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Death By Bureaucracy

Mendocino County’s marijuana industry was started by curious hippies, all with a tinge of the outlaw, and grew and flourished through the years despite the real possibility of arrest, imprisonment, ripoffs, crop failures and more. 

Mendo weed thrives as no other marijuana “brand” in the United States. It’s the benchmark, the best and most famous product of its kind. Comparing it to the finest champagnes from the most prestigious French vineyards is not unreasonable. 

Tales are told of growers without formal education but willing to work hard hours and face daunting risks enroute to becoming millionaires. 

They paid no taxes on profits from their crops, yet the flood of money generated by illegal pot propped up county and regional economies for many years. Growers drove expensive vehicles, vacationed in Hawaii and bought second homes anywhere they wanted. 

Times were good, if you didn’t get caught. 

But all along they (mostly) argued and lobbied for legalization. So did a sizable percentage of the rest of us if only for the amount of money marijuana would fetch when taxed. 

“Same as cigarettes and booze,” ran the standard phrase, and everyone would nod in agreement. Let the government take over, then stand back as the money rolled in and the county got rich. What could go wrong? 

Everything, as it turns out. Everything the bozos in charge of Mendocino County did was wrong, stupid, expensive and counterproductive. The most valuable commodity of its kind was gift-wrapped and handed over to county supervisors, who then bungled their prize recklessly, repeatedly, and maybe irretrievably. 

A story by Lester Black on a recent SFGate online news site reveals disturbing, hard-to-believe facts: 

1) Six years after marijuana was legalized, barely 1% of Mendocino County pot growers (12 out of 832 applicants) have been granted permits to cultivate marijuana. Humboldt County’s rate is 63%. 

2) The California Department of Cannabis Control says our approval rate is among the very lowest in the state, and the county’s marijuana industry “is on the brink of irreversible failure” due to negligence by county government. 

3) A local Cannabis Alliance of weed growers says Mendocino County is a “roadblock” rather than a partner in the legalization process. 

4) The director of our county Cannabis Department, Kristen Nevedal, offers the precise remedy we’d expect from a government bureaucrat. She’ll be hiring “at least 16 new employees,” then offered an unsolicited endorsement of herself and the fine job she’s doing by stating “I do not believe (my) department is mismanaged.” She says she has “an amazing and dedicated staff,” leaving us to wonder if she’d recognize a useless, incompetent staff. 

It’s hard to overstate what a colossal mess the county has made of things. 

They’ve taken the finest product in the land and made it unavailable to consumers. 

They’ve alienated our best marijuana cultivators, thrown them out of work, and those growers are now broke and moving to Humboldt County. 

They’ve cheated the taxpayers by spending millions and millions of dollars on highly paid administrators and their costly consultants and assistants without returning a nickel’s profit to the treasury. 

That’s what citizens have gotten from extremely well-compensated county administrators and department heads and from elected officials who confidently tell voters at election time they’ll work hard to solve problems, make the tough decisions and lead the way forward. 

Rather than creating revenue they’ve gone the opposite direction. They’ve saddled us with six years of costly, inept administrators thwarting the applicants they’re hired to help. 

They’ve piled idiotic, ever-changing regulations on top of demands variously interpreted by a revolving merry-go-round of workers and administrators in a bureaucratic mess that has, statistically, rewarded zero applicants. If they’d locked the doors and turned out the lights six years ago it would not have gone worse. 

What’s funny ha ha is that instead of doing conscientious work and performing their jobs well, our bumbling, incompetent, carefree county employees are the ones driving expensive vehicles, vacationing in Hawaii and, with their outlandish lifetime pensions, retiring wherever the hell they want. 


  1. John Sakowicz March 4, 2023

    To the Editor,

    Some truly sad facts about Mendocino County cannabis:

    Mendocino County’s most appalling bureaucratic statistic is that 832 applicants have been in the process of getting a cannabis cultivation license. Only 12 licenses have been approved by county bureaucrats since California legalization in 2017.

    Those 12 licenses out of the total of 844 in Mendocino County is an approval rate of only 1.42%. Think about that — 1.42%.

    State-wide, among California’s 57 other counties, I think the approval rate is something like 49%.

    With regard to those 832 pending applications, we’re talking about a total of, max, a couple of hundred acres in cannabis. Why? Because each applicant is limited to only ten thousand square feet.

    Compare the acreage in cannabis to all the acreage in vineyards in Mendocino County. Cannabis is almost statistically insignificant when compared to grapes.

    This year, about half of those 832 pending applications will be “deprioritized” by the county — in other words, lost forever. A total waste! Time, money, and effort gone forever!

    Cannabis prices have collapsed — collapsed below the breakeven point for a farm to survive. Yet, these 832 applicants are still trying to play by Mendo’s insane rules.

    Every year, each of these 832 applicants is required to complete a Commercial Cannabis Licensee Bond form for a surety bond of at least. At $5,000 per premises, that’s $4.16 million total that’s raked in every year from cannabis permit applicants. That’s plenty of incentive for the county to continue to be incompetent.

    The entire fiasco in Mendocino County began with state-wide “legalization” in 2017 and was soon exacerbated by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors who refused to simply adopt neighboring Humboldt County’s workable local ordinance.

    Mendocino County is home to more self-styled cannabis “experts” per capita than any place in America, yet our county’s Board of Supervisors piled on all manner of unreasonable stipulations — stipulations for unreasonable (and expensive) environmental and neighborhood protections, water use, and odor abatement. Mendo’s ordinance far exceeds basic CEQA and Water Code protections.

    Our county’s cannabis czar is Kristan Nevedal. Not that long ago, Supervisor Ted Williams lauded Ms. Nevedal. He said Ms. Nevedal was hired because she was a Board Member at the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA).

    What is the CCIA?

    CCIA is the trade group for “Big Money” and “Corporate Cannabis” in California.

    CCIA is chaired by Pamela Epstein of Eden Enterprises, a vertically integrated company. Small family farmers are losing market share to vertically integrated companies — vertically integrated companies have every competitive advantage in the world.

    CCIA’s vice chair is Eddie Franco of Nabis, a leading cannabis wholesaling platform. Small family farmers are beholden to wholesalers who set prices, even rig prices.

    So why don’t our local cannabis farmers organize their own co-op?

    Small family farmers have tried to form co-ops to save on processing costs, develop distribution, compete with large growers, and have control over their own supply chain, but the state’s cannabis co-op law was written with a bias against them.

    Mendocino County does not regulate cannabis as an agriculture. The county regulates cannabis under its business codes.

    Years ago, when a former county agriculture commissioner attempted to report cannabis as a county agricultural commodity, along with wine grapes, log production, pears, apples, walnuts, he was fired.

    Mendocino County official crop report doesn’t even include cannabis. See crop report: 637958968097230000 (

    Flow Kana failed despite a capitalization of over $175 million and endorsements from Snoop Dog, Willie Nelson, and others.

    Flow Kana was owned and operated by scallywags and carpetbaggers. Michael Steinmetz from Venezuela and Jason Adler from Wall Street.

    Flow Kana was all smoke and mirrors. They ripped off farmers and their own workers (ask around).

    I could go on. But I won’t.

    John Sakowicz

  2. peter boudoures March 4, 2023

    My metric guy, Luke from Cannatrace out of Willits has offered to teach them how to organize each applicants file. When we contact them to make sure there isn’t anything holding them back from assigning a planner to our file we often have to resend documents two or three times, which is an excuse for them to deprioritize our application. Not that it makes much difference considering only 12 farms are approved. Word on the street is the 12 farms had high powered attorneys every step of the way hounding the department. I’m not sure what their game plan is long term but it looks like they’ll be cut off from these funds sooner than later.

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