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Reindeer Dust For Christmas

It has been a year now since Proposition 47 was voted into law. And the promises made by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and his Safer Neighborhoods and Schools-coalition to get it passed have all come true — the dope dealers and more addicts than ever are roaming the streets stealing stuff so they can self-medicate, as Newsom might put it.

The 11377 Health & Safety Code violation, possession of methamphetamine and heroin, used to be a wobbler, meaning prosecutors could charge it as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on how much dope and dealer was holding, and whether that individual could be considered a dealer, or not. But Prop 47 changed all that, and now lots of dope under the control of one person is only a misdemeanor.

It used to be “Goddamn the pusher-man.”

Now it’s “Please support your neighborhood dope operation.”

Prop. 47 was pushed through in a campaign led by Lt. Gov. Newsom, California's emptiest suit, and the Safe Neighborhoods people. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get it done. The opposition only had a little over half a mil and couldn't get it done. And were vilified as rightwing nuts, puritans, fascists and so on, the usual arsenal of abuse the liberals trot out to defend the indefensible.

It was largely a fraud. Safe neighborhoods? A hoax, really, that made it seem like only a few pot smokers would be let out of prison. Lots of local share that delusion, even after Realignment, when lots of tough guys were sent back to their local county jails from the state pen. So, we have the realigned and the Prop 47 people on the street with a consequent uptick in all kinds of crime everywhere in the state. But people still believe that the prisons are full of non-violent pot smokers. Predictably, Newsom's measure passed by a landslide.

(Ed note: According to the Department of Corrections, about 22% of current of the approximately 112,000 adult prisoners in the California prison system got there via drug convictions. But only about 1300 of them — just over 1% — are pot-related.)

Julia Hewitt
Julia Hewitt

A typical beneficiary of Prop 47 are the Hewitts of Fort Bragg. Julia Ann Hewitt, and her hubby Rick Hewitt live at 201 Harrison Street where a steady stream of junkies and tweakers can be seen coming and going all hours of the day and night.

Then, again, maybe the Hewitts just entertain a lot.

The Hewitts have been slinging heroin and meth for so long they each have a multitude of priors, but before we delve into this particular case, let’s reflect briefly on what forces funded Prop. 47, and what was supposed too happen with all the millions that the measure would allegedly save the State.

Theft — the nasty little pickpocket, cutpurse offspring of drug addiction — was also reclassified under Prop. 47. Felony theft used to be anything over $50, now for the cops to take it seriously the item or items taken have to have a value of more than $995.

The idea was that 65% of the hundreds of millions saved by the State following implementation of Prop. 47 would be redirected into rehab programs. But we haven’t seen the rehab end of the deal yet, although when it comes to local rehab placement for the indigent, or working poor, there are waiting list places like Ford Street in Ukiah or the Salvation Army’s charity rehab resort, Litton Springs in Healdsburg.

What we have seen is an upswing in posh, high-dollar rehab resorts for the really well off — take a look on-line at the Psychology Today listings for California rehab resorts — they even have a Recovery Channel in Studio City! And here we get a glimpse at why Lt. Gov. Newsom and Newt Gingrich (of all the unlikely characters to rear his hideous head in Californian politics) formed such an otherwise unlikely bipartisan agreement on Prop. 47.

This incredibly lucrative rehab industry has been given a vital transfusion of new blood with only one year of Prop 47, and if you look at some of the websites you can see that it’s no longer about alkies and pill poppers, as it was when Betty Ford first popularized the upscale rehab resort trend. Now, it’s all about how to recognize the signs of heroin addiction in your teenage children. When you ask your daughter why her friends call her “Snoozin’ Susan” you get a coy smirk that says you wouldn’t understand. And when you ask what she wants for Christmas? It’s “a Mexican rockin’orse, maybe, with a capital H stocking stuffer, and some reindeer dust — lots of it, Mom!”

Whether the 65% went into funding these ritzy joints or not is beside the point. What’s happened is there has been an increase in addiction — there’s more tweakers; and, of vital importance to addiction treatment centers, a growing number of junkies. You may think that meth is not particularly addictive — if you’re a progressive parent and experimented with pep pills yourself in your youth. But if your teen is shooting up heroin (often following a pain-med addiction), it’s not just a phase he or she will outgrow. You need professional help right away! And if you can pay for it, you'll get it.

Prop 47, by reducing heroin possession to a misdemeanor, made it less scary for kids to try out. Come on, it’s not a felony — even if you get caught… Come on, try it! You’ll like it. And look at these classy resorts you can check into if you develop a dependence.

Prop. 47: The latest racket, where racketeering has become the Business of America.

Back to Harrison Street, Fort Bragg's most exciting neighborhood. Keep in mind that meth use is the usual step leading to heroin use and the two are sometimes mixed in what used to be called a speedball but now has new slang names, like “a rush-hour whirligig.” Drug land has never lacked imagination.

Julia Ann Hewitt had her priors reduced to misdemeanors under Prop. 47, including a traffic stop in June of 2014 which netted large amounts of meth and heroin, along with $10,062 in cash. Hers is one of the more prosperous small businesses in Fort Bragg. Having gotten off on that one (thanks to Prop. 47), Ms. Hewitt was popped again at her frenetic Harrison Street residence in October with nearly an ounce of heroin packaged for street sales.

Deputy DA Kaitlyn Keane called Corporal Wesley Rafanan of the Fort Bragg Police Department to the stand. The Corporal said that the latest street slang for a gram of Mexican tar is “a booger,” and it sells for $60 (half-gram boogers go for $30). Boogers are packaged in parchment paper because the dope doesn’t get absorbed into the parchment or stick to it. The booger, in its parchment envelope, then goes into a tiny Ziploc bag — the over-packaging craze is not limited to licit enterprises, unfortunately, and these discarded wrappers litter the streets and sidewalks practically everywhere these days, not to mention the spent hypodermic syringes, making Hepatitis C the most common blood-borne infection in the country.

Besides the 15 grams all packaged up, Ms. Hewitt had a chunk of Mexican Horse (uncut heroin) weighing 10 grams laying out on a dish with eight and a half grams of meth, also waiting to be packaged up. She had $1,099 in her purse. There was a digital scale and a loaded handgun at the apartment, as well. The gun belonged to Rick Hewitt, who claimed to have split up with Julia Ann — she was living in one apartment and he in the other — because he was getting tired of the junkie scene, he claimed.

Ms. Jona Saxby was Julia Ann’s lawyer and she had some photos that indicated otherwise — pictures of Rick’s mail at Julia Ann’s digs — and what was his gun doing there? Also, Rick admitted to Cpl. Rafanan that he’d smoked meth that morning with Julia Ann and a third party, found loitering in the yard, a Mr. Sarrison from Los Angeles.

Ms. Saxby didn’t feel the State had shown that the residence was being maintained as a Prop 47 Store — oops, I mean a place to sell controlled substances. But Judge David Nelson said it need not be proved for the purposes of a preliminary examination. If and when the case went to trial the jury could decide that for themselves. But in the meantime, Ms. Hewitt would be held to answer on the charges.

As a non-violent misdemeanor, Ms. Hewitt’s Prop 47 Store is sure to be back in business for the holiday season.


The heroin busts around the region have been increasing in both frequency and size with as much as a pound of heroin being seized in some cases. With the demise of the pot pharm economy about to begin with legalization and the subsequent corporate take-over of that cottage industry, it behooves local drug dealers to diversify —- and many already have. I have seen the Asian poppy growing right alongside medical marijuana gardens right here in Anderson Valley.

It’s been nearly 50 years since I watched heroin being made from the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, but I still remember the basic process — mainly because it was so recklessly dangerous that the experience is seared into my memory. So, (invoking the cartoons of those days) I hear Mr. Peabody say: “Sherman, let’s set the Way Back Machine™ to 1970, at a US Marine Base in Okinawa…”

As the reader will no doubt recall, the country was at war in 1970. Urban business districts were on fire, widespread looting and shootings, college campuses in open revolt, and all of us young, dumb country-fucks and inner-city blacks with no jobs, had been asked by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to do something for our country; i.e., die in Vietnam. As free, God-fearing, tax-paying Americans, we had a choice: Sign up or get drafted. However, me and another kid of only 17 had been pulled off the transport to I Corps, Da Nang, and stationed in Okinawa, as part of President Nixon’s “pull out” (aka Vietnamization and military withdrawal) — which, like the pull out from Iraq, never really happened (until we were driven off the roof of the Embassy in Saigon by the NVA in 1975).

As it happened, a number of blacks involved in the civil rights movement were in the US military. These guys would go out on liberty at night while us white-assed honkies would check out riot gear and watch VD movies until the black marines came back and protested. Then we would form up a phalanx and fix bayonets. After things settled down, the blacks would go back to the barracks and the whites would go to a “crib” in the “ville.” Outnumbered by black marines at the barracks, it was foolhardy to sleep there with men you’d drawn arms against earlier that night.

The barracks was a two-story concrete structure, the architecture by Mies van der Rohe when he was about six years old. Stack two dominoes flat on top of each other, and that’s it. Four squad-bays, two on top, two on bottom, two rows of bunk-beds in each, divided into cubicles by free-standing wall lockers, a foot locker at each end. Some mornings, bloody bed-sheets would be piled at the door; one morning we saw the XO — Lt. Shitbird we called him, due to the fact that a HQ Company is a dumping ground for otherwise useless marine officers — pull a rigor mortised young marine out of his rack onto the concrete floor. The Lt. told CO Capt. Forgettable that he thought our late Pvt. Whomsomever, “I thought he was only sleeping in — goldbricking, sir.”

His creditors had given the young marine an involuntary advance on some smack. The kid was an OD.

At this juncture in my acclimation to WESTPAC culture, I rented a room in nearby Kimville from a supply sergeant named “Sunshine.” I never knew his real name, but I suspect he had a special dispensation from the CIA to make and distribute heroin, because how else could he have got hold of the chemistry set he had set up in our off-base apartment? Not to mention the opium base and the internationally controlled precursor in heroin manufacture, acetic anhydride.

Sure, supply sergeants are resourceful, but the Thai sticks we’d been smoking were no longer available, only heroin. Rumor had it the CIA was behind this change of menu, an Air America way of getting my military paychecks back so the spooks could fund projects Congress was reluctant to endorse. Like bombing Laos.

It is a time-honored tradition going back to the Civil War that American businessmen have a constitutional right to fuck over the troops. It’s common knowledge, common sense and commonly taken for granted. Anyone with a discharge from the military has a keenly honed respect for the veracity of rumors (Scuttlebutt, being the nautical term).

The agricultural part I’d only seen at a distance; the harvesting of the poppies — a hillside drenched in blood! — and the drying and scraping of the pods, and little did I care until later when I realized what they were doing, and what would be the final product of these bent backs, laboring under straw hats shaped like woks.

The first step — by the time Sunshine got the stuff — was to boil the opium base in water, then set it out to dry in the sun. Each morning before I went to the base, I would open the window of my second story room and hang my futon bedding over the sill to air out, copying my neighbors in the local tradition. Sunshine had the more enviable room, the one with the most sun and a balcony, too, where he had room not only for his bedding, but also his “junk” (morphine base) to dry in the sun. Junk being the brown sludge that settles to the bottom in this process, and where the term “junkie” originates.

The next step was the tricky part. The sun-dried powder, the morphine base, had to be heated in the spectacularly volatile acetic acid (concentrated vinegar) in a beaker over a Bunsen burner to 185°F — the boiling point was 244.4° F., but if it ever went over that temperature, the house, the whole neighborhood, buddy, your problems were all over. So it was important to stay alert during this process, and besides making the whole neighborhood smell like a pickle factory, the opiates in the ambience tended to make one’s chin go to roost on one’s chest, and the eyelids became a subtle, inexorable burden.

The high has been described as a “blissful apathy” and “euphoric detachment” and these flights of rhetoric are uncontestably consistent with my own experience, be it ever so outdated. If the Viet Cong were torturing you to death, you’d hardly bother to object so long as you had a gram of smack in your veins. And the expression on the faces of corpses I’ve known to have overdosed were profound testimonials on how to face the lowest common denominator.

It was obvious even then that heroin would enjoy a huge revival. “But in 1970, Sherman,” Dr. Peabody resumed, “the CID worked hand-in-hand with the CIA: The latter would provide the stuff; the former would confiscate it.

“So,” Sherman said. “It was a profitable cycle, for everybody involved?”

“Everyone but you, Sherman, my boy.”

“Why is that, Mr. Peabody?”

“Because when you’re old enough — in 2016, say — to inherit a world addicted to heroin, you’ll have to hear some of the most baleful self-pity testimonials ever composed by spoilt children."


  1. Alice Chouteau December 2, 2015

    Thanks for explaining how this disastrous bill was even passed.

  2. BB Grace December 2, 2015

    re: “Junk being the brown sludge that settles to the bottom in this process, and where the term “junkie” originates.”

    I was wondering where the term Junkie came from. Thank you for the education, about many things.

  3. Rick Weddle December 3, 2015

    re: pharmboyz…

    Maybe you’ve seen the footage of Col. Bo Gritz (‘Grites’) on his trip to the Golden Triangle to investigate and rescue any remaining POW/MIA’s he might find there (’70’s, ’80’s?). Gritz, a very heavily decorated Green Beret officer went WITH PAPER ‘ID’ SUPPLIED BY US STATE DEPT., as a volunteer into territory ‘forbidden’ to most Yankees. Gritz found no POW/MIA’s. What he found was a Gen’l Khun Sah (sp?), the Triangle’s ‘mayor,’ who informed Col. Bo that the region’s infamous cash crop of poppies was becoming so troubling, they wanted out of The Business. Let’s be clear: Khun Sah told Gritz that the Heroin Machine of Southeast Asia wanted to go into the turnip business (or ANYTHING more ‘user-friendly’ than opium poppies). Gen’l Khun Sah also said such a massive transition in his country would require help from sympathetic larger nations, especially the U.S., which had their own adverse experiences with refined opiates. The General also listed the names of top U.S. officials with direct and indirect interest in The Business. Gritz told Khun Sah he’d relay his request and info to ‘officials in Washington.’

    When Gritz returned to the U.S. with this story, he was met with a chilly silence, and was almost immediately set upon by ‘officials in Washington,’ and harrassed, vilified, and prosecuted, even for being in an illegal tourist destination WITH FAKE PAPERS PROVIDED BY THOSE SAME WASHINGTON CREEPS.

    Maybe you could reach another conclusion from this, other than The Authorities ARE the Bad Guys? If you are able to pull off such logical acrobatics, please…wise me up.

  4. Bruce McEwen Post author | December 3, 2015

    Ah, yes, Colonel Bo Gritz. Great guy, national hero caliber kind of outstanding individual, to use the old military lexicon. But if you want to really get into the details of who’s who behind the CIA’s hard drug business, I recommend the book Whiteout by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffery St. Clair; this widely ignored book tells how the CIA actually started the project with the help of Nazi war criminals — protected and promoted these villains!

  5. Bruce McEwen Post author | December 3, 2015

    One correction: Lieutenant Y.U. Shitbird, our eXecutive Officer, I remember clearly; Company Commander Captain Forgettable, not so well… The marine who died of overdose, however, I recall very well and realize I spelt his name wrong — it was Private Whosome Ever. Don’t look for him on The Wall (the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.), though, ’cause he never made it to Vietnam.

  6. Al Krauss December 8, 2015

    Informative, and “sickening” (but not from mental contagion). All these column inches dedicated to “shit”.
    Old fashioned disease metaphor, “pox” (remember your ancestors who died of it?) on the whole scene. Makes one wish for a politically correct “nazi” solution!

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