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Mendocino County Today: May 6, 2012

Piver

THE CITY OF FORT BRAGG has presented the late Vern Piver’s family with a proclamation honoring the universally popular Piver, known and admired thoughout Mendocino County, for his many years of community service. The new flagpole at the high school varsity baseball field features a plaque at its base in memory of Piver, among the finest all-round athletes produced by Mendocino County and, it should be said, a veteran of the Korean War. Additionally, Fort Bragg’s new Little League field will be called the Vern ‘Sonny’ Piver Baseball Field.

THE SACRAMENTO BEE ran a long story by reporter Peter Hecht this weekend entitled “California’s Emerald Triangle Pot Market Is Hitting Bottom” which begins, “The pot market is crashing in California's legendary Emerald Triangle.”

“The closure of hundreds of marijuana dispensaries across California and a federal crackdown on licensing programs for medical pot cultivation are leaving growers in the North Coast redwoods with harvested stashes many can't sell.

“Some pot cultivators who sought legitimacy through the medical market are fleeing to the black market. So much cheap weed is getting dumped in the college town of Arcata, some local dispensaries say business is down 75%. Even the region's itinerant and colorful bud trimmers are going broke.

“By the scores, people have long trekked into the marijuana fields and indoor greenhouses of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties. Workers used to earn as much as $200 a pound meticulously cutting leaves from marijuana buds, prepping them for display at dispensaries or for sale in a purely illicit market.

“The region's pot pilgrimage had accelerated in recent years as people were drawn by local cannabis traditions and dreams of cashing in on the medical marijuana market. They planted marijuana in the backwoods and in rewired houses with high-intensity grow lights.

“But the saturation of pot growers set off a price tumble by 2010, as a pound of prime Emerald weed slipped from $5,000 to the $3,000 range for marijuana grown indoors and to the $2,000 range for product grown outdoors. Lately, prices are in free-fall.

"’Last I heard, a pound of marijuana is $800 for outdoor grown,’ said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman in Ukiah. ‘That's plummeting. You might do better with tomatoes.’

“The marijuana meltdown could have major regional effects. In Humboldt County [and Mendocino County] — a recent study by a [Humboldt County] banker estimated marijuana accounts for more than a fourth of that county's $1.6 billion economy.

In recent years, many locals already thought the influx of pot growers exceeded demand in the state's sanctioned medical pot market. When US authorities in October announced a crackdown on medical marijuana businesses that they contended were profiteering in violation of federal and state laws, it darkened growers' fears. …

“Pressures on growers intensified after federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided a marijuana farm that had been licensed by Mendocino County and was considered a model for establishing local compliance rules for medical cultivation. The raid prompted Mendocino County supervisors in January to rescind a program that allowed the sheriff to enforce a 99-plant limit on pot farms by attaching $50 zip ties to each plant and inspecting the gardens of nearly 100 growers who provided documentation to show they were serving medical pot users.

“The program, which also offered cheaper tags for smaller quantity growers, brought in $630,000 in county fees in two years.

“Sheriff Allman said it allowed his department — which spends 30% of its $23 million budget on pot enforcement — to target major cultivators who he says are illegally growing thousands of plants, diverting water and fouling the environment. After the federal government launched its crackdown, supervisors tabled work on the plan.

Among the most worried cultivators are the outdoor growers who increasingly struggle to compete with the exotic strains produced in climate-controlled indoor grow rooms. …

“Many worry that the Emerald Triangle will go back to being the hub of California's illegal marijuana trade. … With a federal crackdown and a shrinking market, Allman said, many out-of-towners may leave and ‘everything is going to go underground’.”

Norbury

BILLY NORBURY, 33, of Redwood Valley was in court again Friday, and again the accused killer of Jamal Andrews, 30, was granted a continuance. Friday’s hearing was supposed be Norbury’s arraignment on a murder charge with a special allegation that he used a gun in the shooting death of Andrews the night of January 24th. Norbury’s attorney, Al Kubanis, said he needed more time to research Norbury’s background, specifically Norbury’s divorce file, where psychological evaluations of Norbury apparently indicate that he may be mentally ill. Judge John Behnke gave Kubanis three more weeks to prepare. Norbury is now scheduled to be arraigned on Friday, May 25th.

A POPULAR REGGAE singer raised in Laytonville, Andrews’ many friends believe that Andrews was shot to death by Norbury because Andrews was black, Norbury a white racist. DA David Eyster says the known facts of the case do not support hate crime allegations. Eyster says “other reasons” for the shooting were in play. Large numbers of Andrews’ friends and supporters have turned out for each of Norbury’s court appearances, although fewer people turned out for Andrews last Friday.

CRIMES OF THE WEEK: A 45-year-old woman identified as Marcia Stockhoff of Ukiah and Kelseyville, was arrested last week (Thursday, April 26th), when she crawled through the drive-up window of the North State Street Taco Bell and began stuffing herself with negative food value items. Ms. Stockhoff had been unsuccessfully panhandling from the seated position beneath the window when, at about 1:45am, she forced it open, dove through it and began helping herself. She got herself in more trouble when she attempted to fight with the officers who’d arrived to cart her off to the psych cells at the Mendocino County Jail.

Driggs

68-YEAR-OLD JOHN DRIGGS was arrested Wednesday night about 10:30 when he was found standing naked outside the Ukiah Valley Medical Center. A nurse, presuming that Driggs was a roaming patient, attempted to cover the nude senior citizen with a blanket. But Driggs, a parolee and a registered sex offender who has been arrested for “numerous” counts of indecent exposure over the last several years, lewdly thrust his pelvis at her and announced he was in the mood for random sexual assaults with her or any other handy female. Driggs had illegally removed his ankle monitor before he went out into the Ukiah night looking for love. He was taken into custody by the Ukiah PD and booked into the County Jail.

JUST IN FROM GIZMOLANDIA: A recent report by political economist and accountant Karel Williams and his research team at the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change at the University of Manchester looked at the Apple Business Model and its employment effects. They cite a study which found that Chinese workers add $6.50 in value to each iPhone 3, just 3.6% of the phone’s shipping price. In a counterfactual exercise based on the average wage for electronics workers in the US ($21 per hour) and assuming 8 hours labor per phone, the CRESC team shows that Apple could assemble the phone in the US and still make a gross margin of $293 per phone, which is down from its current gross margin of $452, but still an impressive 46.5% margin. Assembling the phone in the US would have added benefits for the US economy in terms of direct job creation and multiplier effects — in contrast to the current business model, which decreases US employment and increases the US trade deficit. But healthy profits are not enough, so Apple continues to make superprofits to the detriment of the US economy. What is good for Apple is not good for the US.

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT’S 2012 “Best of Sonoma County Awards” doesn’t include a Best Bypass category for those of us who’d vote for Highway 101 as Sonoma County’s most appreciated amenity, allowing us to hurry on past the Rose City to more alluring destinations, north and south.

One Comment

  1. Jim Hill May 6, 2012

    “The raid prompted Mendocino County supervisors in January to rescind a program that allowed the sheriff to enforce a 99-plant limit on pot farms by attaching $50 zip ties to each plant and inspecting the gardens of nearly 100 growers who provided documentation to show they were serving medical pot users.”

    I believe the reason the Supervisors rescinded the program was a United States attorney threatening county counsel with forfeiture of the monies collected. The federal attorneys claimed 9.31 was illegal due to “obstacle pre-emption” or in simple terms 9.31 was an obstacle to the federal governments’ enforcement of the Controlled Substance Act.
    The Supervisors knowing 9.31 was a tax, and not a fee, decided just to keep the $630,000 and avoid embarrassing litigation that would have exposed the entire “tax only the sick program” and the refund or seizure of collected monies.
    I suppose tying to help balance the budget on the backs of the sick and dying wasn’t such a great plan after all. The Supervisors surrendered their position in a blink of an eye. I guess they weren’t as committed as they portrayed.
    Maybe their plan to install parking meters on handicap spaces will succeed in help balancing the budget.

    As always,
    Just my opinion,
    Jim Hill
    Potter Valley

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