Two weeks ago, we ran a story on Calaveras County’s current marijuana dilemma.
Calaveras, which like Mendocino County is rural, and not heavily populated, has recently legalized ganja leading to an explosion of mega-grows mostly from an invasion of outsiders. As the story pointed out, “Calaveras is an economically depressed county of 45,000 residents, a former mining and timber region, had an established pot growing tradition. And last year, after the devastating Butte Fire scorched vast areas of the county, destroying 860 houses, its Board of Supervisors plotted a comeback by seeking to monetize the thriving local marijuana culture by taxing and licensing for-profit cultivation. The pot explosion has been a challenge for local law enforcement. After the Butte Fire, illicit growers — mostly non-residents — parked battered trailer homes on burned out lots and planted pot farms, many siphoning water from streams and dumping pesticides. Calaveras, however, is poised to become a less pot-friendly place. The Board of Supervisors now is considering reversing course and banning all commercial marijuana farms, complaining that the county’s cannabis business experiment is bringing in unwanted outsiders, rogue growers and environmental degradation.”
Sounds a lot like some of the same things that have occurred here in our county. Is there a potential lesson to be learned from the Calaveras experience?
Clearly, unless the county begins to take action — as in enforcing its own ordinance, and the sooner the better — the small family pot farmer’s existence is at peril because they won’t be able to survive in a marketplace dominated by illegal mega-growers. In a sense, history will repeat itself when in the 1950s and 1960s Corporate Ag swallowed up the old family farms in the Midwest.
There were quite a few social media comments (sent along to me by my daughter) on last week’s column regarding the unchecked proliferation of mega grows and the passive ineffectualness of the County’s enforcement of its ordinance. I’ll share some of those postings with you.
I also talked to a handful of small business owners in the north county this past week. I asked them for their opinions on what’s been occurring with local legalization, and if they thought it could have any possible financial impact on their businesses. I agreed not to identify them or their businesses.
Social Media Postings
“This is right next door to my Aunt’s house and she is not happy. She's been living at her peaceful home for 30 years and now all this is placed right where she can see it from her front porch. The noise of the pumps, filters and fans are constant day and night. I get where the industry is going but come on, where is the respect of your neighbors? I don't understand how they are allowed to grow next to the creek that flows to Harwood Park and then into the Eel River.”
“Exactly. It's not fair at all! A quiet country lane now has a huge grow site right on the road. Kids aren't allowed to ride their bikes down the road anymore because of all that's going on. It's total disrespect for the people that have lived there for years! Thanks for sharing.”
“This guy gets away with anything!!”
“It sucks bro. Sorry to hear about this. My neighbors are doing the same thing. They don't give a f*** about anyone. Hope all is well. Let's hang soon.”
“Sad story. It's getting out of hand.”
“I believe they have also started a pad for a plant distribution shop. Right down the road as well is a huge greenhouse. They don't even live here anymore.”
“The same group has also tried to apply for a "general store" type of biz up Spy Rock. Also has caused a major eyesore well within 100 feet of the road and neighbors.”
“I miss the comfort of the black market … the good old days of fly overs and great prices, family love and outlaw atmosphere … it's going to keep getting worse …”
“Unfortunately being legal also means being available for all to grow. Small business and big business. I wish we could separate the two but this is how our society is currently set up. The current situation we find ourselves in is just a symptom of a larger sickness called capitalism. It's the US's bread and butter and our favorite excuse for terrible behavior.”
“I’m not a big supporter of marijuana but I’ve never really had a problem with what you’d call the little growers. In fact, some of them are my friends or we’re friendly to each other because our kids go to school together and play sports and socialize. So I understand the predicament that some of them are in right now. They’re kind of in a rock-and-a-hard place as far as becoming legal with everything. Then you have all the big-scale pot people who I have a real problem with. Most of them are real new here and have no roots or ties to Willits. They are out there in the hills growing jillions of plants and doing God knows what to the land and the creeks, but not much is being done to them to stop them from what they’re doing. It’s still against the law I believe to plant and grow on a huge scale like that, but they seem to have no fear of being raided. I would say the old growers pretty much have supported my business and others that I’m aware of too, but I don’t think I’ve ever got a dime from the ‘Mr. Bigs.’ If they knock the little guys out, I don’t think that’s going to be a good thing for any of the busineses here.”
“As far as my business is concerned, the future of it anyway, I don’t know where this whole thing (legalization) is going. It seems like things are actually worse than they were before. I don’t track ‘Oh, this is a marijuana dollar, and this is a regular dollar,’ but I know that a certain good percentage of those dollars come from growing marijuana. Once the timber industry went down, a lot of people who you would think would never grow pot, started doing it, just to survive up here. They’d lived here their whole lives and wanted to stay, and what other real options did they have but to do the same hing the hippies had been doing all those years. I can’t criticize them for doing that because I probably would have done the same thing in their shoes. I agree that these ass***** with their huge grows and those ugly greenhouses everywhere are the bad guys in the picture. They need to go because they are bad news. Totally destructive, totally anti-social, they’re actually criminals, so the powers that be, starting with the Sheriff, needs to totally clamp down on them. At some point you have to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ and that’s it for them.”
“I honestly don’t know what effect any of these laws (legalization) are going to have on what I do. It could be a great thing or perhaps something a lot less. It’s too early to reach any kind of conclusion other than it appears to be pretty much chaos. I’m somewhat surprised that not many growers have applied for permits. But then again I’m not all that surprised because this is all new and a lot of times people are reluctant to change their way of life and how they make a living. Basically what is happening is that marijuana is now a business, a legal business. But one one problem is that you have people whose approach is to take an illegal approach when there is chaos in the legal process like we have here. The county is responsible for ending the chaos because they are the main ones who created it with way they went about writing the new marijuana rules. I know I don’t understand them, and I’m not alone.”
* * *
These were all some pretty insightful observations, don’t you think?
Why is it that so many folks can see and understand what’s going on right now, but no one in the county seat sees a damn thing?
Reminds me of the old saying, “If you find a turtle sitting on top of a fencepost, you know he didn’t get there by himself.”
* * *
Brainless Pot Crimes:
The Jack Of Hearts Episode
I received several reports this week of a pot-related watershed crime out west of Branscomb in the Jack of Hearts Road area. For some reason there haven’t been any official reports on this incident, but here’s what I’ve been told by sources, who as they say, are informed.
Sometime towards the end of May, grower-renters at a property on Jack of Hearts Creek Road allegedly stole a truck and trailer and bought a large quantity of bagged potting soil/grow mix and hauled it to the property.
According to one source, “The very sketchy bridge over the creek collapsed when they tried to cross it, sending the truck and trailer into the creek where it spilled some diesel from the tank and sent a pulse of sediment down the creek … along with a petroleum odor. The story is that the perps then stole a local contractor’s Caterpillar tractor to try to pull the truck and trailer out of the creek. That failed, but then apparently they decided to bury another vehicle that was on the property (stolen? maybe) and promptly got the tractor stuck in the hole they were digging. That's the story from the grapevine here. Both Fish & Wildlife and the Sheriff’s Office were out there to investigate. Clean-up still pending. Word is no more contamination is occurring. Perps fled and have not been identified or captured, last I heard.”
* * *
Traffic Stop Lands 108 Pounds of Ganja
On Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at about 0007 hours, a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Deputy was on routine patrol in the area of School Road and Central Avenue, McKinleyville. The deputy observed a vehicle with an unreadable rear license plate and attempted a traffic stop. The vehicle initially failed to yield to the deputy’s lights and sirens. The vehicle eventually pulled to the side of the road after the deputy followed it for about one mile. As the deputy approached the vehicle, driver Sharon Patrice Erickson, age 47 of McKinleyville was contacted. A strong smell of marijuana was detected coming from inside the vehicle. It was determined Erickson was on formal probation and was driving on a suspended license. A search of Erickson’s vehicle was conducted per her probation terms. 108 pounds of marijuana and a hand held scale was located.
Erickson was later booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility (HCCF) for obstructing or delaying a peace officer, possession of marijuana, driving on a suspended license, failure to provide proof of insurance, failure to have required lighting equipment and violation of probation. Erickson is being held without bail.
Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.
(Courtesy, the Mendocino County Observer)
(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.)