MENDOCINO CO., 7/17/17 — Editor’s note: The following is an editorial from Jim Shields. Shields is the editor and publisher of the Mendocino County Observer and also manages the Laytonville County Water District; this is reprinted with his permission. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org. The opinions expressed in this article are Jim Shields’ and do not necessarily reflect any opinions of The Mendocino Voice. You can read more opinion pieces from Shields here.
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LAYTONVILLE, CA — For the past month, I’ve written a series of columns focusing on the out-of-control, seemingly unchecked proliferation of both outlaw mega-grows and unsightly hoop greenhouses throughout this county, but especially here in the north county area.
I’ve asked folks — both legit growers (who comprise the vast majority of county growers) and non-growing neighbors — of these monster grow sites to make their voices heard to the Supes, the regulators, and law enforcement.
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting (July 11), it was obvious that the Board and the Sheriff not only heard us but were paying close attention as well.
The same holds true for the District Attorney who weighed in at an earlier BOS meeting, when he reminded them that under the pot ordinance an individual could grow no more than 100 plants.
To make a long story short, the Supes decided to re-open the ordinance they approved on May 4th. At their next meeting on July 18, they will take under consideration a number of proposed changes dealing specifically with the concerns of small marijuana growers, better known as the “moms and pops.” Please read Jane Futcher’s story in this week’s Observer as she does a great job covering those items. Here’s a summary of those small pot farmer issues the BOS will consider:
- approving non-commercial drying sheds;
- allowing wheelchair-accessible portable toilets instead of fully plumbed toilets;
- permitting neighborhoods such as Boonville Road’s Woodyglen to “opt out” of cannabis cultivation just as the smallest, Rural Residential-zoned neighborhoods where cultivation is now prohibited, may eventually “opt in” — via the “overlay” process.
- creating an independent, stand-alone cannabis manager position to coordinate the application process, which he said appears to be “overhwelming” the Ag Department.
As I’ve said all along, the single largest threat to the economic survivability of the mom and pop grower is not the regulatory and taxing frameworks of state and county marijuana legalization laws and ordinances. It’s the illegal mega grows crammed with thousands and thousands of marijuana plants, grown mostly by new-arrival outsiders who are driven by a single motive: Greed. They want it all and they want it now
Enforcement is the one thing that will save the small farmer.
Think about it.
The county could waive all fees and taxes, and do away with the permit process for the small farmers, but if the mega-growers go unchecked, the price of pot will plummet to the point where the small guys can’t make a living. They simply won’t be around to pay taxes, permit fees, and expenses associated with planning and building codes.
The Supervisors demonstrated this past Tuesday they understand the gravity of the situation.
Supervisor Carre Brown, from Potter Valley, called the mega growers “bandits” who are giving the county a “black eye” by “taking advantage of us.”
She said she was very dissatisfied with a process that was not protecting both growers and non-growers, referring to an ordinance that was enacted to protect the rights of all county residents. She recommended that the Board schedule future meetings where people can give direct input to supervisors on their concerns and problems related to marijuana issues.
At the morning session, Sheriff Tom Allman appeared to address the Board on his plan to resurrect a county ballot measure on mental funding. He also took time to tell the Board he was fully aware of what was occurring with the mega grows.
He emphatically stated, “The free reign of marijuana has to be reeled in.”
“People illegally growing marijuana in Mendocino County seem not to be aware the MCSO is still making them a priority,” said Allman, leaving little doubt that eradication is not just a threat but reality.
Here’s why enforcement of the cannabis ordinance is so important.
- Any law that is not enforced is not respected by people, and they will have a natural tendency not to comply with it. This is one of main reasons that folks are not complying with the cannabis ordinance.
As of July 10, only 580 individuals have applied for permits, and of those, only one has been approved. By conservative estimates there are probably 9,000 folks who grow marijuana in this county. Obviously, 580 applicants is an underwhelming response.
- Nor does it bode well for the economic survivability of the Northcoast’s long-established small growers.
As already discussed, if outlaw mega grows are not eradicated, that is pot that has but one destination: the black market. The more illegal pot that escapes to the black market, the deeper prices plunge in an already depressed market. It’s basic supply and demand that hurts, if not devastates, the small family farmer.
- If the ordinance is not enforced, it’s also inviting federal intervention. States with legalized marijuana laws were put on notice to that effect by the U.S. Dept. of Justice four years ago. According to an August 29, 2013 memorandum (“Guidance Regrading Marijuana Enforcement”), the Federales will generally ignore all things ganja in states with “a strong and effective regulatory and enforcement system” that is part-and-parcel of its legalization laws.
Another problem addressed at the meeting was the apparent lack of communication and coordination between the two local agencies — Dept. of Agriculture and Planning and Building — that are primarily responsible for administering the marijuana ordinance.
People have told me that when they have filed a complaint against a mega grower, P&B code enforcers have gone to site, inspected newly erected greenhouses stuffed with thousands of pot plants, signed off on the structures but ignored the glaring violation of the illegal plants, explaining that it’s not their job to eradicate.
Supervisor John McGowen spoke to this issue asking why aren’t people who are growing 15,000 to 20,000 plants not being told to eradicate them immediately? It was a rhetorical question.
The Board will consider at the July 18 meeting a proposal from the County Executive’s Office that should help resolve this problem. It’s an idea I first suggested last year.
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state’s medical marijuana law two years ago, he appointed Lori Ajax as the chief of the newly creasted Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation at the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Ajax had been chief deputy director at the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) since 2014, where she served in several positions since 1995, including deputy division chief, supervising agent in charge and supervising agent.
Brown had found a czar for the state’s medical marijuana program. With the legalization of recreational pot approved by voters in the November 2016 election, she now has taken on that responsibility also.
The county proposal for creating its own local cannabis czar includes creating a stand alone unit that presumably will oversee, monitor, and coordinate the administration of the local ordinance. It makes sense and if handled properly should solve a lot of the current problems with enforcement. But it is imperative, if this position is created, the person selected for it has a strong regulatory enforcement background. Ideally, it would be a Lorry Ajax-type from ABC since that agency comes closest to representing the kind of “stand alone” unit the county should be establishing.
If you solve those problems, then I believe it may lead the way to more growers making the decision to take the plunge and start applying for permits.
By the way, after this report was first published on July 13, I began receiving emails and telephone calls informing me that some of the mega growers have begun harvesting their crops and moving them to other sites for drying, apparently in immediate response to the Supes and Sheriff’s announcements about the imminent crackdown coming.
That’s good news.
Jim Shields is the editor and publisher of the Mendocino County Observer and also manages the Laytonville County Water District; this is reprinted with his permission. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org
Law enforcement has no place in industry. You missed your own point here; only 580 growers have come in out of the dark PRECISELY because the Sheriff has far too much involvement in the industry’s management and regulation. Not to mention, Mendocino has a history of putting together registration systems for growers and then exploiting them for easy raids.
You are not reigning in growers. You are only harming your possibility of having the fastest growing industry in the world be a tax paying giant in your county. There is no other industry in the world that has to deal with a law enforcement interference like the Emerald Triangle does with cannabis.
Oh, and all over the country, all over the world, community leaders are falling all over themselves to encourage cannabis businesses. Here, we ask the Sheriff to raid growers in an editorial. Adding in the ever fail safe “greed is bad” BS. Only cannabis growers aren’t allowed to earn as much money as possible. Are all of the grow stores selling soil and nutrients and greenhouses greedy? Supermarkets in Mendocino charging $10 a lb for free range organic chicken. Are they greedy? More sideV’s are sold in the Emerald Triangle than anywhere else in the US. Greedy?
And let’s not forget the most important thing:
In the Emerald Triangle, we have some of the highest paid law enforcement agents in the entire United States of America. So, when you call the sheriff to go raid somebody, remember that the team that goes out on a raid will be making boatloads of taxpayer money, far more than your average cop, fireman, nurse or teacher. Are they greedy too?
Jim, you have your facts wrong, under the new ordinance we are no longer held to a plant count, it is a square footage law. One person could grow 1,000,000 plants for a collective of patients legally in mendocino county. Read the Ordinance No. 4381. Same law will apply with the new state MAUCRSA
Rules that will come into affect in 2018. Plant counts are a thing of the past for legal growers, we need to get past the prohibition era of thinking every cannabis grower is doing something wrong.
correct you are, ‘Facts. Jim, this is the future. Try and know what the hell you’re talking about, if you consider yourself a journalist. Horrible piece,here and the observer, because you dont know what the real ordinance is. Read it first. Deal with it, and do some damn research.
“The same holds true for the District Attorney who weighed in at an earlier BOS meeting, when he reminded them that under the pot ordinance an individual could grow no more than 100 plants.” – misinformation of the worst kind. We are no longer living in the dark ages of prohibition framed plant count. According to the new ordinance permitted Mendocino operators can legally cultivate hundreds to thousands of small plants that collectively account for limits of plant canopy of 2500, 5k or 10k sq ft., depending on zoning & acreage provisions. This is common practice for the light deprivation style of cultivation, quickly becoming industry standard.
Secondly, the deluge of black market product is sold in the black market, not the regulated market. The regulated market has zero to do with the black market, and frankly the glut on the black market only makes the regulated market increasingly more viable. As soon as there are state licenses, the capacity for grey market “215” cannabis to be sold to dispensaries will abate, and the legal outlets will be exclusive to permitted, licensed, tested product.
Thirdly, if Mendocino County wants to see a greater amount of operators signing up for permitting, education & support is what needs to be offered by county agencies – not enforcement threats and unreasonable compliance demands. The vast majority of Ma & Pa operators are CONFUSED & SCARED, and carrying decades of internalized experience as a marginalized demographic of the drug war. The federal climate is threatening, there is no banking for operators, and businesses can’t even run solid financial projections because the whole industry & regulatory situation is in flux. All of these regulatory programs are pilot programs, and regulatory agencies need to offer our heritage cannabis farmers TIME & SUPPORT to transition or Mendocino County will suffer a terrible cultural & economic collapse.
Jim you should take the time to read the new ordinance local and state so you don’t continue to make a fool of yourself carrying on about nonexistent plant restrictions as it’s now restricted by square footage. If you want to quote the DA you should be ringing alarm bells that he seemingly doesn’t know the new law. If MCSO and the DA don’t understand or are unwilling to recognize the new law and go after farms in the AG program large lawsuits are guaranteed to follow. The one thing you do get right is that grows not going through the licensing program should be eradicated.
It’s also funny you think a Crack down is coming, the government has been trying to squash the pot growers around here for decades. I like how you use your newspaper to try to scare these “mega growers” maybe you should define mega growers? It’s such a broad and lame term to use, maybe your newspaper is a mega paper? Maybe Laytonville is a mega town? It’s funny how you try to say we need legalization but now you call people out for being mega growers. Maybe you should only sell 25 papers a week and see where it gets you? You print crappy pictures in the paper about people that are supposedly breaking the law but you actually don’t know the law. Many people you put down in your paper have lived here for decades, maybe longer then you.
This “editor” is nothing more than a hack for the county. Marijuana is a fucking medicinal PLANT that ANYBODY can grow, , and all this idiot cares about is protecting some mom and pop ‘already established” businesses and sicing the code enforcers on people with greenhouses which I find DRACONIAN! He talks a lot of one sided bias and all it boils down to is MONEY. black market hurting the little guy? Huh?? Wtf? It’s a MEDICINAL PLANT and this fool loses sight of that.
mendocino county and its residents should be more concerned about the water usage from these types of grows, as jim seems to be. i know for a fact that one of the biggest growers in the laytonville area have an illegal well for their pond that irrigates their 10k sqft marijuana grow. they operate under the guise of small farmers, but have 8 seperate 10k sqft grows. these are the people putting the small mom and pop farmers out of business.
Seize co2 from air by cultivating plant plankton for fertilizer . Feed your plankton ponds inland,element complete in,and phytoplankton deposit from 23-°17’42″N102 102 •20’24 W.use fish demonstrate health of algal bloom.first demonstrate carbon seizure , them vegetables fruits and pot.