Mendocino County’s Reefer Madness (opinion)

Laytonville's Jim Shields looks at the county's cannabis enforcement.

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Editor’s note: 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. 

Anyone is welcome to submit a letter to the editor at editor@mendovoice.com. 

LAYTONVILLE, CA, 6/27/17 — People kid me about how much I write and talk about pot in this newspaper 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 on this week’s front page. 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.

Shown above is a sprawling chain of hoop greenhouses within two miles of downtown Laytonville. The structures contain thousands, of marijuana plants. There is a proliferation of such greenhouses throughout the north county area. The question is: How can it possibly be legal to grow that many plants under new state marijuana laws and Mendocino County pot ordinances? (photo/caption provided by Shields).
Shown above is a sprawling chain of hoop greenhouses within two miles of downtown Laytonville. The structures contain thousands, of marijuana plants. There is a proliferation of such greenhouses throughout the north county area. The question is: How can it possibly be legal to grow that many plants under new state marijuana laws and Mendocino County pot ordinances? (photo/caption provided by Shields).

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 McCowen 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 MCSO raids.

Basically, the D.A. 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. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office anonymous Tip-Line is 707-234-2100.


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, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Well, guess what? It’s not legal to grow 50,000 plants. Also, the effect of all this bud will be to lower the market price.

    Can you make money at $100/pound? Probably not. Might be time to go back to town and get a job. Good luck!

  2. You say “. The structures contain thousands, of marijuana plants. There is a proliferation of such greenhouses throughout the north county area. The question is: How can it possibly be legal to grow that many plants under new state marijuana laws and Mendocino County pot ordinances? (photo/caption provided by Shields)” What a joke Jim, photographing people’s farms hoping they will get busted while your own family and son work for one of the counties largest indoor growers… what is the big offence and why does it matter to you how many plants people grow on their own personal property?

    • You’ve got the wrong guy. I own the Mendocino County Observer and manage the Laytonville Water District. I didn’t take the photo it was taken by neighbors of the illegal grow whose rights are being impinged on by this monstrosity of a grow. I don’t have a son who even lives remotely close to Laytonville, let alone works for somebody here. Check your facts before sending out fact-free diatribes. Your ignorance on all matters concerning this issue is truly breath-taking.

  3. A poorly written and extremely misinformed, fear-mongering article. There is a lot of incorrect information floating around out there concerning the permitting process for Mendocino County. Before you write, get informed. It’s okay to have opinions but you are doing a disservice to your readership by throwing about false information. Plant count is irrelevant, Jim- square footage for commercial operations in very specifically zoned areas is the reality now. Folks need to begin wrapping their heads around the idea that cannabis is becoming an AGRICULTURAL CROP- even the small strawberry farmer must grow an incredible number of strawberries (in hoops and permanent greenhouses!) to survive and compete with a giant company like Driscolls. These “mega-grows” as you like to call them are small peas compared to what’s going on in Humboldt, and in specific areas throughout CA. What is photographed in this article is going to BE the small farmer in a few years! The only way to be a viable small business in this county, and in this state, is to realize where this industry is going, make smart decisions about your infrastructure and play the game/follow the rules. The permitting process is extremely difficult, extremely expensive and very time-consuming for those brave and savvy growers who want to be fully legal. Best of luck to all those willing to dig in and be a legitimate business in this new world of cannabis-farming.

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