Friday, March 6, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Arcata pushes back against pot growers

This April 12 photo provided by Arcata Police Department shows an indoor marijuana growing operation raided by police.  AP photo

By
From page A2 | November 04, 2012 |

ARCATA (AP) — Happily isolated on California’s remote Humboldt County coast, Arcata has long made room in its heart for marijuana, whether grown illegally in the back woods by refugees of the Summer of Love, or legally in the back rooms of homes by medical pot patients.

But the mellow days are coming to an end. Even Arcata residents who support legalization of marijuana have become fed up with high-volume indoor growing operations that take over much-needed housing and take advantage of the state’s loosely written medical marijuana law.

The neighbors of these clandestine pot farms — operated behind curtains, shutters and alarm systems — complain of the skunk-like stink of cannabis, fire hazards, rising rents, vicious guard dogs, caches of guns, illegal pesticides, roadside dumping of unwanted growing gear, and late-night visits from shady characters.

Rather than throw more cops at the problem, the City Council is fighting back in a way befitting this liberal outpost that would rather be known for its pioneering community forest and sewage treatment marsh than marijuana.

Measure I on next week’s ballot would impose a 45 percent electricity tax on households — with medical and other exceptions — that use three times the amount of power a typical family home does. The measure takes aim at commercial growers who maximize production by packing homes full of high intensity lights and irrigation systems that gobble electricity and sometimes cause fires from overloaded circuits.

“Our hope is to drive the large-scale growing operations out of town,” said Shane Brinton, a city councilman and vice mayor who has pushed the novel idea.

“I don’t view it as anti-marijuana,” said Brinton. “It’s a land-use issue, a public safety issue, and environmental issue as well.”

If it passes, it would be the first measure of its kind in the nation aimed at marijuana growers, said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

The amount of electricity that would subject a resident to the tax amounts to a $700 per month bill, and is equivalent to the power used by a big chain drug store. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. reports that 633 homes — one in 15— are using that much juice, indicating they are raising pot rather than families.

If that many growers decide to absorb the tax instead of getting out of town, the tax would generate $1.2 million, or nearly 4 percent of the city’s $31.7 million budget.

Located on the rainy coast 280 miles north of San Francisco, Arcata is a city of 17,000 that dates to the days when mule trains carried goods from the shipping port to the Gold Rush Country. The lumber and fishing industry here have fallen on hard times, but Humboldt State University is a foundation of the local economy, with contributions from niche manufacturers of gourmet cookies, kayaking gear and goat cheese.

Since the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s, marijuana has been creeping into the culture and economy, and now permeates it, said Tony Silvaggio, a Humboldt State sociologist and a founder of the Humboldt Institute of Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research.

“This is the center of marijuana culture in the universe,” he said. “One of the reasons is we have a very tolerant attitude toward marijuana. Word gets around, and people come here with the sole purpose to grow marijuana indoors…”

Unlike some other states’ medical marijuana laws, California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996 sets no limits on plants or processed marijuana, does not prohibit the sale of excess medical marijuana to other patients or dispensaries, does not require patients or growers to register, and does not lay out which diseases or conditions can be treated with marijuana. When growers get busted, they often claim they are growing for patients.

Based on interviews with hundreds of growers, Silvaggio said even medical marijuana growers usually sell their extra, so the two markets cannot be separated. “Part of the problem with the marijuana economy is it is unregulatable,” he said.

Several years ago, people here began realizing that whole blocks of houses had been taken over by illegal growers, said Kevin Hoover, editor of the irreverent weekly newspaper The Arcata Eye.

“We came to realize we weren’t really dealing with hippies and the Zig Zag man. It was this industry,” said Hoover. “More than the dangers, it was this loss of neighborhood community. You can’t have your neighbor take in the paper when you’re on vacation. You can’t borrow a cup of sugar.”

To get their neighborhoods back, more and more people are informing on their neighbors, said Police Chief Tom Chapman.

Police are making progress, but still hardly making a dent.

In 2010 Arcata police served search warrants on six houses and in 2011 that rose to 14. So far this year, police investigated 48 houses, and got warrants to search 17. But only nine produced enough evidence for criminal prosecution. Police had to buy two huge shipping containers to haul off growing equipment.

Driving an unmarked SUV with his guitar in the back seat — he plays in a classic rock band — Chapman points out house after house. One bust produced 750 plants and 13 pounds of processed marijuana. Another was a half block from a grassy playground where kids and dogs romped.

“This is Small Town USA,” he said. “The people who live here are a bunch of working folks, salt of the earth, people just trying to get by.”

A typical grower, the chief said, is a 20- or 30-something from outside the area, who has moved into a house with an absentee landlord. They pay their rent on time with cash that stinks of marijuana.

“Most of the landlords claim ignorance,” he said.

Marnin Robbins has seen a half-dozen houses in his neighborhood raided by police.

“I don’t have a problem with marijuana,” he said. “But I do have a problem with people turning their houses into factories and bringing a violent element into our neighborhood.”

Measure I has no organized opposition. But Mark Sailors, who drives a pedal cab downtown and grows medical marijuana for himself, his wife and his mother, has long felt city attempts to control medicinal cannabis are hypocritical.

“This is just another in a long line of what I call Arcata’s medical marijuana Jim Crow laws,” Sailors said. “They pay a lot of lip service to being pro-Compassionate Use Act. But all their actions are trying to limit people and discourage the use” of medical marijuana.

————

By Jeff Barnard. Follow him at https://twitter.com/JeffBarnardAP.

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

.

News

Bay Area developers join Mace proposal

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

 
Trial ordered in Davis child death case

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

‘Topping out': Sign a building beam at the Shrem Museum

By Jeffrey Day | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Life after lawn: Fifty greens for shade

By Katie F. Hetrick | From Page: A1 | Gallery

UCD police warn of sexual battery incident

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Bob Dunning: There’s an exception to every rule

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

Ukraine declares heavy weapons pullback from front line

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
NASA craft circling Ceres in first visit to dwarf planet

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

CHP car hit with bullet on highway

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Got sun? Indoor herbs can thrive on windowsills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

How can we know that the products we buy for our homes are safe?

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Quick home improvements that raise your resale value

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Spring-clean your kitchen in five easy steps

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Peripheral neuropathy support offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

Workshop eyes creating peace through creative play

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

 
Museum brick sales to end this month

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

 
Cabrillo Club plans membership dinner

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

Dryers: Homes’ energy guzzlers just got greener

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery

UCD improving farming, food production with fewer pesticides

By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
PSAs highlight area nonprofits

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

Waldorf’s spring tea party doubles as open house

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Register online for Woodland rec classes

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Older adults will discuss conscious aging movement

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7Comments are off for this post

 
St. John’s shows off cuisine at brunch

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
Seniors serious about fitness

By Savannah Holmes | From Page: A11 | Gallery

Pig out at Pig Day Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Porkers on display at Hattie Weber Museum

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Forum

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

 
Some convicts don’t deserve parole hearings

By Tom Elias | From Page: B4

Here’s how to make college cheaper

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

 
Obama’s world is a dangerous place

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

Dirty laundry on the company line

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B9

 
.

Sports

DHS girls track and field team reloads for 2015

By Dylan Lee | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD women fall at UCR

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Aggie men clinch Big West crown

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Marsh provides radio images of a ‘magical’ Aggie hoops season

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Blue Devil volleyballers cruise in home opener

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Bella Vista slips past DHS softballers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12

.

Features

 
Rec Report: Looking ahead to spring break

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

What’s happening

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: B5

 
Wineaux: A local diamond in the rough, revisited

By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A9

.

Arts

Tables available at Vinyl and Music Fair

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

 
Steve Kiser’s work on display at Gallery 1855

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel': Second-rate

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Learn from experts at ‘Art of Painting’ conference

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

Tom Brousseau to visit ‘Live in the Loam’ on KDRT

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

 
‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ auditions set

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela celebrate Mandela’s legacy

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Honey, we shrank the SUV — and Europe loves it

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, March 6, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B10