The following is an open letter addressed to "law enforcement" from Casey O'Neill, policy chair for the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance (MCA). We are publishing it here as an opinion column -- the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mendocino Voice. We welcome any response, or other letters-to-the-editor, and can be reached at [email protected].
An open letter to Law Enforcement:
I write today as a son of Mendocino County, and as Policy Chair for the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance. I write as a farmer and homesteader to speak to the heavy-handed enforcement that is happening in our communities. I am appalled by what has been reported to me regarding law enforcement treatment of small-scale cannabis cultivation. There are two issues I grapple with: first, small cultivators being caught up as collateral damage when cannabis laws are enforced through militarization; and second, the atrocious and inhumane treatment of those enforced upon, whether “properly” targeted or not.
I am a child of the drug war; my family had our house ransacked by enforcement just before my third birthday. The ransacking of homes because of a few plants is wrong, and represents a deliberate terrorization of a populace that has suffered from decades of uneven enforcement. Is this what legalization of cannabis means? That people have their homes violated and their belongings thrown about as though by thieves? This is a betrayal of the public trust.
These tactics have been used in the past, which is why the community suffers from PTSD surrounding enforcement activities. There was hope that with legalization, these obscene prohibitionist tactics would end. People are afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals.
Land-owners have long believed they have a riparian right to use water on their land for beneficial uses including homesteading. The law has changed to disallow cannabis cultivation as one of those uses; as such, a vegetable garden is an acceptable use but a cannabis garden of the same size is now “environmental degradation”.
We can all agree that bulldozing mountaintops is environmental degradation, so let’s see the focus be on large-scale damage and avoid the collateral damage of tiny homestead gardens. There IS real environmental degradation happening; law enforcement must make the effort to distinguish the scale and effect of the damage.
Collateral actions should be limited and homes should not be violated. Chopping down plants is one thing, ransacking homes is another. Community members find themselves caught between the rock of enforcement and the hard place of a convoluted and unaffordable permitting process. Enforcement without opportunity is a broken paradigm.
Casey O’Neill co-operates HappyDay Farms, in Mendocino County. You can find his radio show or podcast at: HappyDay Farms Farm and Reefer Report on iTunes or Soundcloud. www.happydayfarmscsa.com.
The MCA describes their mission as: The Mendocino Cannabis Alliance serves and promotes Mendocino County’s world-renowned cannabis cultivators and businesses through sustainable economic development, education and public policy initiatives.
Here is an additional note from the MCA: