Time To Get Serious About Enforcement
by Jim Shields, September 27, 2017
So what? The sheriff could be hitting one of these a day if he actually did his job. Instead we get these media-posing events to pretend that he is doing something. This entire county is full of crap like this. And the crazy thing is – They are still arriving!! Yeah, it’s getting worse. Enjoy!
The foregoing comment appeared on social media this past week in response to a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office raid where 12,000 plants were eradicated, and 33 environmental violations were found ranging from 17 separate streambed alterations and water diversions to trash found in or near streams. The combined task force of cops and state and county resource agencies found fourteen marijuana cultivation sites that were made up of 19 greenhouses and 10 outdoor marijuana grows. They arrested two Florida men who were charged with felony cultivation, possession for sales of marijuana, possession of equipment to chemically synthesize a controlled substance (BHO), and the 33 environmental crimes.
Humboldt County’s marijuana ordinance is considered by all familiar with it to be an exceptionally “grower friendly” set of rules made even friendlier due to lax enforcement.
Water Deeply is an independent media project dedicated to covering water issues and problems in California. As the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, it’s one of the primary, non-fake sources I rely upon to keep current on state and local water issues. In a recent report, Water Deeply looked at what’s going on in Humboldt County on the weed-water front. Here are some excerpts from that report.
Mikal Jakubal, a Humboldt County resident who has grown marijuana for years at his residence alongside a tributary of the Eel River called Redwood Creek …Jakubal suspects many growers who apply for permits might make the required improvements only temporarily, reverting to less sustainable — and illegal — activities once they are on the books as legal growers.
“There is minimal ability to enforce standards beyond the initial inspection,” he says. “That’s just the reality. If you have hundreds or thousands of growers, all up dirt roads behind locked gates, and [authorities] have to give them advance notice of any site visit, it’ll be super easy to save your stored water, pump out of the creek all summer and then keep your tanks as back-up.”
Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River, is convinced new pot-growing operations, legal or not, will worsen conditions for fish in places.
“How many regulated operators can you have along Redwood Creek and still have coho salmon in it?” says Greacen, referring to the Eel’s south fork tributary alongside which Jakubal, for one, grows his marijuana … Most growers in California operate at small production levels, often on rural mountain homesteads, and often using organic growing methods. But Greacen discounts popular notions that pot is a low-impact crop. “All the talk about how this is a sustainable industry — it just doesn’t add up,” he says.
Greacen says many northern California populations of coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead trout were barely clinging to existence in the years leading up to the drought, and the recent surge in marijuana growing activity has wiped them out. “This is what the process of extinction looks like. It’s really scary.”
But Greacen feels more certain that fish and pot cannot coexist under current circumstances.
“Maybe making Humboldt County the epicenter of legal weed isn’t the best idea if we also want to have salmon in our rivers,” he says.
Down here in Mendocino County, Sheriff Tom Allman for the second time in a couple of months paid a visit to the Board of Supervisors to address them on their pot ordinance.
At a July BOS meeting, Allman appeared to address the Board on his plan to resurrect a county ballot measure on mental health funding. He also took time to tell the Board he was fully aware of what was occurring throughout the county with the proliferation of huge, unpermitted grows.
He emphatically stated, “The free reign of marijuana has to be reeled in … People illegally growing marijuana in Mendocino County seem not to be aware the MCSO is still making them a priority.”
This past Tuesday, he once again admonished the Board: “Please do not continue to say that marijuana is a totally harmless herb that God put on this Earth, and we don’t know why we’re fighting over it. … There has been no punishment for people who have been thumbing their noses at you. They’re no longer thumbing their noses at law enforcement; they’re thumbing their noses at the Board of Supervisors by the nice, calm, easy laws that have been made. And they’re so gentle. And we’re so understanding. But that doesn’t stop the homicides.”
He then went to recite a short litany of marijuana-related crimes, including homicides as recent as last week when a body was found on Covelo Road, and the explosion at a Willits extraction lab that contained $3 million worth of sophisticated equipment.
In a New York Times story published two weeks ago, it took a look at the current ganja scene in Mendocino County, focusing in part on the link between pot and crime:
David Eyster, the Mendocino district attorney, said the surge in the marijuana business had brought with it violent crime, which did not appear to be going away anytime soon.
Among the cases he is handling are a robbery and slashing death of a grower; the murder of a man at a marijuana farm by a co-worker wielding a baseball bat; an armed heist in a remote area by men who posed as law enforcement officers; and a robbery by two men and a juvenile who were invited to a barbecue and then drew guns on their hosts and fled with nine pounds of marijuana.
“The folks in the big cities, they don’t realize that out in the rural areas where the marijuana is being grown, there are people being robbed, kidnapped and in some cases murdered,” Mr. Eyster said.
The violent crime rate in Mendocino County is seven times higher than in Los Angeles County, according to F.B.I. data from 2015.
Other counties — expecially rural, Northern California counties — are experiencing the same problems as Mendocino County.
As I prevously shared with you, Calaveras, which like Mendocino County is rural with a small population, has recently legalized ganja which has led to an explosion of mega-grows mostly from an invasion of outsiders. As pointed out in that earlier column, “Calaveras is an economically depressed county of 45,000 residents, a former mining and timber region, had an established pot growing tradition. And last year, after the devastating Butte Fire scorched vast areas of the county, destroying 860 houses, its Board of Supervisors plotted a comeback by seeking to monetize the thriving local marijuana culture by taxing and licensing for-profit cultivation. The pot explosion has been a challenge for local law enforcement. After the Butte Fire, illicit growers — mostly non-residents — parked battered trailer homes on burned out lots and planted pot farms, many siphoning water from streams and dumping pesticides. Calaveras, however, is poised to become a less pot-friendly place. The Board of Supervisors now is considering reversing course and banning all commercial marijuana farms, complaining that the county’s cannabis business experiment is bringing in unwanted outsiders, rogue growers and environmental degradation.”
Last month, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office launched an escalated eradication program dubbed “Operation Terminus” in conjunction with five agencies including the California National Guard, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California State Water Resources Control Board. The initial foray resulted in the arrest of 35 suspects, and the eradication of 27,000 marijuana plants and 25 tons of marijuana. Also seized were were 11 firearms, many of which had serial numbers scratched out, two sets of body armor and a number of assault rifles. Among those arrested were individuals from areas outside Calaveras County, including Sacramento and Santa Rosa to as far away as Staten Island, N.Y. According to the sheriff some of those busted were individuals who had been denied Calaveras County cultivation permits.
Up in Siskiyou County 12 days ago, a state senator whose district includes Siskiyou, sent Gov. Jerry Brown a letter requesting he declare the county to be in a state of emergency. The letter opens with Sen. Ted Gaines explaining his request:
I am writing to urge you to declare a State of Emergency in Siskiyou County to address the public health and public safety consequences resulting from the proliferation of illegal marijuana cultivation in the county.
All laws regarding legal marijuana cultivation are being ignored by individual criminals, crime syndicates and drug cartels, who are treating the public and private lands of Siskiyou County as their own illicit greenhouse, harming citizens, law enforcement personnel, and the agricultural community.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, despite outstanding leadership, has simply too few officers to effectively police such a vast geographic area on its own and is in desperate need of any and all assistance the state could provide, including deployment of California National Guard personnel to assist them in their mission to stamp out illegal grows.
The illegal grows are also notorious polluters and are doing grave damage to California’s environment, with indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides and rodenticides that are not monitored by California’s regulatory authorities. This unchecked use of dangerous chemicals is corrupting our soil and water, in addition to poisoning animals in and around the illegal grow sites.
According to a local news report, Kelly Huston, the deputy director of the governor’s Officer of Emergency Services, said the agency is reviewing the senator’s request. Huston said there are ways state officials can help even if the governor doesn’t declare an emergency … (Sikiyou County Sheriff Dave) Lopey last month worked with federal officials to arrest two farmers who he says offered him a $1 million bribe to shield their plants and workers from law enforcement scrutiny.
Lured by inexpensive land and privacy, marijuana farmers are flocking to rural counties in Northern California seeking to cash in on growing demand in the state and across the country. Many farmers are squatting illegally on state and federal lands in the region as well. “We need all the help we can get,” Lopey said. “Our quality of life is being impacted negatively.”
Mendocino County officials have been informed their ordinance is meaningless without enforcement.
It’s a message that’s been delievered numerous times by others, including yours truly, the Sheriff, the D.A., and representatives from state resource agencies, including Fish and Wildlife, and CALFIRE.
It can be argued that absent meaningful enforcement, legalization by any name is just chaos.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)