Back when Tom Allman was Sheriff, he would periodically appear at Board of Supervisors meetings and weigh in on the now officially certified failed Pot Ordinance.
At different times he told the Supes that growers “are laughing at you” due to the botched, non-enforced Ordinance. He equated the chaos surrounding it as creating a “County of Marijuana” instead of the County of Mendocino.
A couple of years ago, Allman spoke of 12 unsolved murders that were linked to marijuana. So just about everybody, with the exception of those County officials who are responsible for the unworkable Pot Ordinance, have been aware that violence has long been a byproduct of the unenforced Ganja Fiat.
Finally, there’s another County official besides me speaking out on the Ordinance that has never been enforced by the County.
This past Monday Sheriff Matt Kendall posted on Facebook a thought-provoking piece that pounds all the round pegs into the pegless round holes of the Cannabis Ordinance.
In less than a week’s span, North County communities experienced two separate invasions by heavily armed hardened criminals who felt perfectly at ease plotting and carrying out pot robberies that could have easily ended with multiple deaths of victims, including cops responding to the crime scenes.
Kendall says, “If the wildfires in our County being the worst in recorded history wasn’t distressing enough, crimes like the one that occurred yesterday, Sept. 27, 2020, also reflect some of the worst criminal activity our County has seen … Recently we learned of an incident where fire personnel have been threatened, intimidated and ordered by illegal marijuana growers to water their marijuana crops with water tenders, which have been dedicated to the fire suppression efforts. There has also been theft of water supply systems that have been put in place to draw water for fire suppression efforts in the field, thus cutting response times to get more water to the fire lines. Even more concerning to me, as we further investigate the kidnapping and robbery case which began on the Covelo Road, we learned these men were planning on murdering deputies if they were discovered and detained. These subjects were not residents of Mendocino County, coming from the state of Nevada and Riverside County California. However, they were drawn here by the lure of easy money. Monies that are funding the problems we are experiencing now. We see this time and time again. People from outside of Mendocino County and well outside of the law are continually drawn here like a moth to a flame. The suspects, in this case, were equipped with military-grade weapons, and body armor. They had planned to open fire on deputies with these weapons. Our brave men and women who serve Mendocino County aren’t paid to be murdered. I will not stand by and allow this to happen. I fear robberies, murder and constant threat to human life will become the new normal for Mendocino County if we don’t try to address the problem now. I have grown weary of hearing marijuana is a victimless crime. If this were true, we would not be dealing with murders and robberies clearly tied to marijuana. We can clearly see criminals lured by greed, and greed, in turn, leads to a marked increase in violence. Anything causing this much violence must be stopped.”
As someone who has spent his entire professional career working under two different regulatory frameworks (airline transportation and now public water utilities), I can tell you there are only two basic components to any regulatory scheme. There is a cohesive system of regulations and the means to enforce them. They fit like hand and glove. You can’t have one without the other. Yet, that has been the very situation this County has been in since the Cannabis Ordinance was enacted nearly four years ago.. The hand and the glove have never fit.
Just two weeks ago, Dennis Slota, former head of the Mendocino County Water Agency, addressed the Board at its meeting where the Pot Ordinance was once again under consideration.
Slota advised the Supes:
“We are aware of Humboldt growers moving to Mendocino County because Mendocino County does not enforce it’s Cannabis Ordinance. Humboldt County uses active enforcement based on evaluation of Google images, followed up with field inspection. … The contrast with Mendocino County’s lack of enforcement of a complaint-based system is striking and fiscally irresponsible. Many citizens decline to complain about a cannabis neighbor due to fear of retaliation. A majority of these complaints could be identified by active enforcement. It should not be the citizen’s obligation to enforce the law.”
Confirming Slota’s statement, Kendall’s Facebook post said, “I can’t count the number of calls we receive from residents in our rural areas who are tired of being intimidated and are tired of sheltering in their homes while armed subjects roam vast areas of the county protecting their crops. Gunfire is heard all night in the rural areas within our county. It is being used as a constant warning to anyone who would venture out of their homes in the evening and night.”
As one letter-to-the-editor writer pithily summarized the current situation:
“This cannabis season in Covelo has been an explosion of illegal cannabis cultivation in Covelo because: 1) Humboldt does a great job of enforcement and drives all the illegal grows to Covelo because Mendocino has no enforcement infrastructure like Humboldt (sophisticated satellite imaging and active pursuit of enforcement) to perform enforcement; 2) Mendocino County has no coherent cannabis permitting process.”
Ellen Drell, of the Willits Environmental Center, in a recent letter-to-the-editor urging the Supervisors to enforce the current ordinance, commented, “Though County voters supported legalization, they didn’t want cannabis to be the next “gold rush’ at the expense of the County’s environment — our open spaces, unpolluted night skies, shared rural values, or the health of the County’s wildlife and the survival of salmon and steelhead in our streams.”
Now we have Sheriff Kendall making the same points, with the same emphasis on enforcement.
Hopefully the Supervisors are receptive to the Sheriff’s spot-on analysis of their failed, unworkable, deliberately un-enforced Pot Ordinance that has resulted in this crisis. It’s time for all the talking to stop and the action to begin.
As Kendall put it, “I know our Board of Supervisors agrees with me that all Mendocino County residents deserve a better quality of life. I’m asking each of you to contact your Supervisor by reaching out to them on social media or just tag them in a comment. Let them know you stand with us in wanting all of us to live in a safer community.”
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of 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)