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Death & Dying on the Mendo Coast

Recently when walking in the woods above Point Arena, my pal Michael and I heard hammers banging away. We followed the sounds and came upon a clearing and a construction site. Rob, the foreman, and two Mexicans were building the visitor’s center for “Better Place Forests.” As the website for the company proclaims, “Create a family memorial surrounded by natural beauty. Spread ashes beneath a personal, permanently protected memorial tree.”

Of course, you have to buy a tree in the forest and the biggest of the trees aren’t cheap. An old redwood could set you back $36,000. A young tan oak would be a lot less. It struck me that, as the cannabis industry is dying a slow and painful death in places like Point Arena, Gualala and Manchester, a new industry is busy being born.

Call it the burial industry in its latest incarnation which the muckraking reporter, Jessica Mitford, exposed as a scam in The American Way of Death,which earned her the ire of the funeral business in the U.S.

“Find your forest,” the website for “Better Place Forests” proclaims. “Dramatic bluffs, seaside meadows, and ancient groves await.” But if you’re dead and your ashes are buried at the foot of an ancient redwood why would those bluffs and meadows matter? Mitford would have to write a new chapter in her classic.

Rob, the foreman, was born and raised on the Mendocino Coast. He put down his hammer for a few minutes and explained that many of the marijuana growers who had lost their livelihoods weren’t much good on the construction site. He had grown up with them. “They arrive at 10 a.m. and leave at 2 p.m.,” he said. “I don’t feel sorry for them. They have had a good long run.”

A bit further on, we stopped to chat with a longtime marijuana grower who had built his own house in an area he called “Mayberry LSD,” on a dirt road he referred to as “Red Tag Road.” Call the grower Foxx. And listen to his stories. “I always wanted to be legal, but now that we have legalization it has ruined the economy unless you are huge,” he said. He added, “We violated rule number one which says, ‘You never invite the man.’ Well, we invited the man.”

Foxx explained that old school growers were selling their property and getting out of Mendocino. Not Foxx. He had salted away a pile of money, paid taxes every year, he said, and made up invoices to cover himself. Once he was almost arrested while driving ten pounds of weed to Idaho. “I was gin-soaked,” he said. “But I passed all the sobriety tests they gave me, made it to Idaho and sold the load for $4,000 a pound.” Yes indeed, he had a good long run and he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself.

Foxx looked back at his own past and observed, “I thought we were going to change the world. Now, the Trump people are on a mission from God to get rid of everything progressive.”

In Point Area, my pal Michael and I heard a lot of griping at the Sign of the Whale where the bartender said, “There’s no more money to launder.” He added, “We lost the restaurant, Uneda, because there’s no cash economy anymore.” A barfly who had had way too much to drink waved his arms about and shouted, “They killed all the mom and pop operations. I hate all the supervisors.” He said he was now working in construction but wanted to go back to what he really loved: growing weed.

At the air conditioned library in Cloverdale, I went online and did additional research on “Better Place Forests.” There I was told I could “Lock in 50% discounted pricing,” and that “We offer payment plans as low as $50 a month.” When I called Foxx and gave him the information, he wasn't interested, nor was my pal Michael. Jessica Mitford would have signed up if only to find out the real story about “Better Place Forests.” I might borrow a chapter from her book, Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking, and do what she would have done. But don’t expect me to spend $36,000 for a redwood tree where my ashes might be buried. Too bad marijuana plants aren’t perennials. If they were I’d want to be buried under the biggest pot plant in the woods.

(Jonah Raskin is the author of MarijuanaLand: Dispatches from an American War.)


  1. George Hollister July 18, 2018

    “They arrive at 10 a.m. and leave at 2 p.m.,” he said. “I don’t feel sorry for them. They have had a good long run.”

    Have faith. People can change when they need to. There are great opportunities here in the trades. All that is needed, for most youngsters, is an attitude adjustment.

  2. Jonah Raskin July 18, 2018

    Thank you, George, Good point. And I did meet two guys who had been growing and who are now working in construction. I mentioned one of them in my story. He was angry/bitter, had changed, but didn’t really want to change.

  3. izzy July 22, 2018

    Just as an aside, like the slow death of the small-scale “cannabis industry”, our local tan oak trees are not doing too well either. For reasons not well understood, many of them on my property west of Ukiah have died off rather abruptly over the last several years. Something is not right in the woods. Might want to hold off on that Memorial Tree.

    • George Hollister July 22, 2018

      Might be sudden oak death, the drought, or a combination of the two. The 2016 rain year was theoretically good for the spread of SOD. There was lots of warm wet weather that year. Are there bays in the vicinity? Bays are apparently capable of harboring the SOD fungus. No, we don’t need a war on bays.

      Tan oaks are tough, and don’t just die.

    • Mike Kalantarian July 22, 2018

      In the Navarro/Comptche area, there is a stretch along Flynn Creek that harbors a number of dead and dying tanoaks. I suspect SOD. It can easily be seen from Flynn Creek Road, the first couple miles north of Highway 128.

      • Jonah Raskin July 22, 2018

        Good to know. Thanks for telling me. I’ll look next time I’m there,


  4. Jonah Raskin July 22, 2018

    Thanks for the information Izzy and George. I am a glutton for information. My friend Michael who has acres on the ridge above Point Arena cuts down the tan oaks and burns it up and heats his place in winter. Some of his property is so densely packed with vegetation it’s a veritable jungle.

  5. Eric Sunswheat July 22, 2018

    Northern California’s Petaluma Gap, which like the Van Duzer Corridor sucks in ocean breezes, was designated one of America’s newest viticultural areas in December. Receiving an American Viticulture Area designation allows winemakers to emphasize the unique characteristics of their wine, determined by climate, geography, soil and other factors.

    “Even though we have those heat waves just like Napa and Sonoma, we still have the cool breeze in the afternoon and the cooler temperatures at night and the fog in the morning,” said Ria D’Aversa, director of ranch operations at McEvoy Ranch, a Petaluma Gap vineyard.

    While the warming trend is pushing some hotter wine regions out of optimum temperature range, it has made places like Oregon more suitable, particularly for pinot noir, a finicky, thin-skinned grape.

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