Cannabis News Marijuana Policy Project
  Pot in Humboldt County: Both Sides of The Story
Posted by CN Staff on October 20, 2002 at 08:21:29 PT
By Chris Durant, The Times-Standard 
Source: Times-Standard  

cannabis When you ask outsiders what comes to mind when they think of Humboldt County, a lot of them will say it's the great redwood forests. Or the rugged coast. Perhaps the Victorian homes of Ferndale and Eureka. Chances are a lot more of them will say marijuana. Pot -- legal and illegal -- is a fact of life on the North Coast.

Songs and stories have been written about it, there have been international news stories about it and to certain people Humboldt County means only one thing.

It's a problem for some and a cause for others. It's a crime, a community, a medication, a business, a commodity, a jail sentence and a way of life.

Over the years hundreds of thousands of marijuana plants have been destroyed, thousands of people have been arrested and millions of dollars have been made.

"Humboldt is the nexus point of the whole growing movement," said Steve Bloom, senior editor of High Times Magazine, a New York City-based publication distributed worldwide and dedicated to the complete coverage of marijuana.

'Got Humboldt?'

"It's kind of like Napa to wine," Bloom said. "Mendocino and Humboldt are the Napa and Sonoma of marijuana country. There's no doubt about it, it's got the No. 1 reputation in the country. The people who left San Francisco and other parts in the '60s came up here and started doing the growing and established the whole growing industry.

"The Northern California growers are greatly responsible even for what's happening in Amsterdam. Certainly the Dutch are smart enough to realize good seeds and breeding when they see it. Even the 'Got Humboldt' T-shirts are funny because you can get the joke if you have any idea what it's about. If you're not a pot smoker you may not know the Humboldt reputation, but that's for those to know."

One man, who wished to remain anonymous, traveled from Los Angeles County recently to attend the Humboldt Harvest Bash in Eureka, an event centered on marijuana.

"Automatically, in Los Angeles, if I heard 'I got some Humboldt' from somebody I'd be like, all right let's go," the man said.

A special Marijuana Eradication Unit was attached to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department in 1983. It has found and destroyed more than 40,000 marijuana plants so far this year.

There have been crimes, mostly home invasion-type robberies, where the perpetrators were after the pot growing in the house. A number of homicides over the years are also believed to be pot related.

Sgt. Wayne Hanson of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department Drug Enforcement Unit said that over the last 20 years the high amount of marijuana cases that have come through the county have made the courts and the cops indifferent on the subject.

"Over the years Humboldt County's getting numb on the cases," Hanson said. "What happens in the county is everyone, even local judges and the probation office, get kind of numb on all the marijuana cases. A lot of people in Humboldt County grow marijuana and when we catch them they get probation: no one ever spends any time behind bars."

Hanson's generalization shows his frustration, because there are some growers who are sentenced to hefty jail terms. One that is talked about among growers, smokers and police is the 1998 indoor grow on Lord Ellis Summit off State Route 299. Five people were arrested after officers from numerous agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, raided a two-story house and found that it was completely gutted -- with the shell of a normal-looking home outside -- just for marijuana growing. Around 12,000 plants were found and reports say the growers were making $50,000 a month on pot. All of the people involved got a minimum sentence of 20 years in state prison. It is the biggest indoor bust in California history.

A Humboldt County native who has been a part of the marijuana growing community for more than 10 years said the reputation has always been there.

"It's grown here as long as I can remember, as long as anyone can remember," said Dave, who used a fictitious name. "Even in the '60s this area was known all over the world for the amount of potency that we had compared to everything else."

A growing crime problem

"In Humboldt County and the other counties people are killed on a regular basis for their marijuana," Hanson said. "I get blue in the face at the violent crimes that we have, even the ones that aren't reported. I look at it as like the Gold Rush of 1849, when gold is worth so much and people are getting killed. Here we are in the last 20 to 30 years, because marijuana is $3,000 a pound which equates to almost what gold is worth."

Bloom agrees with the Old West analogy.

"It's kind of like the Wild West, it's got the reputation of watch out, booby traps and guns. Not that growers are violent -- but they're protective, I'm sure. They've established their turf and territory," Bloom said.

On Sept. 17 the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department responded to a call of an accidental shooting near Honeydew where a man was shot in the elbow. Upon investigation the Sheriff's Department learned that six men in their 20s from the Monterey area drove up to Honeydew to look for marijuana gardens in the woods. One was shot, perhaps accidentally. The case is still under investigation.

Pot growers don't just stick to farming their own land, but also grow on other private land and on public lands as well.

"People laugh at me all the time because I say we're here to make Humboldt County safer," Hanson said. "Over the years people's property rights have been violated. You can own 40 acres of land, live in LA and come up to, let's say Honeydew, to enjoy your summer. And you're ordered off your land because someone was trespassing, growing dope on your land."

When the unit finds an unmanned garden on someone's property or public lands they decide whether to stake it out and wait for the farmer to return.

"It's common knowledge that we do stake out marijuana grows," Hanson said. "We confirm them, deploy officers and wait for a suspect to come in and either tend their plants or show some sort of cultivation. They're videotaped and arrested immediately."

As of Oct. 1, the unit had made 74 arrests so for this year and along with those arrests, 115 firearms have been confiscated.

"I've found stolen ones (firearms), fully autos, silencers," Hanson said. "It's a violent thing. This year we've recovered stolen vehicles and stolen property. It's not a victimless crime some people say it is, which is kind of irritating."

Make it legal?

Dave said if you decriminalize marijuana the crime will go away.

"The crime is because it's illegal," Dave said. "Any time you have something like that, where it's worth more than its weight in gold, people are going to want it. And if people want it there's always going to be someone out there who will go that extra step and break the law to get it. It's just going to be that way until it's legal. Until everyone can grow it legally in their back yard and there's no reason to take it because it's easier to grow it, there will still be crime involved."

Getting busted doesn't mean a grower necessarily is going to stop.

"If they're outdoor growers they're starting their next garden within a year of being put on probation," Dave said. "If they're indoor growers they're probably not going to start it in their house because their probation officer will come check on them. But if they have the knowledge and they know they can harvest big indoor every three months why wouldn't they put their knowledge to work at someone else's house?"

The environmental impact

Marijuana "grows," especially rural indoor grows, bring with them a lot of environmental issues.

"We see it all the time. We get (the Department of) Environmental Health involved," said Hanson. "Most of the indoors in rural areas are powered by diesel generators. The people change the oil in the generators and it goes right into the ground, which goes into the streams, which goes into the rivers. The diesel will have leaks and spillages, it goes into the ground and into the creeks. Then there's rat poison they put out because rats eat marijuana, and all the fertilizers that they use."

Hanson said every year there are structure fires in rural areas caused by malfunctioning equipment in indoor marijuana grows.

Dave said most growers don't care about the havoc they wreak on the environment, just the money they will make.

"A lot of times it's because people don't take care of their generators," Dave said. "They have a leaky generator leaking oils and fuel into the water system which basically comes back into their house because they're all running off wells anyway."

According to Dave, a lot of the growers have switched to propane generators because they're quieter, not for the environmental reasons.

"It's all about money," Dave said. "They're making the money, they don't care about destroying a little bit of water here and there. They don't look at it in the big picture that in 20 years of 100 people leaking a couple drops of oil a day into the creek, in 100 years it's going to kill every fish in the area."

The money

"A lot of these growers are making literally millions of dollars a year. Millions. And people just don't realize it," Hanson said.

He described a case last year in which one grower had a new Dodge Viper, a new Ford Excursion diesel, a new speed boat and two Harley Davidson motorcycles.

"His monthly vehicle payment was like $12,000 a month and he's showing (yearly) income at around $40,000 to the IRS," Hanson said.

Dave said multiple millions of dollars can be made every year just from the pot grown in Humboldt County.

"It's worth more than gold," Dave confirmed. "You figure, depending on who you know, street price for an eighth of an ounce is anywhere between $40 and $60. For an ounce it's anywhere between $250 and $300, quarter-pounds $800 and $1,000, pounds between $3,500 and $4,000. Depending on who you know. There's a lot of money to be made, there's thousands and thousands of pounds coming out of here every year."

Targeting commercial growers

"Three-hundred and sixty-five days a year we eradicate marijuana," Hanson said. "Because the county of Humboldt has such a large marijuana problem, I do green marijuana only. But if it's just like a meth lab or something like that I'll steer them in the right direction to get a hold of the local drug Task Force who takes care of the white dope problem."

Agent Ron Prose of the Humboldt County Drug Task Force said his unit mostly comes across marijuana when an agency, like the California Highway Patrol, makes a stop and the driver is transporting the drug. They have also been part of some big indoor busts in McKinleyville.

"If it comes our way we're not going to turn it down," Prose said.

The Marijuana Eradication Unit, also known as the Drug Enforcement Unit or Team, for the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department is run by Hanson with two full-time deputies under him. The unit has been grant-funded since 1983; Hanson has been the sergeant in charge since 2000. On his days off since 1987, Hanson has put in some overtime working with the unit.

Hanson said he doesn't go after the small or medicinal growers.

"The only people I target, in investigations or anything else, is the commercial marijuana growers who are making large sums of profits," Hanson said.

Hanson believes that the unit is a vital asset to the county and the community.

"Some people in the community want the Sheriff's Department Marijuana Eradication Team to go away and the money to be spent other places," Hanson said. "My unit, and I harp all the time, has assisted the detectives in arresting homicide suspects and investigating homicides with our detectives because we have the extra manpower. If there's a natural disaster the first ones who are going to respond will be the Drug Enforcement Unit."

Because the unit is mobile and tactical it will be the first on the scene in most emergency situations.

"Our primary function is marijuana eradication but we're here to assist wherever needed," Hanson said.

The unit doesn't just eradicate outdoor marijuana but indoor as well.

"If you're living here and your next-door neighbor is growing dope and all you do is smell the dope every night, because that stuff's kind of pungent, you get pretty sick of that," Hanson said. "We take care of that too. Everyone's evolving to go indoor. You get three crops a year and it's easier to conceal it."

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Department works hand-in-hand with the Drug Enforcement Agency, unlike what recently happened in Santa Cruz County when DEA agents raided a medicinal marijuana farm without consulting local law enforcement agencies.

"In our larger grows we like to get the DEA involved to get federal sentencing," Hanson said.

Even though every case is different, Hanson said anywhere between 500 and 1,000 plants can be enough to get the federal government involved.

And yes, the unit subscribes to High Times Magazine.

CAMPing in Humboldt County

The Campaign Against Marijuana Planting is part of the California Department of Justice. It only operates eight weeks out of the year, from early August until the end of September. Agencies that make up CAMP are the Department of Justice, the California Highway Patrol and the California National Guard.

"What CAMP does is eight weeks during the year they help counties with outdoor eradication," Hanson said. "With the helicopters and the extra manpower, because it's quite labor intensive and for officer safety, you have more people in the field. They come up to assist us and we direct them where to go. They contact me and I tell them 'yes I have work for you, meet me at such and such location and come with me.' So I know where the gardens are; I found them. They're just here to assist. We do all the paperwork, we do all the prosecution. People always get confused with CAMP and the Sheriff's Office because the Drug Enforcement Unit is funded through a state grant which supplies a sergeant, two deputies, my secretary and three 4 by 4 vehicles. People always get confused, like one of our local supervisors; if the grant went away, CAMP's still coming. They're a separate entity with separate funding, so say if our grant went away and people don't like CAMP coming into Humboldt County because it's politically sensitive -- CAMP's still coming."

CAMP is nationally known, especially among the marijuana community.

"On the political front there's the CAMP and things like that but it seems that, from what I can tell, it's a really strong community here that has banded together over the years to fight back the government's efforts to stop them from doing what they've decided to do in this area of the world," Bloom said.

According to Dave, growers are well aware of CAMP's movements when the agency is in the area.

"CAMP comes out of the sky and they like to take things," Dave said. "A lot of times they're nice about it and they don't destroy the area but I have seen places where they destroyed the entire area. I've seen them make a landing pad for the helicopter in the middle of the woods; that's destroying the environment just as much as the people who are out there. They're here to do a job; I can understand why, and I don't dislike them personally for what they're doing because it is illegal."

Dave described a time when he was tending to plants in the woods and he heard the CAMP helicopter coming. He had a path already made and hid in a hole he'd dug under a log. The helicopter kept going.

"It is a game," Dave said. "When that 'copter comes over your head in the woods the adrenaline hits and it's like cat and mouse, you got to run and hide. That's the way most of the people in this area look at it."

First of Two Parts:

Monday -- What does Humboldt County have that attracts marijuana growers?

Source: Times-Standard (CA)
Author: Chris Durant, The Times-Standard
Published: Sunday, October 20, 2002
Copyright: 2002 MediaNews Group, Inc.

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Comment #7 posted by larry giglio on October 09, 2009 at 10:20:45 PT:

Camp Relax
hello. it is unremarkable how few people will get off their butt to support marijuana legalization. a recent study has shown that employers knowledgeable of an increase of 10% marijuana usage in their manual labor workforce have seen on average an 18% increase in overall output and productivity. recent polls have shown that 92% of today's youth have tried marijuana; while only 68% proclaim they would use again. there are not vast hordes of zombies craving harder drugs roaming the landscape as has been predicted. no one has died as the result of smoking marijuana. tax revenues are beginning to accrue. allowing the public to relax by smoking a store bought marijuana cigarette should be legal. get legislation written and vote to legalise marijuana. the munchies do no harm. alcohol is the true gateway drug to tobacco, caffeine, and narcotic abuses. marijuana keeps you healthy.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #6 posted by Hope on July 03, 2009 at 14:39:47 PT
L. G.
I pretty much agree.

You sound like you read the entire label on the peppermint soap bottle fairly recently!


[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by larry giglio on July 03, 2009 at 14:13:31 PT:

Camp Cool
hello. the generation that connoted "cool" to smoking marijuana because of its relative harmlessness in the face of overreaching authoritarianism, and constrictive social behavior, needs another toke. the germinated growth of brotherly love associated with the consumption of marijuana: needs pruning, grafting, and rebirth. coolness now is evolution of human character into oneness. legalization of marijuana removes the connotation of coolness. smoking would simply be a matter of cognitive choice. the cool factor of smoking marijuana is already losing social relevance, and eliminating the factor through legalization, would clearly depict narcotics as not cool to impressionable children. support authority-legalise marijuana- rebalance the scale of liberty: teach children that laws are for the benefit of society by reversing the injustices of marijuana illegality.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #4 posted by larry giglio on May 10, 2009 at 16:18:24 PT:

hello. the consortium assembled to fight the war against marijuana, costs taxpayers a giant portion of the budget. instead of bankrupting the government, a redeployment of these brave crime fighters as traffic/foot patrolpersons, could improve their local visibility; and enhance their service to the community. there was a time when their service was welcome. perhaps with legalization, the authorities will be able to revenue us 'should-be' law abiding citizenry; through taxes; to enable themselves to purchase all the latest high-tech gadgetry to fight crime. nobody overdoses and dies from weed:legalization is overdue

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #3 posted by DdC on October 20, 2002 at 23:11:05 PT
We've Gathered These Over the Years...
C.A.M.P. Cops Assuming Military Persons C.A.M.P. Crazy American Marijuana Phoebes C.A.M.P. Cowardly, Asinine, Marijuana Phoebes C.A.M.P. Cops Against My Phreedom C.A.M.P. Crooks And Mean People C.A.M.P. Cops And Marijuana Phoebes C.A.M.P. Cops Against Medicinal Plants C.A.M.P. Corporations Against Medicinal Plants C.A.M.P. Cops Afraid of Medicinal Plants C.A.M.P. Cops And Moron Politicians C.A.M.P. Crooked Anti-Marijuana Politicians C.A.M.P. Censor Alternative Medicinal Plants C.A.M.P. Codependants Against Marijuana Participation C.A.M.P. Cops Are Mean People C.A.M.P. Cops Are Military Pissants C.A.M.P. Cannabis, Alternative Medicinal Plant C.A.M.P. Cannabis, Against Medical Profits C.A.M.P. Cops Assuming Medical Practices C.A.M.P. Cops Assuming Military Practices C.A.M.P. Cops Are Marijuana Phoebes C.A.M.P. Corporate Association of Marijuana Phoebes C.A.M.P. Corporate Anti Marijuana Police C.A.M.P. Corporate Alternative Medicine Puppets C.A.M.P. Corporate Anti Marijuana Puppets C.A.M.P. Corporate Alternative Medicine Phoebes C.A.M.P. Corporations Against Mercy, Period C.A.M.P. Cops Against Mercy, Period C.A.M.P. Cops Are McCaffrey Puppets C.A.M.P. Cops Are McCaffrey Prostitutes C.A.M.P. C.i.a. And McCaffrey Puppets C.A.M.P. Constitutional Amendment to Mercy Prevention C.A.M.P. Cops Advocating Mercy Prevention C.A.M.P. Chemical Air Monkey Pimps C.A.M.P. Corporate Air Monkey Patrol C.A.M.P. California Air Monkey Puppets C.A.M.P.. Christian Air Monkey Paranoids C.A.M.P. Cops Are Mainly Paranoid C.A.M.P. Christians Are Marijuana Phoebes C.A.M.P. Chopperheads Are Mentally Paranoid C.A.M.P. Corporate Anti Mercy Pigs C.A.M.P. Corporate Air Monkey Pissants C.A.M.P. Competition Answers Marijuana’s Prohibition C.A.M.P. Cannabis A Medicinal Plant!

Witnesses of Destruction Witnesses of Deceit Wearers of Deceit Winter of Darkness Winter of Desolation Winter of DEAth Whiteboys oppressing Darkmen Wanged out Drunkards Wacked out Dullards Weasels only Days Wrong! and Deadly Winos, oinkers, DEAthers Witless or Dimbulbed Witless old DEA-ers Witless old DumbA$$e$ Witless old Drug-agents Witless old Dullards Witless old Devils Witless old DEAmons Witless old D@mned Witless or Devilish Where's our Decency? Weapon of DEAth Weapon of Destruction Weapon of Deceit Weapon of Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Weapon of Despots Weapon of Dictators Winter of DEAmons Winter of Desperation Winter of Discontent Winds of DEAth Winds of Danger Winds of Discontent Waves of Discontent Waves of DEAth Waves of Destruction Waves of DumbA$$e$ Waves of Dullards Waves of DimBulbs Waves of Devils Waves of DEAmons Winds of Dust Waves of Discontented White or DEAd Waves of Denial Wall of DEAth Walls of Dungeons Walls of Deception Wavees of Danger Waves of Deception Waves of DumbA$$E$ Waves of Dis-Ease Wrongly Ordered DEAd WoDs or Decorum WhiteLight or DarkNight Winds of Despair Waves of Despair Weavers of Darkness Wails ofthe Damned Wails ofthe Dying Wails of Despair Waves of D.A.R.E. Waves of Dazed Wings of DEAth Waves of Darkness Wings of Darkness Whites on Drugs (Alcohol, Tobacco, 200,000 Pharmaceuticals) Wretched old Devils Wretched old Deceivers Wretched old Dunces Wretched old Destroyers Wretched old DumbA$$E$ Wretched old DEAdbeats Wretched old Drumbeat Wasted old Devils Wantedalive or DEAd War, Oil, DEAth Wrong! Olivia, Dorothy Wrong! Oliver, Dick Wrong! Our Dicky-Trick (President Nixon) Worn out Diatribe Worn out Despots Worn out Deceivers Worn out DEAthSquids Worn out Devils Worn out DumbA$$E$ Worn out Desperados Wolves of DEAth Wolves of Destruction Wolves or DEAmons WoDs our Downfall

War of Desperation Warped on Denial Warped on Destruction Wasted on Destruction Weaned on DEAth Weenies of DEAth Wasteful or Destructive Wanged out Destroyers Wasted or Dippy Wasted on DEAth War of Despots War of Denial War of Dissipation War of DEAth Wrong old Dummies Wrong old Dorks Wrong old D*cks Wrong old Derelicts Wrong or DEAdly Warriors of Destruction Warriors of DEAth Warriors of Disaster Worriers of Drugs Wasted old Destroyers Weeny old Dippies Weeny old Dipsh*its Wastrels or DEAdbeats Where's our Drugs? Where's our Dignity? Where's our Delights? Where's our Daughters? Where's our Ditchweed? Where's our Dissert? Whores of Destruction Whores of DEAth Whores, Oinkers, DEAthers Wrong!, Oinkers; Delete! White Oinkersof DEAth Wriggly Oinkersof DEAth Wriggly Oinkersof Destruction Whiteboys on Denial Where's our Deliverance? Whimpy old Destroyers Wasted or Desperate Wasted old Desperados Wasted old Dummies Warriors on Drugs (alcohol) Weeny old Desperados Wasteful old Desperados Wasteful old Dummies Wasteful old Destroyers Wanton old Destroyers Wanton old Desperados Wranglers of DEAth Wranglers of Deceit Wranglers of Despotism Weavers of Destruction Weavers of Deceit Weavers of Denial Weavers of Desperation Weavers of Desolation Wasters of Dreams Whites Only, DEAr Weary old DEAthsquids Weary old Devils Weary old DEAmons Warehouses of DEAth Warehouses of Desperation Warehousing our Denial WeBe only Destroyers Weakly Oinker Devils Warehousing our Drugs Whitehouse on Drugs! Whitehouse on Despotism Whitehouse our Disaster Whitehouse our Devil Wally's on Drugs Wally's our Disaster Wally's on DaRug! Weasel's on DaRug Wally's our Dope! Wally's on DaRope (swing Willy, swing!) Whiners on Drugs Wanda's on Deputy Wanda's Oinky Dugs Wanda's on DaRag Warrant's out4 Doug Warrant's out4 Deloris Warrant's out4 DePopulation Warrantee of DEAth Warrantee of Destruction Where's our Dream? Where's our Destiny? Where's our Deputy? Withering old DEAthSquids Wearers of Dung Wasters of DaBong Whisky on DaRocks Weasels or Devils

Wads of Dough. Waste of Dollars Waste of Dogs Who's on Drugs? We're only Drinking Wind of Dishonesty Window on Dementia Wrath of Demons Web of Deceit Waves of Destruction Wicked oily Devils Wasted on Doughnuts Weird oink Detector Work of Demons Whiff of Dung Witless on Display Warning of Disaster Wolves of Darkness Wittness of Demise Worm of DEA Wingnuts on Dementia Whicked Ornery Dictators Warped ole Drugwar War on Dougs? War on Drudge War on DahRugs? Whiny ole Dirtbags Wimpy ole Douschbags White ole Dipshits Wounded orphaned DEAth Waste of Drugs Until someday all cannabis tokers can proudly claim! We Overcame DEAth! wizard of DEAth wagging of dawgs wagers of DEAth weasels of DEAth wish of DEAth weed of democracy weed out democracy whores of draconia weeds only downside whores of DEAth wretched ole dickheads weak ordained demagogs weepy ole deralics We or DEAth Willy's other diversion we owe DuPont? wagering our dividends wasting our democracy Wise old Dudes! War over Directly weed or DEAth wisdom or drugwar

Truckin No More WoD

Mr. Natural

W's Position on MC


Too Much Snow

Village Idiot

John "P" Wally (Warning XXX)

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #2 posted by Patrick on October 20, 2002 at 14:51:34 PT
Camp this!
The Campaign against Marijuana Planting? I hate organizations whose main goal or purpose is to take away something from others instead of giving to others in need.

How bout we change the acronym that is C.A.M.P. to simply stand for …Cannabis A Medicinal Plant! We must out number those bozos by a wide margin?

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by DdC on October 20, 2002 at 14:29:28 PT
Some Day...

CA's #1 cash crop...Prohibition!

[ Post Comment ]

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