by Brett McFarland (as told to Kym Kemp)
This is presented as it was presented to court. No changes have been made.
My name is Brett McFarland. I was born to Mike and Gayle McFarland on October 28th, 1984 in Sioux Falls SD. My father was a high ranking officer in the United States Army and my mother worked nights as a pediatrics intensive care unit nurse. I have a large extended family in South Dakota and Minnesota; however I spent much of my adolescence living on or near different military installations around the USA. During that time I would often return to my grandparent’s farm in Minnesota in the summers where I bucked hay, picked sweet corn, and did farm chores. When I was fifteen years old my dad was just getting back from a seven month stay in Saudi Arabia and he received an assignment a little out of the norm to teach military history and ROTC at the University of South Dakota. We moved from where we were stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado to a farm south of Beresford, South Dakota. There I attended High School and labored for half a dozen neighbors doing every kind of farm work imaginable. I also spent a full summer helping a neighbor build a home from the ground up. I learned a lot about farm life, the value of hard work, and the importance of self-‐discipline.
After finishing High School I convinced my brother Sean to move to Brookings, South Dakota, where we attended SDSU to study Horticulture. I went to school full time, worked 20 hours a week, and still managed to get high marks. By the spring of my freshman year I secured four acres of land for high-‐ intensity organic row crop vegetable production as part of a joint business and research venture in connection with SDSU. My brother and I planted something like 2,700 tomatoes, 9,000 peppers, 6,000 cabbage broccoli and cauliflower, an acre of melons, almost an acre of squash and a variety of other vegetables. We worked together to grow, harvest, and distribute a mountain of food. We sold to Hyvee and other grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets, and distribution companies. I worked well over 100 hours a week that summer. It was very difficult and in the end an early frost severely damaged our crops and our income. We didn’t make much money that summer, but I learned precisely what I was capable of.
In January of 2005, at the age of twenty and not knowing a single person in California, I made the move to Arcata where I attended Humboldt State University, studying Horticulture. That spring I started another truck farm. I leased ground from a Portuguese farmer named Manuel Morrias, both in an area known as the “bottoms” in Arcata and also 7 miles inland in the Mad River Valley near the town of Blue Lake. I again sold my produce to grocery stores and restaurants, and at the Arcata Farmers Market which is attended by as many as 6,000 people on an average Saturday in the summer and fall.
During the first year I lived in California I noticed a very relaxed attitude towards marijuana and learned that since 1996 the plant had been legalized for medicinal use and was being widely prescribed, grown and used for medical use. I had suffered for years from migraines and chronic back pains, (medically documented) and had struggled to find relief so I saw a doctor there and he prescribed me medical cannabis and gave me a permit to grow it. Being a farmer and growing so much already it seemed perfectly natural to grow a few pot plants and that is exactly what I did.
I bought two dozen plants over the counter from a licensed marijuana dispensary in Ukiah and planted them that spring. I This was my entry into the world of marijuana in Northern California. A great deal of the marijuana I grew over the next several years did stay in California and, to the best of my ability, was in used in accordance with the law there. However, over time a lot of it did leave the state, winding up in South Dakota and elsewhere. It was a lapse in judgment on my part and I regret it deeply. I never meant to hurt anyone and I can say with one hundred percent honesty that I never ever used guns or violence associated with my crime and I never intended to.
Slowly but surely marijuana growing became so laissez faire that I made exceptions to only growing for state legal medical purposes, and sold marijuana to people who ultimately took out of the state. I became complacent in my distribution of the pot and don’t think I even realized how serious of an offense I was committing. I am now deeply sorry and I wish I had taken much greater care with my actions.
At this point many of the details of my early involvement are hazy, due to the passage of time and, quite frankly, because we were smoking a fair amount of pot at the time. I recall that in the late summer of 2005 I met John (Jonathan) Linton, who approached me while I was on a tractor cultivating a field of broccoli. He was looking to rent an open room in the house. John moved in to a studio unit attached to the farmhouse I lived in. He was attending HSU and we quickly became friends. John came to figure in my story as it relates to marijuana cultivation and distribution.
But late that August the tragic hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on New Orleans and surrounding communities. I heard of the devastation and of the hundreds of thousands of people displaced in the aftermath. Shortly there-‐after my friend Woody from down the street told me he was working with an organization called Pastors for Peace to collect, transport and distribute truckloads of aid to the south and they needed another person. At first I resigned I couldn’t go due to my work and responsibilities on the farm but when I went to bed that night I couldn’t sleep thinking about all the people who lost their homes and loved ones. I found someone to take care of most of my responsibilities and Jonathan volunteered to move irrigation pipe as needed to support the cause.
We canned 300 quarts of pickles from the farm and packed hundreds of pounds of potatoes and onions. We then headed to San Francisco where we picked up donated medical supplies, clothes and bottled water and headed to the south. Around the first week in September we rendezvoused in Jackson, Mississippi with about a dozen other box trucks and school buses from around the country. I spent the next few weeks unloading and organizing aid in various communities in the muggy south.
A month later I returned home to California and resumed work on the farm. The squash was ripe and so was the marijuana. I harvested and trimmed the cannabis in the evenings after work on the farm. Jonathon saw me working on drying and trimming the pot and offered to help. For a couple of weeks we trimmed the pot in the evenings. There is plenty of time to get to know someone’s story when you are sitting around trimming. Jonathon told me a lot about himself in those early evenings sitting around manicuring the pot. He was Canadian but had lived most of his life in Michigan, as his dad worked in the auto industry there. He informed me that Michigan also had legal medical marijuana but due to the climate there it was harder to produce.
Our harvest had been good and we had more than we needed. I realized that marijuana produced in Northern California was actually in demand elsewhere. So when Jonathon offered to take the marijuana to Michigan and sell it to some people that he knew in the medical marijuana industry there, I agreed to take him up on the offer and sometime that fall he took the pot. We planned to meet up on his way back from Michigan while I was visiting my family in South Dakota. We met as planned, but he informed me that one of his friends who he had given half the pot to, about six or seven pounds, had refused to pay him for the pot, saying that he gave it to some people on credit and they failed to pay him. I never fully believed John but he was my friend and there was no way to know for sure.
The money I did receive I used the following year to buy potting soil, nutrients, bamboo stakes and things necessary to grow marijuana.There are some crops like lettuce and broccoli that can be grown almost year round so I continued to work part time on the farm that winter. In addition I sold thousands of pounds of winter squash that I had harvested in the fall and stored in one of Manuel Morrias’s barns, and I started doing freelance construction. People in California are often taken aback by the Mid-Western work ethic and I found more work than I could ever do.
In the spring of 2006 while visiting a friend’s farm out in the Mattole river watershed I noticed a property for sale. It took considerable effort but I was able to borrow almost 95% of the money I needed to buy forty acres of raw land near Ettersberg. The place was trashed and had been for years. The main entrance and building site literally looked like a burned down junkyard. It was perfect.
My intention from day one was to clean the place up, improve it and sell it. That first summer I worked out there on the weekends cleaning the place up and cutting firewood. I planted twenty pot plants. The law in Humboldt County at that time, as I understood it, permitted me to grow up to 99 plants with just my 215 medical cannabis recommendation alone, so felt like what I was doing was ok under California law.
Because I was not there every day, however, the plants became water stressed late in the season and while the quality of the marijuana was excellent the yield was less than expected. To the best of my memory my yield was somewhere around 12 or 15 pounds of marijuana. I also planted marijuana plants in my backyard and, randomly, around the ranch where I was living. These plants yielded additional pounds. This time I did not give the cannabis to Jonathon. I stored most of it for quite a while, getting a little out here and there as I needed it. I shared the pot freely with my friends most of whom had their 215 cards and occasionally I sold a bit here and there to help pay for expenses.
Sometime in 2007 I started dating Sh[redacted]. She soon moved in to the cabin where I was living and we took care of each other. She often helped with a variety of the work including tending the marijuana. Sh[redacted], like many people in CA, also had a 215 medicinal cannabis recommendation.
By this point a few people in CA had approached me wanting access to medical marijuana. A number of people requested that we grow for them, and a man with Multiple Sclerosis who lived near Santa Ana asked me to grow for his medical collective. I was shown a stack of paperwork including remarks about growing medicinal pot from his attorney, a number of pieces of legislation pertaining to 215 laws and a stack of over 200 medical cannabis recommendations which made up the members of the collective. I agreed to grow for the collective and I was given a legal document and a binder of the 215s that I was to leave at the garden. So that year I built a greenhouse and planted 40 or 50 plants.
I continued to work doing construction and selling many truckloads of Madrone fire wood and on weekends I worked on the property cleaning up junk and caring for the garden. I had set the garden up on drip irrigation and the harvest went well that year. I think we harvested somewhere around 40 lbs. Then my brother Sean collapsed in a stairwell in SDSU that year from internal bleeding and was diagnosed with a serious auto-‐immune disease known as Crones Disease. He was in rough shape for a while, but after six months or so the intensity of the initial flare up lessened. Still he remained in considerable discomfort and he told me that marijuana gave him relief. I researched the matter online and found a plethora of information regarding the medicinal benefits of cannabis for people with Crones Disease.
Over the years my brother visited me frequently and on one such visit he saw a licensed California medical doctor who prescribed him pot. When he came to visit me I provided him with marijuana on many occasions. He was very grateful and I even witnessed how the marijuana provided him with relief.
In March of 2008 I found a house on two acres that I wanted to rehab on Fickle Hill Road near Arcata CA. This was right before the real-estate crash hit hard and lending regulations tightened up. I was able to get a Freddie Mac/ Fanny Mae loan for 100 percent financing. Sh[redacted] and I moved in to the house on fickle hill and began to improve it. We replaced the roof, fixed the deck and did some painting. We also set up six 600 watt HID lights to start the marijuana plants destined for the outdoors.
We did not grow any marijuana to maturation at the Fickle Hill residence that year. The garage was used simply to start the plants that were needed for the greenhouse on a property near Ettersberg, sometimes referred to King’s Peak.
I continued improving the Ettersberg property throughout the Spring of 2008 and started the construction of a modest home and workshop there. I again planted the greenhouse with marijuana, as I had done the previous year. Many years have since passed and I don’t remember the specifics, but I think that harvest was slightly more than the previous year. By then I had become the sole supplier of marijuana to a number of seriously ill people, including a women by the name of Teresa Sims [No relation to the LoCO editor.]
When I had started providing her with marijuana, she had just been diagnosed with bladder cancer for the 2nd time. I knew Teresa from the bank and she was also a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) I ran where people paid me $500 to $700 in advance for a year’s share in my farm’s vegetables. I in-turn provided them with a box of fresh veggies every week for the entire season of the farm. One day she approached me at the farmstand to ask if I knew anyone who could help her get medical marijuana. At that time she had been through chemo and needed relief. She had been prescribed marijuana by a California medical doctor and had her 215 license, however because she was a public figure who not only worked at a bank but also headed rotary and organized with CASA (court appointed special advocate), she did not want people to see her going in one of the many collective medical marijuana pot dispensaries in our area.
I found situations like this to be very common, where sick people get desperate so they try marijuana, something they maybe would not have tried otherwise, and find relief. Because marijuana is looked down on by some they want to keep it on the down low. For this reason I provided marijuana directly to a number of people often along with fresh fruits and vegetables and other goods I produced on the farm. Another example was my friend Gorge Keltner. He was 79 when I started providing medicine for him and his wife Shirley. He and his wife both had cancer and he told me that they both truthfully received relief from marijuana, but for most of his life it was something he considered immoral and downright bad. Gorge and Shirley have both since passed away. After my arrest in January of 2013 I told Gorge I could no longer supply him with marijuana. He suffered and I continued to pay him frequent visits and was with him the night he passed away this last June at the age of 84.
In the spring of 2009, Sh[redacted] discovered what she always referred to as her dream place, 82 acres of land with over a hundred and fifty mature established fruit trees, a very modest home, and a barn near the town of Petrolia. The place is often referred to as the Conklin Creek property. With help from Sh[redacted]’s mother this property was aquired, with the understanding that it was Sh[redacted]’s special place. I agreed to help her build a greenhouse for the purpose of growing marijuana and also to help manage the orchards and the vineyard and to finish the house and more fully develop the property. I was attending school at Humboldt State University, so I was only able to help out here and there. Sh[redacted] was living full time at Conklin Creek during the spring, summer and fall. During our relationship we considered ourselves partners in life and in everything else we were involved in, including the marijuana grows.
After the fall harvest season in 2009 Sh[redacted] moved back from the Conklin creek property to live with me at the Fickle Hill residence. In January of 2010 I started a crop of marijuana in the garage at Fickle Hill and shortly thereafter built two small greenhouses in the side yard. We planted the greenhouses but were completely unable to produce any amount of usable marijuana because the costal climate near Arcata is unsuitable for growing marijuana outside. The cold wet nights caused all of the marijuana to rot in the green houses and we subsequently stopped growing marijuana in the greenhouses there and utilized them entirely for vegetable and cut flower production from that moment forward.
Sometime in 2009 we started growing flowering marijuana inside a portion of the garage at the Fickle Hill residence. Growing marijuana indoors allows the ability to precisely control the growing environment so the quality is often unsurpassed. The cannabis we harvested from the garage that first time was exceptionally good and I decided to add a couple more lights and do it again. We would use the garage in late winter to start plants for Conklin creek and then we would flower a crop before the summer heat made growing in a garage impossible.
In summary the garage at Fickle Hill was used mostly to start plants for Conklin Creek, however we did grow a number of crops to harvest. In total my guess would be somewhere around 10 or 15 lbs a year, for two years.
In 2009 and 2010 California saw a huge crash in the price of marijuana due to unprecedented production statewide. Everywhere people who grew pot were deciding to grow more. We were no exception. We made an addition to one of the greenhouses at Conklin Creek and planted more plants in 2010. We continued to distribute the marijuana in California and people who needed pot continued to come to us. Humboldt is kind of a marijuana hub and frequently people from medical dispensaries in the highly populated areas in and around San Francisco and LA will come to Humboldt to procure the pot they need for their dispensaries. The local coffee shops are all networking places for these people and if I ever had more cannabis than we needed I would simply go spend an afternoon at one of half dozen coffee shops and meet whoever was in town that day.
Around this same time Jonathan Grant Linton lived with me off and on. He moved around a lot and would just show up one day and be gone the next. He liked to travel… Canada, Mexico, Columbia, South Dakota…You name it. I don’t recall the specifics but I sold him marijuana a number of times over the years. We were friends. Ultimately I worried that he was being reckless and it became apparent to me that he had started abusing hard drugs. I cut off all business with him sometime around 2009 but continued to be his friend and spent time with him whenever he was in town. We enjoyed hiking in the Redwood Forest and exploring the Northern Coast together. A good while after I had cut off all dealings with him in regards to marijuana he was bragging to me about how well he was doing with his marijuana business. He told me he had set up a sold network in the Midwest in both South Dakota and in Minnesota primarily with people in Minneapolis and Mankato. He attributed much of his success to what he referred to as “incredibly cheap dank weed” which he was getting out of Trinity County. He maintained one residence in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and one residence in Arcata, California near Humboldt State University. He made frequent trips to California to purchase marijuana all the way up until the time of his arrest. I rarely saw the people he purchased the pot from but if I visited him at his house in Arcata he almost inevitably showed me the pot he was buying and I witnessed larger quantities of marijuana in the house on a number of occasions.
In 2011 I met a friend of a friend at BBQ in Arcata. The tall wiry brown haired man introduced himself as Dan Carlon from South Dakota. He had been living in the area for a couple years and he told me about working on several different pot farms in the area. This sort of thing is a common, everyday occurrence on the West Coast. In fact the marijuana industry is so prominent that while driving on our highways you see billboard after billboard advertising grow nutrients. There seems to be a garden store on every other corner and if you turn on the radio you are sure to be bombarded with radio adds selling every trimming and growing gismo and gadget on the planet. Dan had friends in Colorado and we talked for a while about the medical marijuana industry that was thriving there. Sometime later Dan called me and wanted to meet up at his place for a cup of tea. He asked me if I would be willing to sell him four pounds of marijuana. I agreed. He told me he intended to take the marijuana back to South Dakota. I told him I didn’t want to know about that, that I sold “medical marijuana.” I gave him the pot anyway knowing full well he would likely leave the state with it. I guess I wanted to pretend ignorance is bliss. It turns out ignorance is not bliss, it’s just plain ignorant. I later gave Dan an additional 4 lbs. or so on credit. We didn’t talk about what he was going to do with it and I pretended like it was any other medical pot transaction. He never paid me for the marijuana.
In recalling these things I am not trying to avoid responsibility for my involvement in unlawful pot distribution, or to shift the blame to Jonathan or Dan, or anyone else. Nor am I singling them out because they later cooperated with the government and gave statements implicating me and others. The fact is that I knew what we were doing, and am fully responsible for the actions I took.
Others close to me, most notably my brother Sean, became involved, growing pot in California for distribution in South Dakota. Jamar Adams, also from South Dakota, had California grows for distribution elsewhere, includingop South Dakota. Of course I knew other individuals who got involved in pot growing in Northern California, since this activity was so prevalent and so seemingly “normal. ” But I am trying to concentrate this statement on my offense conduct, neither protecting nor unnecessarily implicating people who were not directly involved in it.
In the spring Sh[redacted] and I separated. She had an affair with To[redacted] two and a half weeks before our wedding was set to happen and that settled that. We started the delicate process of untangling a life that had been as cooperative as any marriage. We had to divide numerous personal possessions as well a number of assets. She insisted on keeping the farm in Petrolia, “it was always her dream” she told me and she, “would continue living there.” I was to keep Fickle Hill and I moved on to a construction-based work load in Arcata. I bought a place at 1171 old Arcata Rd. in Arcata. The place, like most of my projects, was nothing short of trashed. I removed more than twenty thousand pounds of scrap iron and even more refuse. I fixed up the main farmhouse using piles of old growth redwood which I recycled from deconstructing old barns. When that was finished I gutted an old building on the same property and transformed it into another beautiful home which is now known as 1149 Old Arcata Rd.
Sometime in the middle of the renovation Sh[redacted] called me and told me she and To[redacted] were going to move and sell the place. It seemed to me like a bad time to sell because real estate values were still down from the crash. I figured that waiting a year or two and fixing a few key things could really make the property worth more. But she and To[redacted] wanted to move on and at some point I agreed to buy out her share of the equity in the Conklin Creek property. I started to do this but did not complete the process before she and To[redacted] moved out. They promptly bought a place in Happy Camp to grow weed and moved there to tend the garden.
I continued to acquire rundown properties in Arcata for cents on the dollar, fix them up and rent them out.
One day in July of 2012 I received a phone call from my brother Sean and he told me that law enforcement had been to his property on Lighthouse Road and he was pretty freaked out. He told me it was the worst day of his life. I was doing construction in Arcata that day and I made arrangements to make the two hour drive to Petrolia and pick him up. My sister Jenna and I went to pick him up and we arrived after dark. We talked for quite a while and then started the drive back to Arcata where he planned to find a lawyer the following day. I dropped them both off at my sister’s house on Groetzman around 2:30am and went to bed. We didn’t know it at the time but he had already been indicted on federal drug charges and had a warrant out for his arrest.
My brother was arrested the following sunrise at my sister’s house when police served a search warrant for the residence in connection with her boyfriend Jaymar Adams. I called Sh[redacted]that day and told her what had happened to my brother. She showed up to the coast the next day and told me her and To[redacted] were very scared. She said they cut down every marijuana plant on the property and “cleaned the place out.”
Since the time of my arrest I have had absolutely nothing to do with marijuana, medical or otherwise. In the year and a half since my brothers arrest I personally rebuilt 4 houses and fully gutted and remodeled 11 studio units in Arcata. On top of that I raise cattle, manage a ranch, and sell at the prestigious Arcata farmers market on the town square all day every Saturday. My sisters live in the area and I love them deeply. I enjoy spending time with them when ever time allows. I work hard and put my heart in to whatever I do.
I made a huge mistake and I will not make it again. When my case is adjudicated in what ever fashion it is, I vow to continue to do my very best to make food and shelter for my community and provide for the needs of the people. I will respect the laws of the United States America.