When the Drug Enforcement Agency raided a large-scale marijuana grow three weeks ago on Navarro Ridge Road, neighbors of the pot gardens were very pleased. The owner of the gardens, a Santa Barbara man named Patrick Fourmy, his neighbors say, has not been a good neighbor. Most of the year Fourmy isn't a neighbor at all. He's busy in Santa Barbara where he operates two medical marijuana clinics called "The Compassion Center" on whose oversight board sits Joe Allen, a former Mendocino County District Attorney.
Fourmy's Navarro Ridge Road farm supplies his Santa Barbara clinics. In theory, each plant is documented as medicinal, and each is destined for a single patient. In practice, who knows where it all goes, but Fourmy's defenders, and Fourmy himself, say he's a heckuva swell guy, an idealist who grows the plant in industrial greenhouses on Navarro Ridge five and a half miles east of Highway One to help beat back human suffering.
Neighbors aren't buying it. "He's one of these cool guys who makes a lot of money growing dope but wants to be loved, too," a neighbor says. "To hear him tell it he saved Salmon Creek and he works with Bonnie Raitt to save the environment. He drops show biz names like we're all supposed to be impressed. So far as I'm concerned he's just another SUV-driving hustler."
The marijuana industry, for years Mendocino County's primary cash crop, exists in a curious local limbo. A registered pot patient in Mendocino County can legally possess 25 mature female plants plus two pounds of processed medicine which, as many people have pointed out, is an awful lot of medicine to keep around the house, especially given that about a pound is as much as the average smoker consumes in a year. But anybody can get him or herself a medical marijuana card these days simply by making an appointment with the right doctor. The permission slips cost $150. Mr. Fourmy, in theory, grows pot only for people with permission. The problem for him and other medical marijuana entrepreneurs is the federal government. The feds say marijuana is illegal. Period. Mendocino County says, "Well, it's kinda illegal, but if you have your pot card and your plant patch is registered with us, we're not going to bother you."
Mendocino County, as police policy, only goes after those growers who operate completely outside the system, and goes after grows the size of Fourmy's and much larger who don't bother to pretend to be supplying medicinal marijuana clinics. And Mendocino County prosecutes only the largest growers — if they're arrested, and not many are.
There are almost no pot prosecutions in the local justice system's pipeline at this time.
Many of the largest growers are Mexican immigrants and/or Mexican nationals organized into criminal syndicates. The DEA says that these syndicates, who grow on Mendocino County's vast public lands or on the county's larger ranches with or without the land owner's permission, recycle part of their annual pot profits into the importation of methamphetamine, also a prevalent drug in Mendocino County and everywhere else in the country. Marijuana is now so prevalent in the county that city prices per pound are said to be down from $5,000 for high octane Mendo Mellow to about $2,500
The huge grows are heavily armed. Fourmy's grow, from all accounts, was not defended by the usual dogs and guns, although a single friendly pitbull was on the property when the place was raided by the DEA three weeks ago. If Fourmy's grow was not defended with guns from the thieves infesting the Northcoast at this time of the year when the plants are being harvested, his is an unusual grow. Security is a huge consideration for even mom and pop gardens, but a public operation beside a lonely country road that produces thousands of pounds of primo dope with no guns is, well, unprecedented in Pot World.
Fourmy was not present when the DEA's raid team visited his three properties on Navarro Ridge Road. When he bought his properties on the Ridge seven years ago Fourmy, who is said to pay his workers up to five thousand dollars a month, hired locals to do his heavy lifting. "But he's such a jerk nobody around here will work for him no matter how much he pays," a critic says. For the last three or four years Fourmy's staff has been recruited out of Santa Barbara.
As a Boonville man expressed his frustration with outside people doing bad things to the neighborhood, "I don't like it that the Napa wine mafia has taken over Anderson Valley, and I don't like all these outside crooks coming up here to grow pot."
Why doesn't Fourmy grow in Santa Barbara County? He's told his Navarro Ridge neighbors he doesn't grow in Santa Barbara because land is too expensive there. Land on the Mendocino Coast isn't exactly cheap, not that Fourmy would seem to be strapped for investment cash. It seems more likely that Fourmy is here because there are fewer people here to object. Local gossip also says that Fourmy "is some kind of trust funder, a rich kid who grew up in a wealthy Santa Barbara family. He probably doesn't even need to grow dope."
Neighbors are happy that Fourmy is at least temporarily out of business on Navarro Ridge Road.
"I never saw any guns up there," one of Fourmy's many estranged neighbors says. "The guy's never there except for three to four times a year when he's shipping dope out. I've seen him here at Thanksgiving, though, maybe for four or five days. But he's never lived here and locals won't work for him anymore. He's a jerk, a total jerk. This was a peaceful, quiet rural road, then this guy moves in and all of a sudden we've got huge greenhouses, night lights and big, industrial greenhouse fans. And traffic like never before. All the medical marijuana scripts he has are for Santa Barbara. None of them are for people in Mendocino County."
Neighbors are down on Fourmy but say that "the people who work for him were nice. He was not." One neighbor who ran afoul of Fourmy was offered six thousand dollars to move. When the neighbor turned the offer down, Fourmy tried to buy the property from his critic's landlord. "He'd insult me then he'd say, 'Let's heal this,' and try to give me gifts. That was after he tried to buy me out."
"There are cars and trucks up and down the road year round now," another neighbor complains. "Since the big bust, though, there's a noticeable decrease in traffic and the noise from his goddamn greenhouses. He grows year round, with more being grown indoors all the time, but most of it is still grown outdoors. Before he put up his big grow fence you could see it from the road, which is why I'm real skeptical about no guns. You mean to tell me you can see pot right from the road like a big corn field and he has no way to protect it other than the unarmed people who live there? He's definitely a big time grower. But the worst thing he did was wreck the wetlands up here. Fourmy plowed over the wetlands and brought in at least a hundred 18-wheelers with huge piles of soil that he dumped right on top of the wetlands for these big earthen growing pads. He's bringing urban here. It feels like San Jose up here, and when he says he didn't have any Mexican workers, well, I know everyone around here, including Mexicans, and the Mexicans on his place were not locals. I don't know where they were from."
Just this last spring Fourmy invested another big chunk of money in his 13-acre grow site, one of the three properties he owns on Navarro Ridge Road. Beginning in February, neighbors say, construction was constant. Fourmy's critics suspect the construction occurred outside the local permit process,
But since the big bust, the Navarro Ridge Road is quiet again. "And," says one of his detractors, "we hope it stays that way. This needed to happen to Fourmy. He couldn't have done all this stuff in Santa Barbara and, hopefully, he won't be back to do it here."