake County at the top.
So far this season, its sheriff’s detectives have destroyed 160,000 pot plants. The vast majority — except for “a couple thousand” — were from what Walsh calls “mountain gardens,” cannabis farms hidden in remote areas of private or public lands.
The illegal garden outside Kelseyville was spotted on private property several months before officials secured a search warrant to check it out. Walsh said they watched the area and had seen supply drops and men hiking gear into the woods.
On an unusually rainy June morning, Walsh’s team — about a dozen National Guardsmen and Bureau of Land Management officers — met before dawn and made the hourlong trek into the site.
The sleeping campers — who had probably been calling that patch of wild woods and pot gardens their home for months — bolted through the brush, one almost immediately disappearing into the wilderness. The second led Walsh and a BLM officer on a half-mile chase until he finally vanished in the woods somewhere near Kelsey Creek.
Back at the primitive camp, Walsh and the others found a pellet gun, .22-caliber rifle and a pistol. Hoses led to a large rectangular pit lined with tarps holding thousands of gallons of cold, clear water diverted from a spring. Someone had scratched out a grocery list in pencil on a scrap of cardboard: platanos, naranja, manzana, sodas, cervezas, cigarros. Muddy socks dangled from a laundry line. A dead rat was crushed in a trap near a makeshift kitchen equipped with a two-burner camp stove. A skunk tail hung on a nearby tree. The area reeked of human feces.
The garden wasn’t as big as Walsh had estimated from the air; 3,274 plants uprooted by officers from a series of small garden plots hidden beneath a canopy of manzanita branches pulled together with ropes, an apparent attempt to hide the garden from above.
Averaging 3 feet tall, about half of the plants already had buds, what Walsh called an autoflowering variety that buds at 90 days regardless of sunlight. Another variety would have grown taller and bigger, but was not mature when uprooted.
Walsh said he supports the state’s new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, three bills signed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown designed to create a statewide regulatory system for medical marijuana businesses. But until the nation is unified in its drug laws, he predicted the black market demand will keep driving people into the woods to grow pot.
“I think what Gov. Brown did was great,” Walsh said. “I hope we can educate the public that full legalization in California isn’t the solution to the environmental problems.”
Martin, who was elected sheriff in 2014, said his narcotics unit focuses on the problem sites where people are trespassing and stealing water. He mentioned a massive pot garden his deputies recently found near the Indian Valley Reservoir with more than 17,500 pot plants. “It’s pretty hard to argue that’s medical,” Martin said.
“The vast majority of our efforts are going after very large grows that are having an impact on our environment,” he said.
Some medical marijuana advocates and lawyers who have long been critics of the eradication programs have said law enforcement appear to be focusing on such illegal gardens, and not just in Lake County. Change in tactics
The helicopters that once hovered above backyards in the Emerald Triangle region of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties — causing the phones at civil liberties watch groups to ring off the hook — have “faded into the background,” said Bonnie Blackberry, president of the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project based in Garberville in southern Humboldt County. “We still have an office, we just don’t get the same kind of complaints at all,” Blackberry said.
Blackberry and others said medical marijuana patients still at times feel targeted, but more by a bureaucratic type of enforcement involving land use and water regulations.
“They used to come in with the helicopters and take the pot; now they have satellite imaging,” Blackberry said. “They can send people a letter and say, ‘We see you and now you better do this.’ They fine people and bankrupt them.”
Several medical marijuana advocates in Lake County said they’re not hearing many complaints so far this year about the Sheriff’s Office, although it’s still early in the season. Harvest typically doesn’t start until at least September for the types of larger, outdoor plant varieties pot farmers are more likely to grow. Ron Green, a retired attorney and longtime pot advocate who lives outside Hidden Valley Lake, said he’s not hearing of “mom and pop being busted.”
“If they go after the big guys on public land that are wreaking havoc with the environment, stealing water and plugging up creeks, that’s what they should be doing,” Green said. “Most people believe that, whether you’re an advocate or not.”
But Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, a trade association representing about 600 small-scale cannabis farmers and businesses across the state, said law enforcement is under pressure to get high plant counts to justify the next year’s DEA money. As a result, legitimate growers are at risk, he said.
“The reality is law enforcement isn’t good at discerning (between) a criminal unregulated grow and a regulated grow,” Allen said. “They’re not careful.”
Last year, law enforcement reported seizing 86,500 cannabis plants and uncovering egregious environmental destruction at a series of sites in the remote Island Mountain region where Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties meet. Allen said he believes medical marijuana farms were caught up in the sweep alongside criminals.
“One of the problems is they don’t present granular data,” Allen said. “They’ll serve 25 warrants in a four-day operation but only put out one press release and aggregated numbers. It really makes everything looking bigger and worse than it was.”
In mid-July, Mendocino County authorities reported uprooting 18,396 marijuana plants from different sites in and around Laytonville. Sheriff Tom Allman has taken a strong stance against environmental problems related to illegal marijuana production. The county cleans up the sites, an expensive undertaking not currently prioritized in Lake County.
Sarah Shrader, Sonoma chair of Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group for people who use cannabis to treat health ailments, said she heard from a person whose Laytonville-area garden was eradicated in that mission even though he claimed to have been growing medical marijuana for a collective. Shrader echoed a belief among cannabis advocates that the current law enforcement strategy is to get high plant counts during eradication missions.
“I told him, ‘They’re just there for your plants and their numbers,’” Shrader said.
With 83,635 plants destroyed last year, Lake came in second only to Trinity County, which is 2½ times larger. The plant totals come from the California Department of Justice, which still tracks eradication under the CAMP program name though the state does not fund it.
Lake County has received between $170,000 and $225,000 in federal money for each of the past six years, most of which goes toward overtime pay and chartered helicopters to haul marijuana plants out of remote areas.
In contrast, Sonoma County received only $40,000 from the DEA this year, a sharp drop from the $120,000 it received in 2015. The decreased funding in part reflects the shift of marijuana from remote open spaces in Sonoma County to indoor cultivation sites.
Last year, a Democratic congressman from Southern California, Rep. Ted Lieu, tried and failed to slash the DEA’s budget for marijuana eradication in half, arguing the program has been ineffective in eradicating marijuana.
Allen, with the California Growers Association, said he hopes that the entirely new regulatory structure being built for California’s marijuana industry will shift the enforcement of most water and code issues out of the criminal realm.
“You have folks trying to solve problems and store water properly, and they’re getting reported,” Allen said.
Walsh has been the lead narcotics detective heading up marijuana eradication for six seasons. He jokes he’s lasted so long only because he doesn’t react to poison oak.
The work takes officers up to sweeping views of gold and green ridges and the silvery fresh water of Clear Lake. It also leads through dense brush to large garbage dumps in the middle of the forest. In the Kelseyville area garden, a large pit that once served as an illegal water reservoir had been turned into a dump, heaped with discarded sleeping bags, empty boxes of Ritz crackers and Marlboro cigarettes, bags of Klass Agua Frescas drink mix, emptied containers of rat poison and fertilizers.
The Sheriff’s Office does not have the funds or manpower to clean up the trash, Walsh said.
Many of the men along for the eradication day in June didn’t want their names published or their photographs taken because they live in communities where marijuana is rampant and enforcement is frowned upon. Walsh said some of the men they arrest in gardens are new immigrants, many from Michoacán. Others, detectives suspect, have connections to the community and run indoor pot gardens as well.
“Some of these organizations, they’re so diversified that losing one or two grows is not a huge impact on their business, so it does make it profitable,” Walsh said.
Even so, Walsh said he believes it makes a difference with each site they destroy. Or at least, he said, if they stopped battling against illegal marijuana cultivation, “it would get a lot worse.”
(Courtesy, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.)
THINK IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE? THINK AGAIN!
To the Editor:
I am writing as a public citizen only, and not on behalf of any group or organization.
On Friday, July 29, the world’s biggest pension fund posted the worst annual performance since the global financial crisis started in 2008, with losses exacerbated by unfavorable currency moves and a foray into equity markets.
Japan’s $1.3 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) lost 3.8 percent in the year ended March 31, or 5.3 trillion yen ($51 billion), the retirement manager said in Tokyo. That’s the biggest drop since the fiscal year ended March 31, 2009. GPIF lost 10.8 percent on domestic equities and 9.6 percent on shares in other markets, while Japanese bonds handed the fund a 4.1 percent gain.
The annual loss -- GPIF’s first since doubling its allocation to stocks and paring domestic bond holdings in October 2014 -- came during a volatile stint for markets. Japanese shares sank 13 percent in the year through March while the yen climbed 6.7 percent against the dollar, reducing returns from overseas investments. The only asset class to post a profit was local debt, which jumped in value as the Bank of Japan’s adoption of negative interest rates sent yields tumbling.
Sid Cooperrider and I have a widely followed public affairs radio show at KMEC -- we have a very powerful digital platform and a large Internet audience -- and possible guests for show about GPIF are now speaking publicly about the huge pension fund loss in Japan.
“The results are painful,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, a senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “Because GPIF is a pension fund, they need to have a long-term outlook, so I don’t think we can say yet that GPIF took on too much risk. It was a harsh investment environment for most of us.”
At a press conference in Tokyo on July 29 at which KMEC was registered as a webcast participant, GPIF President Norihiro Takahashi said he will reflect on the performance, but that the current portfolio has enough flexibility to adapt to different market conditions and he wants to run the fund steadily. Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief government spokesman, said GPIF’s management shouldn’t be influenced by short-term moves and there is absolutely no issue with its financing short-term pension obligations to retirees.
But here's the rub.
The prevailing thought among pension managers is that because pensions are managed on a 50-year time horizon, losses like the one suffered at GPIF in Japan shouldn't matter much. I strongly disagree. Anyone who has seen the 2015 docudrama, "The Big Short", starring film stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, and nominated for five Academy Awards, knows differently. Wall Street is a casino, and all the games are rigged. The house always wins over the long-term. Customers always lose over the long-term.
My point? My point is that investing in stocks and bonds is not the only game in town. Pension systems, like our own here in Mendocino County, can create "community wealth funds" that invest in local assets and in local people.
Local assets, like farmland, timberland, water rights, and infrastructure projects, could be an attractive diversification away from Wall Street's rigged game.
Community wealth funds can also invest in industrial and/or commercial real estate, like the former Masonite property which Ross Liberty now owns, thus becoming a tax-advantaged landlord for new local businesses. Those tax advantages can be passed on to tenants in the form of lower rents.
Community wealth funds can buy defaulted bank loans and/or foreclosed residential real estate mortgages at steep discounts, thus restructuring businesses that are in trouble and/or keeping families in their homes. This restructured debt could offer our pension system the possibility of both capital gains and good income, while doing some real good.
Finally, community wealth funds can invest in local people. How? By setting up kickstarter funds for local economic development.
I'm not suggesting that our pension system sell its entire portfolio of stocks and bonds and move whole hog into a community wealth fund. What I am suggesting is a super-conservative allocation of 1-2% of our $450 million portfolio as an experiment -- with a high priority being placed on local investments that are safe and in the areas of developing the green economy, food systems, cooperatives (co-ops), reclaiming the commons, municipal enterprise, and social enterprise.
If the 1-2% allocation works out, double it.
It's just an idea. But the $51 billion pension fund loss in Japan in just one year takes my breath away. Think about it -- $51 billion is bigger than the entire GNP of a lot of countries. It's not just a paper loss. It's real loss. Real hardship.
Little Mendocino County can do better. We can be a thought leader. Just as we have been about solar and sustainable living and cannabis and redwoods preservation and a whole lot of other things.