Climate attracts many growers

Marijuana cultivation is a fact of life on the North Coast and
Humboldt County ranks among the more attractive places to grow these
particular crops.

But what draws the marijuana growers here?

"There's the soil and altitude and all these things that has made it
a great growing region," said Steve Bloom, senior editor of High
Times magazine.

"We have the perfect growing climate here, perfect," said Dave, a
Humboldt County resident who is involved in growing pot and asked to
use a fictitious name.

Sgt. Wayne Hanson, of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department Drug
Enforcement Unit, cites other reasons.

"Humboldt County always continues to be a problem because there's a
large portion of the county where the economy's going to the south.
With lumber and fishing dwindling away there's no major industry in
Humboldt County anymore, so part of the population, I don't know what
percentage -- and I'd hate to venture a guess -- has decided to grow
marijuana because it pays up to $3,000 a pound." Hanson said.

Medical marijuana

On Nov. 5, 1996, more than 5.3 million Californians, 55.6 percent of
those who went to the polls, voted in favor of legalizing marijuana
for medicinal purposes. The law allows patients with recommendations
from medical doctors to grow a certain amount of plants, which varies
county to county, for their own personal, medicinal needs.

California Health and Safety Code section 11362.5 states that a
person who qualifies with a legitimate doctor's recommendation can
have up 10 plants, indoor or outdoor, or 2 pounds of processed
marijuana.

"Medical's a complete victory, except for the federal government is
trying to shut it down," Bloom said. "Ninety-five percent of the
population is in favor of medical marijuana. For the rest of us who
just want to have the privacy to smoke and do our thing, I think it
was a big step."

Hanson said every medical marijuana case is investigated separately.

"Do we leave medicinal marijuana behind? Yes, we do," Hanson said.
"Tuesday we did a search warrant in Highway 36 on two residences next
door to each other. A search warrant for each house. The first
residence the guy had 10 puny little marijuana plants. He said it was
medicinal, lived by himself and that's all I saw. I left all the
marijuana for his medicinal needs. The next house we had search
warrant too, they had 12 marijuana plants, a little bit bigger. I
arrested three people. The mother of the house, who was in her 40s,
had a medicinal recommendation along with her boyfriend. She had a
17-year-old daughter in the house and a 16-year-old daughter. The
17-year-old had a 2-year-old son. By her own admission she (the
mother) took it upon herself to hand marijuana to her 16- and
17-year-old to smoke whenever they wanted. To me it wasn't a
medicinal marijuana issue, it was certainly child endangerment. I
think society's getting numb. I mean what would society think if you
gave a bottle of whiskey to your 17-year-old son?"

Hanson questions some of the medical recommendations he's seen.

"It's not up to me to argue the fact because I'm not a medical
doctor, but I've seen numerous ones for PMS, I've seen it this year
for bad teeth, for alcoholism," Hanson said. "When the voters of
California voted in medicinal marijuana I think they were thinking of
people suffering from AIDS and cancer. Only twice over the past three
years have I investigated a case where someone was actually dying
from AIDS or cancer. In both those cases I left everything."

Dave said doctors in Humboldt County recommended marijuana for years
before Proposition 215.

"I was severely injured at one point in time and I had doctors tell
my parents, before Prop. 215, that I may need to resort to marijuana,
even though, at that time, they couldn't legally recommend it," Dave
said. "Federal law still supersedes state and local laws and it is
still illegal. Even though the state of California said you can smoke
medicinal marijuana. I believe it should be legal. It's been used as
a medicine for thousands of years, before Western medicine was even
known."

"The Sheriff's Department honors 215," Hanson noted.

Smoking and growing

Damon Moreno put on the Humboldt Fall Harvest Bash on Oct. 11 at the
Eureka Veterans Hall to show the unity among the marijuana smoking
community.

"I decided to throw the bash to basically show that we could have a
gathering based around that concept (marijuana) and shed some light,"
Moreno said. "With NORML (National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws) and Steve Bloom from High Times and cool groups like
that bringing some information in and educating in a safe and legal
way. I just wanted to prove we could do it in a safe and honest
fashion. To give people a chance to get the information they normally
don't get."

The Bash was a night of bands, pipe vendors and booths filled with
literature against marijuana prohibition. More than 400 tickets were
sold and there were no problems with police.

"Humboldt's laid back and everyone's smokin' the green," said local
headshopclerk Damon Culver. Headshops sell smoking paraphernalia.
"Everything stays in and contributes to the community, like glass
blowing. It's too bad that they have to act like it's such a harsh
thing." A lot of companies that make glass pipes and sell them
throughout the world are based in Humboldt County.

Another Harvest Bash patron offered his view on the pot-smoking community.

"How come you never hear of any other drug users uniting and holding
festivals?" an anonymous smoker said. "Where's methfest or
heroinmania or crackapalooza? There's no harm with marijuana."

Dave has grown marijuana many different ways over his illegal career.

"It's a weed, it grows anywhere on the planet." Dave said. "It just
depends on how well you want it to grow. The more you take care of it
the better it will be. I know people who go into the forest sometime
in August when it's the warmest, they find a damp spot, they throw it
in the ground, come back three months later and they pick it. Or they
start at the beginning of the year in April, go out there and check
on it every week, water it every week, take care of it, prep it and
make it the best it possibly can be. It all depends on how much ego
you got involved. If you want to walk around and say 'I grew this and
this is the best stuff around' you're all about that way. If you want
to make a little money off it or have some free smoke, you don't
really care."

He has also grown the drug indoors.

"With indoor growing there's a couple different varieties," Dave
said. "You can either start all the plants at the same time, most the
time they're started from a clone, and they're grown out and budding
in two months or so. So it averages out to be a three-month cycle. Or
you can put your plants on a cycle where you can harvest one plant
every week or every so often, it all depends on your own personal
cycle."

Dave warns that you don't want to go hiking in the woods in Southern
Humboldt County because of the high concentration of marijuana
gardens, which are either booby trapped, patrolled by armed guards or
both.

"It's not a place you want to go joy riding," Dave said.

Running the numbers

Of the 40,000 marijuana plants destroyed by the Drug Enforcement Unit
this year so far, 23,000 were found in 230 outdoor gardens and 17,000
in indoor grows.

Last year the unit destroyed a total of 60,000 plants, 40,000 outdoor
and 20,000 indoor.

The Humboldt County Drug Task Force has confiscated 54 pounds of
processed marijuana, 588 plants, mostly from indoor grows, and 1,010
grams of hashish. Hashish is the concentrated resin from a marijuana
bud that's usually a byproduct after the buds are trimmed and cleaned.

Dave could only estimate the amount of marijuana that would come out
of Humboldt County this year.

"The number I'm going say is going to sound asinine," Dave said.
"Minimum estimate, 10,000 people grow in this county. Each person has
a minimum of 10 plants but could have up to 10,000 plants. An outdoor
plant done right can harvest anywhere between a pound and three
pounds. So if they have 100 plants they can have 300 pounds per
garden, that's $900,000. There are people with 55-gallon drums filled
with money buried in the woods. Before CAMP came around, individual
people would make multimillions of dollars a year."

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana
Laws website, 12 million people have been arrested on marijuana
charges in the United States since 1965. Also according to the
website, Humboldt County ranked 13th among California counties in the
number of marijuana-related arrests between 1995 and 1997.The top
three counties were, in order, Colusa, King and Madera.

The future of marijuana

Some marijuana smokers don't think it will ever be legalized.

"Legal 100 percent? I really don't think they're ever going to do
that," headshop clerk Culver said. "If they do, all they're going to
do is tax the hell out of it and make it more of a pain ... than it
already is. What are they going to do? Raise prices and try to
control it more."

Some marijuana advocates think legalization is on the horizon.

"I just heard Keith Stroup from NORML give an interview and say 12
years. I don't know where he came up with that, but there's some
gradual thing going that's changing," Bloom said. "There have been
polls on CNN that show 75 to 80 percent of people are in favor of
changing the laws around pot, and not just for medical.

"There's been setbacks. We expected a little more help from Clinton,
you know, a baby boomer, and he really wasn't there for us and he got
sidetracked on other things. And Bush, well he's kind of a closet
drug user, so you can't really trust him" he said, without
elaborating. "We don't have a lot of support in high places. There's
some politicians in smaller spots but it's not on the bigger picture.
I think it's amazing how people just refuse to give up as far as the
struggle to change the marijuana laws and it's been going on a long
time and passed on from generation to generation now.

"And it's frustrating for those who have been doing it a long time,
but there's a whole new generation coming up and it's a whole new
thing. It's like 'OK, we're going to change these laws.' They
recognize the history, it's been a long time and let's do it now.
There's a lot of momentum."

Some marijuana growers think that prohibition is financially motivated.

"When the government can make money off of it," Dave said. "When they
can control it enough to make money off of it. They're making more
money off of fighting it, they're making more money off sending CAMP
out and telling people how much CAMP is taking every year. Then
people are more willing vote on the things that are going to pay for
CAMP, that's going to get CAMP more money for next year to try to get
more."

Pubdate: 21 Oct 2002
Source: Eureka Times-Standard (CA)
Webpage:
http://www.times-standard.com/Stories/0,1413,127%257E2896%257E939322,00.html