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Mendocino County Today: November 12, 2012

Scheurich & Jacobson

CRIME OF THE WEEK: ON OCTOBER 26, 2012, deputies responded to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital where they contacted Tonya Scheurich and Andrew Jacobsen. Both reported that they had been kidnapped, held against their will and assaulted at 22190 Rivers End Road. Scheurich and Jacobsen told deputies that they had been at that location when they were assaulted by James Lawson and/or Rachelle Sutherland with an unknown weapon(s). After being assaulted they were taken inside the residence at that location, restrained and interrogated for numerous hours. During that interrogation, both were either tormented, terrorized and/or threatened with death. At one point Scheurich and Jacobsen were freed from their restraints and were able to flee the location. Both fled to safety and law enforcement was notified. Both Scheurich and Jacobsen had visible injuries consistent with an injury caused by a blunt object. Deputies later proceeded to the scene and recovered a weapon believed to be used during the assault. At about 2100 hours, deputies located and arrested Sutherland at 29700 Highway 20. Sutherland was ultimately transported to and lodged at the Mendocino County Jail where she was booked on the listed charges. On 10/27/2012 at about 2050 hours, deputies located and arrested Lawson at 21600 Bald Hill Road. Lawson was ultimately transported to and lodged at the Mendocino County Jail where he was booked on the listed charges. Both Lawson’s and Sutherland’s bail was set at $100,000. — Mendocino Sheriff’s Press Release

Lawson & Sutherland

MR. LAWSON, one of the alleged perps, responds with his version of the hijinks described by the Sheriff's press release: “I was surprised to see that the AVA didn't jump right into writing untrue things about the alleged FB kidnapping. Thank you, because the truth will come out that no kidnapping occurred. They (Scheurich and Jacobsen) were on private property and were robbing the house. They were caught taking things from Kathryn Cummings' house, and other things from her mother from where her mother's ashes were stored. No one was tortured or threatened, but instead offered food, cleaning supplies and we all did drugs together. After the incident they stole my dog. The MCSO obviously don't care about the truth or justice. Now I feel myself as a victim. Thanks MCSO. Please come interview me. — James Lawson.”

Cummings (2009)

DEAR MR. LAWSON: I happen to have known Kathryn's late mother, Aura, and I'm aware of the general pathology attached to the family back to the marriage of Aura to family patriarch, Jim Cummings, a murder victim himself as was his son James Jr. not long ago in Maine where he was living at the time. I think you can be confident that once the DA's office sorts out the events you describe it will all be busted down to a slurry of misdemeanors for all involved. I don't understand, however, that if you caught someone robbing Kathryn's house (where was she?), and you were offended by it, why did you all sit down together for a drug party? In fact, lots of people might be more sympathetic if you hadn't. Used drugs together, that is. You hang out with people like this and bad things happen, right? When you were a little kid didn't someone tell you about bad company?

WE ONLY RECENTLY RECEIVED the original Mendocino Superior Court Press Release concerning the proposed cutbacks at Ten Mile Court in Fort Bragg through the back door. According to the Press Release the Mendocino Court system will be cut next year by almost $770k, a 17.3% cut, which is on top of prior smaller cuts which were made in 2009. “Over the past three years, the Court was able to implement required cuts in programs and other areas without reducing actual courtroom and counter services,” says the unsigned press release, continuing, “With a budget of approximately $5,348,462, however, the Court is not able to absorb the latest reductions without a reduction of salary and related personnel expenses (which together currently cost $4,783,251, constituting approximately 89% of the entire court budget). Personnel layoffs may occur at both the Ukiah and Ten Mile Court locations.” They then proceed to announce that Ten Mile Court will be have to be reduced to three days a week, fewer hours each day, with the elimination of felony and juvenile matters there as well as jury trials and “in-custody matters.”

THE NEW PART of the announcement is that the cutbacks are apparently not quite a done deal. “Public comments regarding the changes are welcome and may be submitted by mail to: TENMILEREDUCTIONS@MENDOCINO.COURTS.CA.GOV or by regular mail to the attention of: Court Administration, 100 N. State St., Ukiah, CA 95482 no later than 5pm, Dec. 30. The Court will conduct a public meeting on Thursday, Nov. 29, beginning at 5:30pm, at its Ten Mile Branch, 700 S. Franklin St., Fort Bragg, to discuss the local court budget and the reduction in court services.”

THAT MEETING is already shaping up to be tense. Lots of people on the Coast think there are much better ways to save money besides major cutbacks at Ten Mile Court. In addition, now that Proposition 30 has passed, the Court’s budget cuts may be revised by the State.

NOT MUCH of interest has been happening at the Board of Supervisors lately. Mundane matters with little broad countywide interest, routine proclamations, rubberstampings of the usual expenditures, etc. However, on October 23 the Board accidentally got into an interesting discussion of demolition permits. The question was should the County just go along with the state building code or should they add a requirement for a demolition permit? From the agenda packet: “The construction & demolition waste diversion requirements in the California Green Building Code for a Construction Waste Management Plan and specified diversion of waste shall be applicable to all construction and demolition permits issued by the County.” In other words a permit would be required for demolition of a buildling. “The permit will only be issued if the applicant has a recycling plan for the demolition.” Then the applicant would be required to submit a statement saying they did what they planned after the demolition was complete. “In 2010, the State Building Standards Commission adopted the California Green Building Standards Code, which includes a requirement on all construction projects of any size to submit a ‘Waste Management Plan’ and achieve 50% [waste] diversion. The local permitting agency is authorized to take whatever steps necessary to enforce. The Green Building Code constitutes a partial state ‘overlay’ or partial ‘preemption’ of local C&D Recycling Ordinances. It does not, however, apply to demolition projects or smaller remodel construction.” Enforcement is minimal, basically, unpermitted demolishers, if caught and if cited, could have some kind of lien on the property if some vague demolition standard is not met.

WHEN IT CAME TIME for the vote on demolition permits, this exchange took place:

Board Chair John McCowen: “I don't see how an arm of the state can criticize us for adopting an ordinance that is more stringent than what the state requires, as this is, since it applies to all demolition permits whereas the state applies to none.”

Supervisor John Pinches: “I think we are missing the whole point on this because I know up in my country there is a tremendous amount of unpermitted buildings. So if they are not going to get a permit to build their house, they are sure as hell not going to get a permit to tear down their woodshed. And that's just the way it is out there. Until you address the enforcement side of any law — I mean, people come up here and give this board hell, asking why aren't you enforcing your marijuana 25-plant limit? They have a good point. No matter which side of the fence you fall on on marijuana — why have these ordinances and laws if we have not only no money to enforce them, but no intent to enforce them. So it really makes the person who wants to comply — he gets penalized and the guy who just goes on and does whatever the hell he wants is fine. The law has no impact on him. I would like to support this because I think —”

Supervisor Kendall Smith, patronizingly: “You can!”

Pinches: “It's probably — I don't know. I can…”

Supervisor Dan Hamburg, patronizingly: “Go for it, John.”

Pinches: “I'm — you know what? I'm just not for putting another law on the books that we have no way, no money to enforce, no intent — actually there is no intent to enforce this. There is no intent to enforce it!”

McCowen: “Supervisor, that's not true.”

Pinches: “It’s just that I do not want to be called a lawmaker.”

McCowen: “Well then you are in the wrong position, probably, because we do it all the time.”

Pinches: “I think about that every morning.”

McCowen: “A no vote on the action before us will be a vote to keep in place the deposit requirement of $.35 per square foot and —”

Pinches: “Everybody knows that it's my intent to do away with the law completely. I already stated that. So don't try to put me in a corner.”

McCowen: “Thank you, Supervisor. But the issue of enforcement is a separate issue from what the law says.”

Pinches: “I don't think so.”

UPSHOT: It seems like Pinches is right, there is no intention to enforce the permit requirement. But his position would translate into zero dollars of demolition permit money. And since the County is broke and the Board wants the money, they want whatever permit fees they can get — so enforcement becomes irrelevant, as it obviously is. If there was real enforcement, 1. Fewer people would demolish old dangerous buildings, 2. People would have to go to extra trouble to ignore the rules, rather than as with this permit requirement which they can ignore with impunity.

THE BOARD VOTED 3-2 to require the demolition permits, Supervisors Pinches and Carre Brown dissenting. (Brown said she was against going any further than state requirements.)

HEARTS AND MINDS (Mark Danner): “The blanket of near silence cast over the Middle East ‘peace process’ extends south and east, to the United States' most active current ‘shooting war’ — the undeclared and seemingly permanent covert war being fought mostly with unmanned drones in South Asia and, increasingly, the Horn of Africa. Every day, 24 hours a day, American airmen serving their shifts at bases in Nevada, upstate New York, and elsewhere in the United States, are ‘piloting’ lethal flying robots, gazing at computer screens through which they track from above the movements of men on the other side of the world. Sometimes the men they shadow in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia are known militant suspects (targets of so-called ‘personality strikes’), sometimes they are ‘military-aged’ men behaving in ways deemed to fit with known terrorist ‘profiles’ (so-called ‘signature strikes’). In either case the land-borne pilots, whether working for the Central Intelligence Agency or the United States military, spend their hours and days observing them — and often pulling the trigger that launches the missile that streaks down and kills them. These pilots working quietly on US bases have so far killed several thousand people — credible estimates range as high as 3,500 — and perhaps as many as one in four have been noncombatants. At least four executed in this manner have been American citizens. This quiet war, President Obama's ‘focused’ version of George W. Bush's Global War on Terror, shows no sign of coming to an end. No doubt some of those killed pose an imminent threat to American citizens — though the definition of what exactly that means, what criteria must be satisfied for our government to order someone's death, remain classified and unmentioned. But there is much evidence to suggest that many, at least by any reasonable definition of ‘threat,’ do not — indeed, that in as many as 94% of the cases the targets are “mere foot soldiers” about whom, according to terrorism expert Peter Bergen, “it's hard to make the case that they threaten the United States in some way.” What is not in dispute is that these killings of thousands of Muslims, conducted by remote control by a distant superpower, have caused enormous resentment and hatred of the United States in Pakistan and throughout the Islamic world, a consequence that helps revivify and perpetuate the political sentiments at the root of the war on terror.

LOWBROW GOES HIGHBROW. I climbed aboard the 2 Clement and headed for SF MOMA to make an intellectual day of it, knowing I'd find a whole building of provocations beginning with the building itself with all its wasted space and its dependably overwarm, recirculated air. Chinese Senior Citizens occupied all the Senior seats on the bus where, at Presidio and California, there was a stare down between a standing Russian woman and a seated Chinese woman, both of them clearly seniors. The Russian woman seemed to assume that the Chinese woman was not a Senior and should, therefore, give up her seat to the Russian. The Russian was dumpy, aggrieved-looking and muttering martyred Slavic exhalations, all the while staring at the Chinese woman who was so short her feet didn't reach the floor. But, as Muni riders will tell you, elderly Chinese women can be absolute boulders of intransigence. They are also absolute geniuses at Not Seeing You. A knife fight in the aisles would be none of their business. Apologies for these stereotypes and the implicit sexism, but I'll bet SF readers will agree with me that that both live up to the generalization. Sure, the Russians have much to be aggrieved about given their experiences in their mother country, and Chinese, whose loyalties and affections begin and end with their own families, have much Not To See in this unhinged, anything goes country. The bus rumbled east, the Russian woman sighed and grumbled and stared curses at the Chinese woman, until at Post and VanNess the Chinese woman, suddenly brandishing a California ID card, stood up and said to the Russian. “You sit. I stand, but I older than you.” I got off at Union Square where the giant plastic Christmas tree was up and being festooned with buoy-size ornaments. I was headed for MOMA at 3rd and Mission. Counting the mendicants as I went, I'd seen eleven in the time I walked to MOMA, maybe six blocks from Union Square. Opposite the entrance a black guy, age maybe 50, was selling a crumpled- beyond-readability Street Sheet. I gave him a dollar, not bothering to ask for my purchase. “That five you got looks pretty good,” he said, hanging on to the paper that in theory he'd just sold to me. He wasn't getting the five he'd glimpsed, but he'd earned my admiration, a dollar's worth, for immediately asking for five more. Inside the most annoying museum I've ever visited, a teacher was saying to a group of inattentive high school students, “Architecturally, this building is very cool…” Which it is not. It's a big atrium with a pile of stuffy rooms stacked on its east side.

Frequency & Volume Sample

Up the stairs you're confronted with a Disney like cartoon panel of laughing mushrooms, and on to Rafael Lozano-Hemer — something like that, with the hyphenated name putting me on full pretension alert. Mr. Hyphen's exhibit was called, “Frequency and volume.” No thanks. I know the two frequencies I frequent and I can turn a volume knob with the best of them. Next was an exhibit by a teacher at Mills College described as “fiercely independent.” The worse the art at the MOMA the fiercer the artist. These abstracts looked like the back ward project of a heavily medicated depressive, shades of gray slapped up on the canvas. Richard Serra took up a whole room with a pile of metal splashed with concrete, and darned if this particular fraud wasn't called, Splash: Night Shift. Night or day it's a swindle MOMA probably paid a couple hundred grand for. Jaspar Johns was the big draw, and if you're thinking of going just to see him, don't bother. It's his worst stuff.

I was hoping his big American flag painting would be included, but no, there was one nice abstract and then things like a mounted tooth brush and a slice of bread glued to black cardboard.

Moscone Sculpture

Before Johns this month, the big MOMA draw was a photographer who changed her look 20 times and blew each photo up into big pictures. It costs $13 for a senior ticket to see this stuff. What redeems the MOMA is its permanent collection — the Klees, Riviera, Arneson's truly radical sculpture of George Moscone and, my favorite two paintings, Intermission by Hopper and the San Francisco painter Robert Bechtie's Potrero Hill. There's some good things but they just barely outnumber the fakes.

 

Intermission, Edward Hopper
Potrero Hill, Robert Bechtie

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Voters Harvest a Bumper Crop of New Marijuana Laws

by Kym Kemp (Courtesy, Lost Coast Outpost; lostcoastoutpost.com)

Like corn in Iowa or potatoes in Idaho, the price of certain key crops indicate the economic health of a region. For better or worse, the crop that fuels the financial engine of the Emerald Triangle is marijuana. Economists and bankers have estimated that Humboldt County alone produces from $400 million to over $2.5 billion worth of sticky green buds. This week, voters in two states, Washington and Colorado, approved two different models of legalization. What happens in those states could affect the price of cannabis in this area and the region’s financial future.

Dominic Corva, a political geographer from Sarah Lawrence College who is currently studying cannabis issues in Humboldt County but maintains a residence in Washington state, says legalization in these two states will have an “effect on the national conversation…just like we saw after California medical marijuana passed, we saw more states passing [equivalent laws].” Like with Prohibition, he says, states will pass legislation continuing to loosen cannabis laws on their own. The effect will “snowball.”

Most people agree that with easement of marijuana laws, wholesale prices will drop. For Humboldt and Mendocino counties which rely heavily on income from cannabis growers this could be disastrous.

Corva suggests that “increased production in Colorado and Washington may be problematic for California producers but probably not.” Nonetheless, “this could have the long term effect of expanded outdoor production — over-production. Outlook for wholesale cannabis prices is bad.” One of the reasons that marijuana prices here might drop, Corva says, is it is “Less risky to move marijuana from Boulder to NY than from Garberville out of California….This could drop prices.” However, he says, “There doesn’t seem much room for them to drop much more seriously.”

Emerald Growers Association Chairwoman, Kristin Nevedal, says that her group does not expect to see any negative fallout from the legalization success in those two states. “I don’t know if the black market is going to flood and drop prices,” she says though she doesn’t think it likely. But prices for medical marijuana, she believes, which are between $1400 and $2,500 for “depo” (marijuana brought to harvest early in the season by partially depriving it of sunlight) won’t be affected because Washington and Colorado can’t legally export their cannabis. Dispensaries in California can’t buy from growers in those two states and the marijuana produced there can not cross state lines legally.

Though, of course, the black market producers export cannabis across state lines already.

Nonetheless, Nevedal says that medical marijuana growers are “contract farmers” who won’t be affected in any case. “The price of production is what affects the price. The bottom can’t fall out because a farmer has to pay for production.” Besides, she says, much of California doesn’t have to worry about competition from Colorado or Washington because neither one of those two states has sungrown cannabis available in quantities. Sungrown cannabis is becoming more popular as consumers who buy organic, environmentally friendly foods look for similar qualities in the buds they purchase.

Corva offers a similar viewpoint. “The outdoor organic capital is still in your neck of the woods.”

In fact, according Nevedal, her group which represents the interests of medical marijuana growers in several Northern California counties hopes that the success in Washington and Colorado will help them with their goals in California. In the next couple of months, she believes, there will be “a little more political bravery” because of the changing laws in these two states.

Nevedal is “super optimistic at this point” about the future of medical cannabis in California. She says, “Close to 80% of the polled population supports medical marijuana. Close to 60% flat out want to legalize [marijuana without medical restrictions.]”

West Coast High Times Editor David Bienenstock says, “I think clearly that California led the way with medical marijuana.” And, he believes that “the citizens of California aren’t going to be satisfied until we make this very rational decision…. We will have two years to look at the progress of Washington and Colorado.” He even thinks that California might not wait two years. Bienenstock says, “California went heavily Democratic in this last election…” so the state may not have to wait for an election. Perhaps lawmakers, he says, will seize the opportunity to create legislation themselves.

Bienenstock hopes that “public officials in Humboldt County are preparing for a post legalization world.” This is both a “crisis and opportunity” for growers in the area. And he believes, “This is a change we have to make for so many reasons.”

Colorado and Washington weren’t the only states changing their marijuana laws. Massachusetts approved medical marijuana making it the 17th state to do so.

Not all cannabis laws were loosened though. Montana approved a law tightening restrictions on its medical law. Oregon’s proposal to legalize marijuana didn’t pass. And Arkansas’ medical marijuana proposal went down, too. And, of course, closer to home, Measure I in Arcata will impose a 45% tax on those with electricity bills higher than 600% of baseline usage. This could affect around 7% of homes in the city.

Nonetheless, state and city law changes only reflect a small amount of what is happening. There is still the federal government to contend with. Certainly this last year has seen a huge crackdown in California with the federal government shutting down over 600 dispensaries.

Nevedal though believes there will be no federal crackdown in those two states like there has been in California because the federal government “had every opportunity” to come out against the laws proposed and they didn’t. Nevedal speculates that the federal government has “heard the request” of the voters and will at least halt prosecution of medical marijuana. “We’ll see a freeze and review policy,” she believes, “especially towards medical policy.” This will, she believes, “support us getting a regulatory system in place [for medical marijuana.]”

Corva, however, says that among people he knows, “We expect a federal reaction that will prevent all or part of the law from going into effect…However, within Washington State it is hard to find juries willing to convict.”

It is true that in a sign that views at the top might be changing, US Attorney General Eric Holder who came out a month before California’s Prop. 19 promising to “vigorously enforce” marijuana laws, quietly ignored Colorado and Washington’s proposed laws before the election.

Nonetheless, immediately after this latest election, a spokesperson from the Department of Justice said, “The department’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. We are reviewing the ballot initiatives and have no additional comment at this time.” California’s experience this last year under an onslaught of federal forces may indicate that the government is unwilling to ignore challenges to its drug policy.

Ironically, the federal government’s crackdown may well be the best price support Humboldt County has. In the face of increasing production here and a dropping of legal barriers in other states, prices should have been dropping precipitously. Nonetheless, prices have remained seasonally stable even very slightly increased from last year at this time. The crackdown surely is a factor in prices failing to fall.

 

MEXICAN CARTELS Expected To Lose Billions — Mexican marijuana will lose around 25% of its share in the black market place because of the loosening of laws in Washington and Colorado, claims a study from Mexico. According to a rough translation of the work released on October 31 by the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness (IMCO,) “Depending on the federal response to the statewide legalization, the producers of the states that eliminated legal penalties for marijuana could provide much of the [product] consumed in the United States.” In other words, states with legal marijuana could end up exporting quite a bit to other states. The research discussed by IMCO was an attempt to quantify the economic effect of legalization if it passed in Washington, Colorado and Oregon on Mexican cartels but it also offers a possible way to look at the economic effects on marijuana produced in California.

First, the study postulates a fairly standard belief that the price of marijuana is inflated because growing an illegal product is risky. The authors further assume that because growers can’t grow in large amounts (relative to other crops,) they can’t take advantage of the economies of scale — mass production being cheaper than small scale growing. However, the authors say that legalization on a state by state basis while marijuana is still illegal on a federal level won’t change the inflation model completely. They state, “Producers, distributors and marketers would continue to face risks of arrest and jail, even if their activity is fully legal in terms of the state standard.” Nonetheless, the authors argue there will be some changes in the price.

According to the study, “…the legalization in any of these states would open potentially a price gap with states that maintained the ban, creating an incentive to export. Export volume would depend on the price differential between legalized marijuana and illegal marijuana.”

The authors go on to propose a mathematical formula that basically bases the price of pot on the distance it is from the place it is produced. They say that, in most cases, pot from areas where marijuana has been legalized will be able to get to markets across the United States cheaper than Mexican pot. Consequently, Mexican cartels will lose a large portion of the market. Basically the IMHO claimed in the study published before the election, according to this article in the Washington Post, that the cartels will lose “$1.425 billion if the initiative passed in Colorado and $1.372 billion if Washington voted to legalize. The organization also predicted that drug trafficking revenues would fall 20 to 30%, and the Sinaloa cartel, which would be the most affected, would lose up to 50%.”

If this study is correct, it seems reasonable to speculate that prices in Washington and Colorado will drop below what prices in California currently are, forcing California, which exports a large amount of marijuana on the black market, to drop its prices.

However, according to this fact sheet by the Washington State Liquor Control Board which is in charge of implementing the new law, prices may not drop as low as some California growers fear. According to the sheet, the “estimated producer price is $3 per gram and estimated processor price is $6 per gram” with a final average of around $12 per gram to the consumer. Assuming the black market runner buys the pot from the Washington producer/grower at the price of $3 per gram that works out to about $1362 per pound. This is a price lower than most California growers average ($1400-$2200) but only about $40 less per pound than the low end. The effect will surely be to drag prices down in the long run but may not cause a precipitous slide that some fear. If the quality and especially the reputation of California’s cannabis is higher than that of Washington and Colorado, of course that will mitigate some of the price drop.

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