Small Vegetation Fire in Salmon Creek

Andrew Goff / Wednesday, June 17 @ 5:45 p.m. / Fire!

LoCO readers and scanner traffic alert us to a small vegetation fire near Early Ranch and Thomas roads in Salmon Creek. CalFire just tweeted the following somewhat encouraging update:


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Shelter Cove Will Host the Secretary of the Interior Saturday

Hank Sims / Wednesday, June 17 @ 4:48 p.m. / D.C.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and others will be visiting Black Sands Beach in Shelter Cove on Saturday, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Bureau of Land Management’s “National Conservation Lands” program. The King Range was the first of these lands.

Details below, but first it’s TRIVIA TIME: When is the last time a sitting member of the president’s cabinet has visited Humboldt County?

From the Bureau of Land Management:

On Saturday, June 20, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) National Conservation Lands, which encompass 874 units and more than 30 million acres of public land across the nation.

Secretary Jewell, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, BLM Director Neil Kornze, and conservation and community leaders will gather for a public celebration at the King Range National Conservation Area (NCA) – the first unit of the National Conservation Lands system – to highlight the importance of public lands and the success of the BLM’s conservation initiatives.

The King Range NCA covers 68,000 acres and extends along 35 miles of coastline in Humboldt County – a rugged and remote region known as California’s Lost Coast. This spectacular meeting of land and sea, where mountains seem to thrust straight out of the surf, offers recreation opportunities as diverse as the landscape.

WHO:

Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior 
Bruce Babbitt, Former Secretary of the Interior
Janice Schneider, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management 
Neil Kornze, Director, Bureau of Land Management
Jim Kenna, California State Director, Bureau of Land Management

WHAT:

15th Anniversary Celebration of BLM’s National Conservation Lands  

WHEN:

Saturday, June 20, 2015
11:00 a.m. PDT – Media check-in
11:30 a.m. PDT – Community celebration 
12:15 p.m. PDT – Media availability 

WHERE:

Black Sands Beach Trailhead, King Range National Conservation Area

Directions: From Highway 101 at Redway, follow signs for Shelter Cove, about 21 miles. Look for Beach Road on the right immediately when you enter Shelter Cove and follow signs for Black Sands Beach. GPS location: 40.052511, -124.068220



Wheel Chair-Bound Man Struck and Killed in Rio Dell Last Night; Family Fundraising For Memorial

Andrew Goff / Wednesday, June 17 @ 3:06 p.m. / Traffic

Rio Dell Police Department press release: 

On Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 5:23 p.m., Rio Dell Police were dispatched to the intersection of Wildwood and Belleview avenues near the US 101 off‐ramp for a traffic collision involving a vehicle and an individual in a wheelchair. The victim, Edmund “Jamie” Edwards, 41, suffered major injuries and was provided medical aide by witnesses prior to the arrival of the Emergency Medical Services. Mr. Edwards was transported to Redwood Memorial Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

At this time, alcohol is not considered a factor in the collision and the cause of this accident is currently under investigation.

# # #

Those who wish to contribute to a GoFundMe page set up by the family to help pay for funeral services can do so here. The following text comes from that page: 

Jamie Edwards has fought and battled for 17 years since a tragic accident left him paralyzed. Last night, he was tragically struck by a vehicle in Rio Dell. Sadly, he succumbed to his injuries. I am starting a small fundraiser to help his family pay for his services.  Please consider donating to this awesome family! No donation is too small :)

Jamie Edwards | Photo from GoFundMe



Demands on Dispensary Workers Grow With Advances in Medical Marijuana Research

Ryan Burns / Wednesday, June 17 @ 2:54 p.m. / marijuana

Humboldt Patient Resource Center General Manager Brian Willkomm

Working at a medical marijuana dispensary in 2015, you never know what type of questions you’ll get. Bryan Willkomm, general manager at Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Arcata, said a lot of folks, especially the seasoned old-timers, will just take a sniff of the various buds on offer and say, “Smells good to me.” That whiff gives them all the information they need. Others are more demanding.

“Our more modern, younger patients may be asking for the residual solvent test results and the terpene profile analysis,” Willkomm said. “They’ll ask, ‘Is it high in myrcene and limonene?’” Others, looking for cannabis-infused edibles, may ask about allergens, dosage levels, dietary restrictions and, if they’re diabetic, sugar content. Still others request topicals, which are available in varying ratios of cannabidiol (CBD)-to-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

There’s a lot to know — more every week, it seems.

Humboldt Patient Resource Center Director Mariellen Jurkovich

“When I first got here about eight years ago,” said Mariellen Jurkovich, director of Humboldt Patient Resource Center, “we only had cannabis that we grew — certain strains, whatever was easy.” Gradually the dispensary started carrying new products — “not because I wanted to bring them in. We brought them in because people were starting to ask for them — edibles, tinctures, salves, a host of things.”

Willkomm said that when he started at the dispensary, just two years ago, they carried 15 different products, including flower buds, two types of topicals and four or five edibles. “We have over 300 products now,” he said.

With the medical marijuana industry maturing and the recreational industry just taking off, there has been a virtual explosion in so-called “cannabis delivery methods,” from good old fashioned buds (which can be smoked, vaporized or ingested) to oils, tinctures, topical creams, oral sprays, hash, shatter … the list goes on like a stoner’s daydream.

Meanwhile, the customer/patient base is growing more diverse, too, along with the list of ailments they’re hoping to alleviate. Clients include veterans suffering from PTSD, cancer patients fighting the side effects of chemo, parents seeking a cure for their children’s seizures and, sure, some people who probably just want to get high for the fun of it.

All of these changes have made the dispensary worker’s job a lot more challenging. Until recently, these “budtenders” mostly served up whatever strains were on tap each day, though they did have to know quite a bit about those strains. Now, however, dispensary workers are being asked to fill the roles of pharmacists, researchers, social workers and amateur physicians.

“Our patients are asking us questions about the medicine, like you would your pharmacist,” Willkomm said. “But not only that — we’re asking questions about their wellness. … It’s a holistic approach.”

Jurkovich operated a wellness center in Arcata for about a year, with the explicit goal of offering such a holistic experience for patients. But the process of pursuing two conditional use permits simultaneously — one for the dispensary and another for the wellness center — proved too expensive. While the wellness center has ceased operating, Jurkovich trains her employees to take a comprehensive approach to treating patients.

A display case offers various dabs.

Last year she sent her staff — which has ballooned from 10 to 20 — to Colorado, where they visited big grows and collectives to learn how things were being done in another market, one where recreational marijuana has been legalized. She also pays her staff to attend educational workshops and conferences.

Marijuana’s Schedule I status under the federal Controlled Substances Act makes it virtually impossible for U.S. researchers to study the plant’s therapeutic properties. Research-grade cannabis in this country is controlled by National Institute on Drug Abuse, whose congressionally mandated mission is to study only the harmful effects of controlled substances. So, while 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and while the President himself has voiced support for it, domestic scientists aren’t allowed to study the beneficial uses of cannabis.

“Talk about frustrating,” Willkomm said. “Here in California, where we have Proposition 215, we’re flying up to Oregon to meet with Israeli doctors who are allowed to do research. All we can do is bring that information back, provide it to patients and refer them to that research.”

The Humboldt Patient Resource Center sometimes feels like an academic setting, he added. Indeed, the dispensary is an approved learning center through Humboldt State University, meaning student interns come in and study the ins and outs of the operation. Customer come in to talk and ask about the latest research, and employees are told to study up on cannabis whenever there’s downtime.

A chart on the wall of HPRC lists the ostensible health benefits of various cannabinoids.

“It’s a really big subject,” Jurkovich said. “It’s not basic anymore. … We’re constantly on the computer, doing research, buying books. It’s really kind of exciting.” It can also be sobering. The dispensary has seen an increase in patients undergoing palliative care — people seeking relief from serious, often terminal illnesses. “There’s a lot of death, a lot of illness,” Jurkovich said. “It’s disturbing how much illness is out there in our community.”

Humboldt County is consistently ranked near the bottom of the California Department of Public Health’s “County Health Status Profiles,” which ranks counties on a wide range of health status indicators. We have particularly high rates of cancer, liver disease, stroke, deaths from unintentional injuries and drug overdoses.

And as marijuana becomes more culturally normalized, more and more people are trying it. Recent years have also seen another dramatic change in medical marijuana itself thanks to the increasing knowledge about — and popularity of — cannabidiol, or CBD, one of at least 85 cannabinoids found in the plant. Unlike the better-known THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and has shown to have therapeutic properties for a wide range of ailments, including seizures, psychosis, inflammation, and anxiety/depression disorders.

Medical marijuana cultivators have bred strains high in CBD and low in THC, making for a plant without the characteristic high and thus less social stigma.

“CBD is an interesting cannabinoid for us,” Willkomm said, “because it has opened the door, in a sense, to patients having enough confidence to come into dispensaries knowing they’re not going to get a psychoactive high.” In a way, the popularity of CBD strains gives the lie to lingering accusations that medical marijuana is merely a smokescreen for people who want to get baked legally. Patients who might otherwise avoid marijuana due to its psychoactive effects are being drawn into dispensaries for the first time.

“We’re now getting flooded with Baby Boomers,” Jurkovich said, “and people who know more about cannabis, asking, ‘What will help me with this disease, that disease?’” The dispensary runs a compassion program, offering free and reduced-price products to patients who are terminally or seriously ill.

The clone room at HPRC has plants of varying ages.

High-CBD strains aren’t always the appropriate medicine, though. “With certain patients’ ailments, and information we get from doctors, THC is the benefiting cannabinoid,” Willkomm explained. “Small example: antiemetic, you’re throwing up. The FDA’s only approved use of THC is for an antiemetic [the anti-nausea medicine Marinol]. So if you’re not willing to try [high-THC marijuana] because of that euphoric sense, then you may not accomplish your goal in relieving that ailment.” (It should be noted that “euphoria” is not a universal reaction to consuming weed.)

With the increasing differentiation between strains, organization has become a vital component to running a successful dispensary. The Humboldt Patient Resource Center was recently tested on just that.

The dispensary was finally granted a conditional use permit from the City of Arcata in September. It also operates a marijuana garden that’s been Clean Green Certified by a third-party inspector.

Since marijuana isn’t recognized by the federal government as an agricultural crop, organic certification isn’t possible. Instead, cultivators looking to prove their enviro-friendly bonafides have turned to such third-party companies as Crescent City-based Clean Green Certification, whose employees inspect gardens to ensure they’re being run sustainably and responsibly.

The Humboldt Patient Resource Center was just recertified last week, and as part of the process an inspector came in, pulled random products off the shelves and asked employees to trace them to their origin, working backwards from the retail shelf to the processing/packaging phase, the inventory/purchasing phase and ultimately the garden where the plants were grown.

Bud strains are labeled with THC and CBD percentages.

“We did that for two products, and soil sampling as well,” Willkomm said. This process, he said, adds legitimacy in the eyes of both the public and local government. “Now we’ve invited somebody in who has no financial interest in our company being successful but rather does his job and produces the results, as a third party, to the City. What that does is just shows we’re transparent.”

That extends to the growing process as well. All cannabis sold at the dispensary is first sent away for testing at one of two labs — Pure Analytics in Santa Rosa or SC Labs in Santa Cruz. The labs test for potency as well as contaminants such as pesticides, microbes and solvents.

It takes a full week to get results back from the lab, which is one of several reasons why Jurkovich and Willkomm are excited about the “Medical Marijuana Innovation Area” proposed for the old Humboldt Flakeboard building on West End Road. City staff asked their opinion about what types of businesses might go in there, and a testing lab was high on their list, they said. They would also like to move the dispensary’s garden from its current location, a room adjacent to the retail area on Sixth Street, to warehouse space in the Innovation Area.

As Arcata demonstrated by opening this door for the industry, nearly everyone seems to be preparing for full recreational legalization in the near future — next year, more than likely. Asked what they’re doing to prepare, Jurkovich and Willkomm said they’re just continuing to focus on refining what they’re already doing. As Colorado and Washington have shown, the medical marijuana industry doesn’t disappear when weed-for-fun is legalized.

“We, I want to stay medical,” Jurkovich said. “We have no trouble with recreational. … But cannabis for me is a medicine, and I would like to see it continue as a medicine.”



Blue-Green Algae Comes Early This Year; Local Health Pros Give Tips on How Avoid the Stuff

Andrew Goff / Wednesday, June 17 @ 2:24 p.m. / Health

Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services press release: 

Environmental Health officials with the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) are issuing an early warning this year to recreational users of all bodies of fresh water to avoid contact with algae.

Historically, algae warnings come out between late July and early August, but the low flows, sustained high temperatures in the inland areas and drought conditions may cause blue-green algae to grow earlier than usual.

Human activities can have a big effect on nutrient and water flows in rivers, streams and lakes. Nutrients found in fertilizers, animal waste and human waste can stimulate blooms. Excessive water diversions can also increase water temperatures and reduce flows. People can take the following measures to prevent algal blooms in our waters:

  • Be conservative with the use of water, fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn, garden or agricultural operation.
  • Recycle any “spent” soil that has been used for intensive growing by tilling it back into gardens, or protect it from rainfall to avoid nutrient runoff.
  • Plant or maintain native plants around banks. These plants help filter water and don’t require fertilizers.
  • Septic systems should be pumped and maintained every three to four years.
  • Prevent surface water runoff from agricultural and livestock areas.
  • Prevent erosion around construction and logging operations.

Blue-green algae can be present in any fresh water body. It looks like dark green, blue-green, orange or brown scum, foam or mats floating on the water. Most blue-green algae does not affect animals or people, however, warm water and abundant nutrients can cause blue-green algae to grow more rapidly than usual. These floating algal masses or “blooms” can produce natural toxins that are very potent. Dogs and children are most likely to be affected because of their smaller body size and tendency to stay in the water for longer periods of time.

While the presence of blue-green algae toxins has been previously confirmed on the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen and Trinity rivers, it is difficult to test and monitor the many miles of our local rivers with conditions that may vary. Most algal blooms in California contain harmless green algae, but it is important to stay safe and avoid contact.

To learn more about the occurrence and appearance of blue-green algae on the South Fork Eel River, see the Eel River Recovery Project Toxic Algae Factsheet.     

DHHS officials recommend the following guidelines for recreational users of freshwater areas in Humboldt County:

  • Keep children, pets and livestock from swimming in or drinking water containing algal scums or mats.
  • Adults should also avoid wading and swimming in water containing algal blooms. Try not to swallow or inhale water spray in an algal bloom area.
  • If no algal scums or mats are visible, you should still carefully watch young children and warn them not to swallow any water.
  • Fish should be consumed only after removing the guts and liver and rinsing fillets in tap water.
  • Never drink, cook with or wash dishes with water from rivers, streams or lakes.
  • Get medical attention immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins. Be sure to tell the doctor about possible contact with blue-green algae.
  • Join or support one of the many watershed and river organizations.

For more information or to report unusual blooms or conditions contact Environmental Health at 445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241. Photos of suspected blooms can be emailed to envhealth@co.humboldt.ca.us. More details about blue-green algae are available at the California Department of Public Health’s website.



Top 5 Zingers From Eureka High’s Salutatorian Speech (VIDEO)

Mike Dronkers / Wednesday, June 17 @ 1:33 p.m. / Education

Like so many high school graduates, Jordan Thayer is eager to get the hell out of the town he grew up in. In his zesty Salutatorian speech, he likens the high school experience to a drive along Eureka’s 101 corridor. And while the picture he paints is not pretty, he packs a lot of laugh lines into his speech. 

5. “It is truly an honor for you to be here today, to watch me graduate.”

4. “I was told this speech should be about three minutes long, but if Eureka High taught me anything, it’s to always exceed everyone’s expectations.”

3. “Humboldt’s original In’n’Out - no, not the burger shop, the county jail.”

2. “Like the pajama-bottom shoppers at Wal-Mart, we have stopped caring what others think.”

1. “That concludes the first tenth of my speech. We will begin again after a quick intermission, when I’ll read excerpts from “50 Shades Of Grey.” 

In an effort to remain positive, we’ve decided to not include Jordan’s Arcata diss in this list … but listen for it at the end of his speech, all the same! Go grads!



Finally, the Rest of Fortuna’s Star Hotel Corpse Being Demolished

Andrew Goff / Wednesday, June 17 @ 12:39 p.m. / Fire!

Photos courtesy Dennis Freeze Frame Finley Jr.

It’s been nearly five months since an early morning megablaze claimed the historic Star Hotel building, one of the more visually notable fixtures of Fortuna’s Main Street. Since that time, building owner Robert Johnson has endured a lengthy permits process with the aim of completely demolishing the lingering shell of the building that formally housed his business, Green’s Pharmacy. (LoCO previously reported on that dance here.)

Well, demolition day is upon us. This morning, crews were busy tearing down the remaining walls of the first story of the building as Johnson looked on. The rubble will be removed over the next week or so. LoCO superfriend Dennis Freeze Frame Finley Jr. was kind enough to send in the accompanying photos of the death of a Star. 

PREVIOUS FORTUNA FIRE COVERAGE:

Star Hotel owners Mary and Robert Johnson