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Mendocino County’s Reefer Madness

People kid me about how much I write and talk about pot in my newspaper, Mendocino County Observer, and on my radio show.

The reason is simple. The legalization of ganja is the most significant legislation and public policy created in the past 40 years. It rivals the impact of the voter-enacted Prop 13, which revolutionized (in more ways than one) property taxes in this state.

As I’ve said many times before, no one lives in this county who is not affected economically by marijuana. And that’s true for both the private and public sectors of the economy.

I’ve also warned people for years who clamored for legalization, be careful of what you wish for. Because with legalization comes regulation, taxes, and enforcement.

This week I received a note that was attached to the hoop greenhouses photograph appearing below. I also received a packet of other information related to the out-of-control illegal marijuana production that is occurring in this county as you read this.


The county’s hills, valleys, and dales are exploding with greenhouses, mega-grows and thousands upon thousands of new plants are going in the ground everyday.

Keep in mind that state pot laws and county pot ordinances are not written solely for those who grow the stuff. They are also written to protect the rights of those who don’t grow or smoke the stuff. They are also written to protect the rights of legitimate growers, who are trying to play by the rules. They are also written to punish, penalize, and come-down-like-a-ton-of-bricks on those individuals who believe and act as if they are above the law.

So where are we right now at this stage of legalization in Mendocino County?

Here’s some observations.

That note I referred to said this:

“Heard you on the radio last Saturday. I believe you said, ‘No one has been issued permits,’ and ‘no one is allowed more than 99 plants.’ Can you address this scene?” (the photograph of the greenhouses.)

Here’s what I said on last Saturday’s program on KPFN.

I was talking about the Board of Supervisors’ budget meeting on June 6. At that meeting, there was quite a bit of discussion about the impact of new pot taxes and fees on the county’s budget. In the course of that discussion, Supervisor John McGowan stated that he was “disconcerted” about the marijuana permitting process and mentioned several problems associated with it. He also asked a staff member what the average length of time was to process a completed application for a permit. He was told there was no average time estimate available because no applications had been completed at that time. So as of June 6th, no permits had been issued.

District Attorney Dave Eyster also appeared at the budget hearing, and he spoke on a recent 500-plus pot plant eradication in Redwood Valley where the folks busted claimed they had begun the permit application process and believed they were protected against Sheriff’s Office raids.

Basically, the DA said it was not relevant whether the growers were permitted or not because under the county’s ordinance no one can grow more than 100 plants. I’m assuming he was referring to so-called “joint tenancy” grows on a single property. In any event, he cited the 100-plant cap.

One thing I’m certain of — I think — is that neither state law nor county ordinance allows massive grows that reach tens of thousands in total count.

By the way, the most recent numbers on pot permit applications is that there are 441 pending as of June 16, an underwhelming response given a total population of 90,000.

The other thing that is for certain is the county has a serious reefer madness problem.

Unquestionably, there are far too many outlaws who have no intention of following any laws or rules. These characters are in-your-face with their plantations of thousands of ganja plants, no permits pending or otherwise, and no intention of compliance with any rule or regulation. In many cases, they aren’t even attempting to hide their illicit operations.

It’s time for the county to start enforcing its marijuana ordinance. Not to do so has a number repercussions, such as the Feds stepping in. Also, the legit growers, especially the cottage and mom-and-pops types, are going to see a continuing decline in the already depressed price of pot as more and more illegal ganja hits the black market. They need to protect themselves against the outlaw, criminal competition, most of which has arrived in recent years, finding Mendocino County as the strike-it-rich destination of all destinations.

The most serious threat to the economic survival of the ol’ family pot farm is not the taxes and fees that so many bemoan (they forget that legalization means regulation and taxes). Rather, it’s the bad guys who’ve moved into their neighborhood and taken it over. The legit growers need to start turning in the outlaws to the enforcers because if they don’t they’re cutting their own throats.

(Jim Shields is the editor and publisher of the Mendocino County Observer, and also manages the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM.)

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