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Off the Record (February 16, 2022)

RECOMMENDED VIEWING. I never thought Bill Cosby was funny — all that cutesy mugging — and only caught glimpses of him over the years, not being a sitcom guy. The whole Cosby phenomenon passed me by. But Kamau Bell's four-part documentary, We Need to Talk About Cosby, is absolutely riveting. Who knew he was a major pervert and rapist? Well, lots of people knew, as it turns out, and didn't say anything. The film features women telling their harrowing stories of being drugged and assaulted by Cosby as his groundbreaking career and heroic status with all people exempted him from, well, all sanctions. Cosby was eventually convicted of sexual assault, but his conviction was recently overturned after a court found that prosecutors were bound by a weird agreement not to pursue charges. Cosby, a true psychopath, has denied everything, but given the irrefutable evidence against him I suppose that's all he can do as he enters the Perv Hall of Fame. 

BILL KIMBERLIN: Why The Price of Coke Didn't Change For 70 years. Coca-Cola was originally a company that sold a type of concentrate syrup to soda fountains all over the country and then the world. The soda fountains mixed the syrup with their own carbonation. Coke did not believe the cost of selling a bottled version would make sense so they refused all offers. But one man was so persuasive that they agreed to a contract with him. However, in order to protect their market (the fountains) they insisted that he could not sell a bottle of Coke for more than five cents, which was what the fountains charged.  So for about 70 years, from 1886 until the late 1950's a bottle of Coke cost just a nickel. The contract was finally broken as inflation started to rise.

BI-ANNUAL FRAUD SET FOR THE 24TH. The 2022 Homeless Point-in-Time (PIT) Count in Mendocino County will commence on Thursday, February 24th, 2022. The count includes people who, on the night of the count, are living in emergency shelters and transitional housing (Sheltered) or staying outdoors or places not designed for habitation including vehicles, streets, parks, and abandoned buildings (Unsheltered). We need YOUR help to ensure all people who are experiencing homelessness in Mendocino County Count! To volunteer, visit For questions or further information, email or call (707)468-7071.

HEY! There’s one. That guy, over there. What we have in this annual exercise to “count the homeless” is a buncha people driving around in the dark and early daylight qualifying as many people as possible as shelter-challenged so Mendocino County’s 31-agency “Continuum of Care” gets another year of public money to do what they do, whatever it is.

THERE'S SOMETHING innately irritating about Canadian prime minister Trudeau, that “something” being that his entire presentation, his Gestalt, fairly screams, “Prig! Twit! Candyass!” The trucker's Ottawa blockade wouldn't have the popular support it has without Trudeau. 

IN AN ORDINARY civic context, with informed, attentive, responsible people sitting as supervisors, those supervisors would listen to their outgoing bean counter if she said combining public revenue's incoming and outgoing offices is a very bad idea. Not in Mendocino County. Shari Schapmire, Treasurer-Tax Collector for 15 years, with forty total years keeping track of Mendo's money, says the recent combining, by fiat, of the Treasurer-Tax Collector with the Auditor-Controller's office is a very bad idea which, truth to tell, originated with DA Eyster's long whine that Ms. Cubbison, of the Auditor-Controller's office, had dared challenge his dubious claim that asset forfeiture money was none of her or the county's business. The DA and CEO Angelo being fast friends, the upshot was first to make sure that Ms. Cubbison not be appointed to succeed Ms. Mr. Weer on a permanent basis and then the combining of two distinct money functions, incoming and outgoing. And that, Jake, is Mendocino County where the people collecting the money will also be spending it.

AS AVA READER GEORGE DORNER commented at the time: “The proposal to merge the office that takes in the money with the office that pays out the money is such an obvious setup for potential embezzlement that I can’t believe it has even been proposed!”

HISTORY: On Tuesday (August 31, 2021). What began as a routine appointment of Assistant Auditor Chamise Cubbison to fill out the remaining term of retiring Auditor Lloyd Weer, saw DA David Eyster, in full bluster mode, zoom in to claim that Ms. Cubbison was “wrong” in requiring documentation to accompany a grant claim. Ditto for several DA staffers’ claims, Eyster said, for challenging their training-related travel.

MS. CUBBISON had rejected the claims for not being accompanied by the proper paperwork backup, and already taxpayers should fall in love with this lady for scrupulously guarding the public purse against windy big spenders like the DA who, incidentally, plays the CEO like a bass viola, getting whatever he wants from her like, for instance, a half-dozen or so investigators to investigate the three crimes a week committed by Mendocino County's master criminals.

EYSTER, though, insisted that the Auditor’s requirement didn’t apply to the DA’s office, and submitted various documents to allegedly prove his point.

BUT THE VALIANT Ms. Cubbison held her ground. She was not intimidated by Mendocino County’s lead law enforcement officer. She said she was simply following county policy, and as an independent auditor she was duty-bound to impose the local, state and federal rules as necessary.

UNACCUSTOMED to such impertinence from another county office, Eyster continued to insist that he was correct. Ms. Cubbison's predecessor also drew the DA's ire on occasion for simply challenging expenditures and categories of expenditures. The Auditor is supposed to be a nickelnoser. We should be grateful to this lady for challenging every dime these outback Caesars claim reimbursement for.

THE PEOPLE'S PROSECUTOR went on at length about how wrong Ms. Cubbison was, adding that her unapologetic wrongness disqualified her from being appointed interim Auditor.

SOME POLL FROM SOMEWHERE claimed that roughly twenty percent of Americans think they get the straight skinny from mainstream media. And small wonder when you consider that Martha Radditz broke down in tears as she announced Trump had won the 2016 presidential election. Deploying Radditz as symbol for the 90 percent of MSM reporters and opinionators who predicted and yearned for a Hillary victory, is it any wonder that CNN and MSNBC and the NYT, as extensions of the Democratic Party won't report on Biden's obviously failed cognitive abilities, or Hunter Biden's lucrative relationships with the Ukraine and China, not to mention the lad's spectacular drug expeditions, or that the Democrats are entirely owned by the malign forces of Wall Street and corporations?

THE SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW featured Dr. Dre, Snoop, Mary J. Blige and Eminem, and I find myself agreeing with the nut cases like Wendy Rogers that “This Super Bowl is ripe for Satanism, evil wicked, Satanic things. This performance-related Satanic Panic has been brewing for a little while now in the U.S.” No, Wendy, this show would have been too much even for ol’ Beelzebub. 

THE DRY JANUARY, according to the California Department of Water Resources, didn’t hurt the state’s water storage levels. Thanks to a little snowmelt, water levels were up for all reservoirs from December to January. Lake Mendocino, which has a capacity of 122,400 acre feet, saw the biggest boost from 17% of storage capacity in December to 35% in January, but if it stays dry, the state is again in big trouble. (One acre foot is the equivalent of one acre of land covered in one foot of water.) 

HEADLINE of the week from the PD: “Where to get the best pizza in Sonoma County.”

THE CEO's report from Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting is now available in Spanish translation, and another giant step forward here in Lilliput for bilingual tedium. 

AMUSING EXCHANGE from Mendocino News Plus after they reposted my item about the new Spanish Language version of the CEO Report:

Lisa van Thillo: “I gave up reading after your comment about Mexicans. [ms notes: the comment was “Mendo Mexicans Rejoice!”] Do you know how many Spanish speaking countries there are in this world. And many people from these different countries live here? You continued by saying the report will be unreadable and uninformative. Honestly your posts are so vitriolic that they are unreadable. Sorry, I’m out.”

Mendocino News Plus: “Just to be clear, the comments are from Mark Scaramella of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Yes, many people speak Spanish and need to interact with County Public Health, Social Services, Mental Health, Child Support, Planning & Building and so on. But of all the County documents included with the very lengthy agenda, only the CEO report is being translated into Spanish. Priorities?”

Lisa van Thillo: “My issue was with the comment about Mendo Mexicans Rejoice. I don’t know why one was translated or specifically this one. Personally, I believe in being inclusive and reaching more people. I would hope this is the first of many that are translated. And yes, I’m a Spanish speaker.”

Mark Scaramella: “Muchas Gracias por el reacción. BTW, did you read the Spanish version of the CEO Report having ignored it for all these years because it was in English? And if so, please tell us what you liked about El Informe.”

Lisa van Thillo: “But you discouraged me from reading it by saying it was unreadable and uninformative. So, nope- not in English or Spanish.”

Mark Scaramella: “But if my remarks are so vitriolic, wouldn’t you assume that I’m wrong and check it out for yourself? In Spanish?”

YAHOO NEWS REPORTS that the Department of Homeland Security is ready for an anti-vaccine mandate convoy of truckers to cause chaos across the Unites States. Yahoo News reports DHS has warned law-enforcement and public-safety officials to prepare for a copycat version of the protests that have brought Canada’s capitol city of Ottawa to a virtual standstill in recent weeks. “The convoy will potentially begin in California as early as mid-February and arrive in Washington, D.C., as late as mid-March. The document adds that “the convoy could severely disrupt transportation, federal government, and law enforcement operations through gridlock and potential counterprotests.” 

JOAN VIVALDO updates us on the ongoing stalling tactics of Black Bart Trail burglar, Doug Stone: 


Doug Stone Preliminary Examination of Monday, Feb. 7, 2022

The Victims' Advocate Unit called me Friday, Feb. 4, 2022 to tell me that on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, the court approved Mr. Stone's request to fire his attorney, John Runfola, and hire a new one. Accordingly, the Preliminary Examination is now set for June 10 and 11, 2022. Those dates are to be confirmed on May 6, 2022. 

Deputy DA Ms. Larsen opined almost a year ago that Ms. Stone would employ this tactic to further delay his trial. Last I heard, Mr. Stone planned to plead not guilty because of PTSD brought on by the trauma of seeing burned bodies during his role as first responder firefighter, and exacerbated by substance abuse in an attempt to alleviate the PTSD. Since his unlawful activities, Mr. Stone has completed substance abuse counseling and PTSD treatment. He is living near his mother in Arizona.

It has been almost two years since Mr. Stone's crimes. In my opinion, only the degree of guilt needs to be determined. He was caught fleeing my home with burglar tools, matched the description I gave the police, had goods from his many burglaries in his home (as well as an enormous cache of weapons) and, after he was released from custody because of Covid rules, threatened to kill his best friend with a large kitchen knife.

Mr. Stone seems to have ample funds for his defense. Lady Justice may be blindfolded, but she can feel bills crossing her palm. 

THE VALUE of the North Coast’s 2021 grape harvest was up to $1.4 billion, a 48% increase from the smoke-tainted 2020 harvest but still off from record levels reached a few years ago, according to federal agriculture data released last week. Grape growers in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake and Marin counties had an almost 17% increase in yield at nearly 400,000 tons, according to a preliminary California harvest report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture..

The 2021 harvest was still below the 10-year average of 476,679 tons, reflecting a lighter crop two years in a row.

The average price paid for a ton of grapes in the region increased from $2,771 to $3,501. The price jump was largely driven by fruit from Napa County that reached a record high of $6,091 per ton.

THAT PD HEADLINE a couple of weeks ago can only be exorcized by sharing it with you: "Mountain lion spotted near Hwy. 101 in Mendocino County."

MARIN GETS PRANKED: A Texas-based comedian has forced Marin County’s supervisors to wrestle with the question of what is allowable public comment.

The issue came up after supervisors received a unique complaint during the public comment portion of a meeting earlier this month.

Appearing via teleconference at the board’s Feb. 1 meeting, a man named Alexander Stein said he wanted to file a formal complaint against a county sewage maintenance worker who began an affair with his wife after being dispatched to their fix pipes. Stein said they had run off together, leaving him to care for his three children.

“I’m at the vaccine clinic every day,” said Stein, dressed in blue hospital-style scrubs, becoming increasingly agitated. “I’m injecting people every day and you have a county employee that is in my house doing stuff to my wife.”

“Every day I miss her. I can still smell the vodka and cigarettes on her breath when she kissed me goodbye,” he said. “Marin County, I hold you guys directly responsible for what happened to my wife and my family.”

KIRK VODOPALS: “The county has been funneling all the weed taxes to staff up on weed permitters and planners with the assumption that weed taxes will be able to maintain these levels of staffing. But this is probably the peak of taxes from weed. Then, as the bloated weed processing staff gets rolling, the taxes will drop as everyone shuffles back into the black market and all the promises and hopes of weed taxes paying for roads and mental health and infrastructure goes up in smoke.”

EMPIRE WITHOUT THE EMPIRE. Kristen Nevedal is capo di tutti of Mendocino County's “Cannabis Program,” an odd position given that the pot market has collapsed. Although a few naive pot farmers have tried to go fully legal, hence Ms. Nevedal's burgeoning staff, the whole show is grant-funded. And what happens when the grant cash runs out? A dozen or so jobless pot bureaucrats unless they can catch on as regular, protected county employees.

WHAT WE HAVE is a typical Mendo farce, an office of freshly hired people hired by their pal processing a trickle of applications to do a business that no longer exists in Mendocino County. It may come back, but for now it's over. And, Mendo being Mendo, the county's expanded pot program was magically breathed into life via the consent calendar, meaning it was created with no questions asked, and could become a major county liability when the grant money is exhausted because all the pot paperwork processers are full-time public employees. Ms. N has already received a big pay boost that puts her well over a hundred grand a year in a county where the annual average income is about $30k a year, if that. Her raise was of course granted via the consent calendar. 

“Adoption of Resolution Amending Position Allocation Table as Follows: Cannabis Program Budget Unit 2810, Add 1.0 FTE Cannabis Program Manager; 1.0 FTE Senior Planner; 6.0 FTE Planner II; 1.0 FTE Cartographer Planner; 1.0 FTE Department Analyst II; 1.0 FTE Office Services Supervisor; 1.0 FTE Administrative Assistant; 1.0 FTE Staff Assistant III.”

TRANSLATION: The Mendocino Cannabis Department has added a Program manager, a senior planner, six journeyman planners, a mapping specialist, an analyst, an office supervisor and two admin assistants — a total of 13 mostly high paid people. 

THE COMPLAINTS about Ms. Nevedal are many, beginning with an allegation that her husband is a large-scale grower, which would seem to be a conflict of interest even by Mendo's infinitely elastic ethical standards. '

COMPLAINTS about the program overseeing non-existent businesses range from portal rules are suddenly changed for no explained reasons, that applications are arbitrarily ruled incomplete, that growers are bounced for trivial reasons like misspellings. 

THE POT business being conducive to paranoia because it's still illegal at the federal level, local arrests are still frequent enough to keep the remaining growers alert that they could be busted at any time on any pretext. (Pot arrests can be like the old baseball joke when an exasperated umpire suddenly yells, “I'll show you the rule when the ink's dry!”) Some growers suspect that the Nevedals are weeding out competitors to keep their own pot farming viable.

THE MENDOCINO PRODUCERS GUILD is believed to be poised to do a major push-back against Ms. Nevedal's management via a class action suit.

ANOTHER SIGN OF THE COLLAPSING POT MARKET: More and more heavy and medium-sized equipment is being repo’d for non-payment and re-sold at used/discount prices, including tractors, dozers, water tenders, ATVs, dump trucks, etc. as more and more pot growers abandon their grows.

THE TEMPERATURE IN SOCAL on Thursday last week was 90 degrees, before Valentine’s Day. The ocean is now permanently boned, producing massive heat bubbles annually, as opposed to as transient events. We are about to discover how unpleasant life on earth can be. And the folks who made it this way are spending billions to keep it this way. You and I probably won't see the worst of this, but if there are any grandkids, I experience a swell of pity for what they're going to endure, or worse fail to endure. Trees and landfills are just window dressing. States burning to the ground, constant ping-ponging between drought and flood, tropical diseases moving into the temperate regions as the mercury rises, the ugly predictions by our best and brightest beggar the imagination of even the most resigned and cynical. So housewives and social media talking heads go after the things they can actually do something about in the hope of ignoring the scary stuff they seem impotent in addressing. I guess that's human nature. — Marie Tobias 

MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE EXCUSE, popularized in New York Magazine, was that Clinton’s campaign was “too smart to win,” because the “iron self-confidence” of key aides in their prognostication models made them “largely impervious to feedback” about “danger signs” emanating from key states. Most of us would define this not as smartness but its opposite, but this was the kind of thing that prestige media ate up at the time. (Matt Taibbi)

IF THE DEMOCRATS had an issue other than Trump, they might be doing better in the national esteem. Thousands of media hours were devoted to Trump's alleged collusion with Russia which, as anybody blessed with the powers of minimal skepticism knew, was non-existent. 

OVER THE WEEKEND Trump accused Hillary Clinton's election campaign of “treason” because Special Counsel John Durham has confirmed that Team Clinton had tried to spy on his White House servers to find ties to Russia to smear him with, as if Trump's own daily behavior wasn't egregious enough. 

TEAM CLINTON'S election campaign paid money to a tech firm to “infiltrate” servers that were at Trump Tower, and later the White House. According to a filing from Special Counsel John Durham the aim was to try and smear Trump by linking him to Russia, which had been accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. None of it was true, and Trump emerges with another big boost from the Democrats. 

I'M SURE I'm not the only registered Democrat bombarded daily with nauseating messages asking me for money: 

“I'll be straight with you: 2022 isn’t going to be a walk in the park. If we lose just five seats in the House or one seat in the Senate, everything we’ve fought so hard for could be in jeopardy. A strong DNC is critical to building the nationwide party infrastructure we need to elect more Democrats and keep making meaningful progress for the American people. So, I have to ask: Will you renew your DNC membership with a gift of $10 today? When you pitch in, you’ll also reserve your very own Official 2022 DNC Membership Card to show just how committed you are to electing Democrats nationwide.”

AND THEN they ask me for ten bucks. Me, a member of the DNC? What an insult, and what sentient adult could possibly want a membership card? 

THIS ONE ARRIVED under the hed, “Will you be my Valentine?”

“Bruce, roses are red, violets are blue, we need your support in 2022. To show our appreciation this Valentine’s Day, we’re offering folks a free sticker. Because you’re a dedicated Democrat, I wanted you to be the first to get access to yours.”

SAN QUENTIN'S DEATH ROW - which once housed some of America's most infamous monsters, including Charles Manson - is being closed and, prison officials have announced in language consistent with the prevailing rhetorical euphemism, turned into a “positive, healing environment.” A lot of these boys will nevertheless remain isolated from the general prison population because they'd soon be killed if they were free to mingle with the other, less bad boys. An infamous chomo like Richard Allen Davis, who raped and murdered the 12-year-old Polly Klaas wouldn't last long out in the yard. 

UNSURPRISINGLY, there's a Mendo angle in the shocking murder of Polly Klaas. Davis, a Native American with a connection to the Coyote Valley reservation where he had been staying when the CHP arrested him for drunk driving near the rez just north of Ukiah. Davis was already on parole, and should have been held in the Mendocino County Jail from where he would have been shipped to San Quentin for parole violation. But he wasn't held because Mendo wasn't aware of his parole status, and a few days later he kidnapped Polly Klaas and murdered her.

MIKE WILLIAMS WRITES: “Regarding the Super Bowl halftime show, compared to the 1994 show featuring country music headliners vs this year's show featuring several rappers. Seventy percent of NFL players are black, only one black head coach, zero black team owners.”

I SERIOUSLY DOUBT that anywhere near a majority of black people approve of either rap “music” or Snoop Dog. Ditto for NFL players. And us pale faces get Justin Beiber? The assumption seems to be that football fans are morons. I think it's insulting that the NFL assumes that this kind of alleged entertainment is what fans want. I don't know anyone who doesn't turn the half-time show off, or at least mutes it.

JAY WILLIAMSON WRITES: “As you approach your death, as one dying day slides into the next, as one brain cell after another becomes incorporated into amyloid, you rage against the presumed meaningless inevitable by adopting the latest shiny objects of cleansing and restorative ultravi fantasy, Feldmarschal Malm’s Army of Ecowarriors, who alone at this late date leap into the ranks of last ditch planet savers, who, fearlessly purified by baptisms of incontrovertible righteousness, will sacrifice themselves upon the altar of salvation through violence to save us all from the satanic killers of Life! It all must be true, because “smart” people think so. “Operation Planet Save,” your ass. I thought you had more sense than this, Mein Redaktor. When you sober up, write a column about what will actually happen when the demented eco-heroes start smashing stuff up. Remember what Ken Kesey said to Tim Leary after the latter embraced political violence (“Dynamite is the White Light of the Void.”): “You’re just another nut with a gun.”

YEAH, coulda phrased it better, but I was only passing along notice of Malm's opinions about what's next in the environmental movement, that being the inevitability of “direct action” of the felonious type. If one assumes the earth is being murdered by capitalism, as I do, it's logical to stop both, wouldn't you agree, Mr. Williamson?


[1] Airbnb is the biggest tax scam that has ever been! These people who (fake) the rental reviews, and offer up perks and super low rent that doesn’t even cover the cost of doing business, and the haha the rental is place is never available because it’s a tax write off, as in All the cleaning bedding food alcohol utilities taxes insurance etc. etc. etc. but in reality those are the property owners own food bills utility bills blah blah blah blah blah and nobody checks up and nobody cares, and some of these people rent the place out month to month and are on Airbnb listing with no intentions of ever renting it out on Airbnb.

[2] While I sympathize with the truckers, I have to wonder if staying home and refusing to drive might have been a better strategy than blocking a border crossing and laying siege to Ottawa. Camped out in the cold while Jussie plays hide and seek in his pajamas. If the stand-off drags out and people are inconvenienced, public opinion could turn against the truckers as the obvious source of the impasse – they see them all day every day on TV. And where is the little boy who looks after the sheep?

[3] I would like to see the Death Penalty repealed and those on Death Row having their sentences changed to life without parole. There are so many flaws inherent to the DP that it’s structurally unfair to the poor and minorities. Then there’s the cost. Here in California, it costs an average of $45,000 a year to house an inmate for life, whereas it costs over $85,000 to house an inmate on Death Row. Then there’s the litigation. On average, it takes an average of 24 days to prepare an LWOP case for trial, whereas a DP case takes over 145 days from pretrial motions to sentencing. The costs of a DP trial also exceeds an LWOP trial by almost $400,000. Factor in appeals and that figure can easily double. Because the majority of DP cases are handled by public defenders, these costs are paid by the taxpayers.

Then there’s the final issue with the DP: what if the convicted is innocent? Since 1973, 156 people who were sentenced to death were later found to be innocent. That’s 1 out of every 10 individuals given the DP since 1973 and those are only the ones who could be exonerated. Texas, for instance, forbids the introduction of new evidence at appeal and this law was responsible for the wrongful execution of Todd Willingham who was convicted of the arson deaths of his three kids based on junk science. Once an innocent person is executed, there’s no taking it back and no matter how you slice it, that’s just wrong.

[4] I’m just back from Walgreen’s. My town just dropped mask mandates for public spaces yesterday. Coincidentally Walgreen’s is giving out Biden N95 masks starting today. A day late and a dollar short. They have thousands. Nobody wants them. The girl tells me to take as many as I want. She is repackaging them in bags of three masks each and is already sick of it. Before the Covid I used N95’s for tasks that required a good mask. Uncomfortable as hell. They were more than a buck apiece at the H Depot. So I grabbed about 25 and she told me to take more. These are going to all end up in the landfill. Billions of dollars wasted. Thanks Joe! Where’s my Crack Pipe is what I want to know.

[5] Just to show you how things have changed…my daughter was a high school sophomore in 1994 and her cheerleading squad performed in the Super Bowl halftime show. The stars were the Judds, Travis Tritt and Clint Black. For all of you who aren’t “in the know” these were country music celebrities not rappers. I was born and raised in Atlanta and you cannot imagine in your wildest dreams the changes that progress has brought. NOT!

[6] The reason that we are having all these issues with our hospitals is staffing crisis. People want to get paid more, they follow the money. The rural hospitals and counties do not pay enough to hold staff. The root of our major crisis. Traveling out of County for well-paying employment or quality healthcare that’s been going on forever. There are no doctors, look at how many empty former doctor’s offices and complexes there are in Mendocino County. Even the County employees are forced to go to Sonoma for health care because no one takes their County Insurance, or practices are full, no more new patients being accepted. Way more to it than they care to admit.


(a) It sounds like you have more fixed costs than hidden costs. Let’s run through this. When I used to develop and manage large vineyard projects throughout the 90’s we broke everything down in acres. From direct cost of goods to gross revenue per acre. I imagine you could apply the same methods to growing pot. I would always use conservative production projections based on historical average data and would always account for 10% of potential earnings for hidden costs. This would not only apply to yield but also profit as that’s a variable in the commodity market too. You need to dial your operation in so you have the least amount of unexpected expenses as possible. Just like the grape industry, it all comes down to quality of product and yield at the end of the year. The larger the yield the lower the cost of goods generally. It’s really hard for me to believe that it costs over $400 to produce a pound of pot. You might need to pay someone like myself to do an analysis of your operations to see where you can cut the fat. Every varietal of grape yields a different purchase price per ton. So, for a typical Sonoma County red wine grape variety, if you figure $2,200 a ton and 5 tons to the acre you should get about $11,000 an acre in revenue. Take away our average of $5,000 in costs + $150 per acre for harvest and you get $5,850 per acre in net income.

* * *

(b) You’re literally comparing apples to oranges. It’s not that simple. Wine grapes don’t require such involved cultivation methods. Additionally other factors such as harvesting curing and manicuring are more complicated with Cannabis and that increases costs of labor. To address the elephant in the room, the tax scheme is much higher with cannabis. How much is the tax per square foot of vineyard growing space again? Are grapes taxed by the pound at harvest? I know the wine is taxed after it is made but I feel your comparison is a bit unequal.

* * *

(c) Your tax examples for pot are exactly similar to the process of producing wine. Minus the per square foot tax you describe from your locality. Which seems to be minimal as a set cost. $1 a square foot? So you have 10,000 square feet with a local tax of $10,000? Seems like 10,000 square feet should produce a minimum of 1,000 pounds of cannabis annually. The remaining excise taxes you describe appear to be the distributors’ and retailers’ responsibility. This should not be a consideration in your calculations. I still have not heard a valid argument as to why it would cost anyone $400 to grow 1 pound of pot. Based on my production hypothetical above, your local excise tax accounts for $10 per pound. Please give me a detailed breakdown of the remaining $390 required to grow a pound of pot.

* * *

MARK SCARAMELLA ADDS: None of the above assessments address the cost of land or water, nor do they deal with the lost opportunity costs associated with permit processing delays associated only with pot. Pot growers I know say that, not counting land and water, to grow primo bud it costs several hundred dollars per plant (which might produce several pounds depending on strain and climate) for starts, soil, amendments, tools and grow frames — plus labor (watering and harvesting, mainly) and several hundred more per pound for trimming, give or take. There’s also a larger loss factor with many outdoor cannabis grows from fungus and mites and animals and so forth than there is with grapes. And there’s financing cost which applies to any borrowing which can easily double the cost for interest. 

In my old manufacturing engineering days we used to use a 3:1 (price:cost) rule of thumb for cost estimating at each level of sale. That is: At the manufacturing level you had to sell your product at three times the cost of materials (excluding labor) to make a decent return on investment. At the retail level you had to sell your product at three times the wholesale price you paid to make a decent return. So, if a wholesaler is selling trimmed bud for $500 per pound, then that means he has to keep his materials costs (not counting labor) below about $165 per pound. But you can’t cut materials costs just because your selling price goes down. Hence the predictable current squeeze. 

Also note that legal pot is much more regulated than grapes and costs much more to get licensed. (There are no licensing requirements for vineyards.) It’s much easier to lose your shirt with legal cannabis, than with grapes. (And grapes are risky to begin with — the old saw that the way to make a million dollars in the wine industry is to start with ten million still applies to some degree; more to pot) The very high black market prices illegal growers used to get, made these grower-wholesale-retail margin considerations moot, but that market has collapsed and Mendo Grown is fast becoming Mendo Groan.

* * *

KIRK VODOPALS: Re: grapes and weed… One of the biggest differences in cultivation of those two crops is that grapes are a perennial that are planted directly into terra firma. Weed is annual that, until lately, fetched a high enough price to justify hauling in soil and amendments at very high prices. The whole weed terroir thing is a joke if you plant it in imported dirt and into pots. Probably 1% of outdoor weed growers actually operate like agriculturalists and plant directly into native soil. The rest are just playing the cash crop game, which seems to be collapsing. But insiders like LegalLettuce on will say that the black market is thriving if you wanna do a lot of driving yourself. Hey honey, let’s take the kids on a road trip to Utah with 500 pounds in the car. Great idea. Others say that indoor is booming again. Anyone who claims the weed is an agricultural endeavor is high as a kite. Maybe the next wave of the weed economy will remind growers what it really means to be a farmer. But I doubt it. Most will bail when they see how much work it is.


  1. Douglas Coulter February 16, 2022

    The bright side of climate change?
    When all the icebergs are gone we can safely launch Titanic 2
    We don’t need stinking lifeboats

  2. John Sakowicz February 16, 2022

    To the Editor:

    A few factoids about Mendocino County Cannabis Czar, Kristin Nevedal:

    ONE. Kristin Nevedal is a direct report to the Board of Supervisors, a unique arrangement considering all other department heads report to the CEO, except for elected department heads, like the Sheriff, County Treasurer, or District Attorney.

    TWO. The County of Mendocino’s website stated the position of Cannabis Program Manager was opened and closed within 19 hours. I did not see it posted for two weeks.

    See the following:
    Cannabis Program Manager
    Ukiah, CA
    Full-time Permanent – $83,699.20 – $101,732.80 Annually
    Category: Administration / Management / Professional / Miscellaneous / Customer Service / Project Management
    Department: Cannabis Program
    Bilingual English/Spanish encouraged to apply.
    The current vacancy is in Planning & Building Services – Cannabis Program, Ukiah. This position is a at-will; exempt from Civil Service. This position reports to the Board of Supervisors and works closely Cannabis Program Ad Hoc Committee and the Planning and Building Department. Under administrative direction, implements the goals, strategies, policies and programmatic framework for the issuing of permits/licenses through the Mendocino County Cannabis Program. This position shall take the necessary steps to manage…
    Posted 2 weeks ago | Closes in 19 hours

    Why didn’t the County of Mendocino and the Board of Supervisors interview all candidates before hiring Ms. Nevedal?

    THREE. The Board of Supervisors did not publicly require Ms. Nevedal to resign her board seats with the “California Cannabis Industry Association” (CCIA), the “International Cannabis Farmers Association” (ICFA) and the new trade association in Mendocino, the “Cannabis Business Association of Mendocino County” (CBAMC) of which ICFA and CCIA are “organizational partners”?

    2021 Policy Priorities for the New CBAMC include:
    1) Mendocino County Board of Supervisors’ adoption of a Phase 3 cannabis ordinance which includes expanded cultivation up to 10% of parcel size in agriculture-appropriate zones by Spring 2021.

    2) Procural of Annual Licenses from the State of California for Mendocino County cultivators.

    So, it looks like CCIA and CBAMC have their new inside woman direct with and paid for by the Mendocino government. Hello Agribusiness! Goodbye legacy farmers! Goodbye small independent family farmers!

    FOUR. Ms. Nevedal has no apparent educational qualifications nor professional licenses. She has held chairs and committee seats and was apparently appointed by a governor to something…so what! She was a great networker. She was a great schmoozer. That doesn’t make her qualified.

    By comparison the County Ag Commissioner is required, by law, to be professionally credentialed.

    FIVE. Ms. Nevedal is not a “local and long-time cannabis professional”. She moved here a few years ago from South Carolina. You would think the Board of Supervisors would have hired someone that has actually been in our industry for a long time and knows our problems with Mendocino County’s insane, unworkable regs first-hand.

    John Sakowicz, Ukiah

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