Your 4/20 ‘Countdown to Legalization’ Morning Round-Up: CNN on Weed, Smoking Out Redwood Acres

Hank Sims / Monday, April 20 @ 10:13 a.m. / marijuana

Chris Smith/Media Apex.

It’s only a matter of time.

Just about every Californian with sense is admitting that come the 2016 ballot, our state will join Colorado, Washington and Alaska in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. What happens to the Humboldt County economy afterward, and when, is anyone’s guess. Maybe the local scene will change slowly, here, or maybe it will change very rapidly.

Much depends on the exact form that legalization takes, which is a subject still being hammered out amongst stakeholders and other interested parties, and will ultimately be decided by the voters. In any case, we are looking at a dramatically different Humboldt County a decade from now.

It’s a fight that the nation’s once-powerful social conservative party has lost at every level, along with the opposition to same sex marriage. The country has simply moved on. One sign of that is the special program CNN aired last night: “Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution.” In it, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, forcefully argues for the immediate decriminalization of medical marijuana:

Journalists shouldn’t take a position. It makes sense. Objectivity is king. But, at some point, open questions do get answered. At some point, contentious issues do get resolved. At some point, common sense prevails. So, here it is: We should legalize medical marijuana. We should do it nationally. And we should do it now.

In one segment of the show, President Barack Obama more or less agrees with Gupta, though in a far more qualified manner. Obama says that national policy should “follow the science, as opposed to the ideology,” and takes the position that the scientific evidence does, in fact, show that marijuana does benefit patients with certain classes of illness.

Of course, medical marijuana has been legal in California for nearly 20 years now. But the industry has only started to come out of the closet in the last few of those years, and now, with full legalization looming, and even though some folk still get busted in dramatic fashion, it seems like few people are that interested in hiding, anymore. Every day, as the Outpost has seen recently, people post their weed activities on Instagram. They’re growing, smoking, and distributing right out there in public. (Check #HumboldtCounty’s “TOMB of the DISQUALIFIED” if you want to see weed pics. For whatever reason, the Outpost faithful downvote them on sight.)

At this time last year, was it at all thinkable that there would be a marijuana-fanciers parade in Eureka? Yesterday there was. And it ended at Redwood Acres (Redwood Acres!), which was packed to the gills for “Cannifest: Humboldt’s Manifest Cannabis Festival and Trade Gathering.” Chris Smith of Media Apex Production shot some footage of the various things going on at the fest — speed transplanting competitions, tug-of-war, music and a whole lot of inhalation.

Cannifest highlight example from Jason Self on Vimeo.


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Arcata Police Searching Alliance Road, Nearby Areas for Man Who Fled Arrest

Hank Sims / Monday, April 20 @ 8:21 a.m. / Crime

UPDATE, 8:35 a.m.: The suspect is in custody. Law enforcement nabbed him on the hillside below Greenwood Cemetery. 

# # #

There is a major police presence near Alliance Road, Shay Park and Foster Avenue this morning, as police search for a man who fled from them on foot after a traffic stop.

Scanner traffic from the time indicated that the man was able to shake pursuing officers after a brief foot chase through an apartment complex. It is unclear what the man was originally pulled over for, or why he fled, but a moment ago the police declined to advise area schools to be placed on lockdown.

We will update this post with more information as it becomes available. Scanner audio from around 7:33 a.m.:

Audio

 

 



Fortuna Gas Station Burglary Suspects Chased Down by Neighbor

Hank Sims / Monday, April 20 @ 7:50 a.m. / Crime

From the Fortuna Police Department:

On April 18, 2015, at approximately 0357 hours, officers of the Fortuna Police Department were dispatched to the Patriot Gas Station, located at 3663 Rohnerville Road, for a reported burglary in progress. The reporting party stated that they were a neighbor and had observed two male subjects break the front glass door of the business, enter, and steal items from the business.

The reporting party’s husband pursued both suspects on foot for approximately 50 yards. The suspects were located by officers as they attempted to hide in the tree line near North Loop Road.

Derek Ray Johnson (age 20) of Fortuna and Mason Boyd (age 20) of Eureka were arrested and found to be in possession of property stolen from the Patriot. Both were charged with Burglary and Possession of Stolen Property and booked into the Humboldt County Jail.



The Great Ladybug Washup

Jennifer Savage / Monday, April 20 @ 7:21 a.m. / Del Norte , LoCO Challenge , Nature , Ocean

A Northcoast Environmental Center cleanup crew spent part of Sunday at Point St. George, a site regularly monitored by the NEC. We expected to find trash (we did), and we thought we might find debris from the 2011 Japan tsunami (we may have), but seeing hundreds and hundreds of ladybugs on the beach surprised us. 

They clung to driftwood…

Ladybug! By Jennifer Savage.

And scrambled along shells…

Ladybug! By Jennifer Savage.

A post to Facebook prompted several responses – this phenomenon wasn’t limited to Crescent City. Reports came in that the cheery little beetles were also all over Shelter Cove. 

Ladybug at Black Sands Beach by Estelle Fennell.

Our colleague, Friends of Del Norte’s Joe Gillepsie, said it’s not all that uncommon – that this happens with some regularity, ladybugs blowing in on the winds by the thousands. A quick Google search backed him up and led to all kinds of info about “ladybug washups.” Why this happens has yet to be completely understood. From the Lost Ladybug Project:

“Still debated are the questions of how and why the ladybugs come to gather on shorelines, and how long they can float.  Ideas fall into two categories:  those based on ladybugs floating to shore, and those suggesting that ladybugs are gathering at the shore from land.  Either route would require large numbers of ladybugs to simultaneously take flight.”

Still, while lacking the drama of other recent washups, seeing so many ladybugs at the beach doesn’t happen every day. Report your own sightings in the comment section! And any further information as to the why of the washing up is greatly appreciated.

Unfortunately, ladybugs weren’t the only tiny things covering Point St. George and Kellogg beaches – microplastics lined the tideline like I’ve never seen before. 

Bits of plastic were everywhere. By Jennifer Savage.

NEC Coastal Programs Coordinator Madison Peters holds ten seconds’ worth of microplastic collection.

The best way to reduce this kind of litter is not to make it in the first place: Avoid plastics when possible, recycle or otherwise dispose of them properly when not. This stuff is a challenge to clean up, but you can help by joining the NEC, PacOut Green Team, Humboldt County Clean Up or any of the other groups working to make our beaches better places. 



Three in Custody After Brief Car Chase Through Eureka

Andrew Goff / Sunday, April 19 @ 2:50 p.m. /

LoCO finds itself on the scene of a Sunday afternoon vehicle search being conducted by Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department Deputies and Eureka Police officers on the 2700 block of Summer Street, half a block west of Henderson near 20-30 Park.

EPD sergeant Gary Whitmer tells LoCO‘s Hank Sims that there was a be-on-the-lookout issued for the Mercedes pictured above in association with a domestic violence case. The car was spotted by Sheriff’s deputies resulting in a short chase. After the vehicle came to a stop, deputies drew their weapons on the driver who initially attempted to flee. The driver and two passengers were taken into custody. 

Sims reports from the scene that, so far, deputies have mostly removed laundry from the vehicle. Oh, and a samurai sword. LoCO will update when we know more.



NIKKI’S NATURE RAMBLE: The Other World of Alderpoint

Nikki Leskinen / Sunday, April 19 @ 8:25 a.m. / Nikki’s Nature Ramble

Birders in action.

As the coyote peers down at us from its rocky hideout, it probably wonders what the hell we are doing, staring at it through binoculars. In fact, all the drivers in their large roaring pickups along Alderpoint Road probably have the same question on their mind because to the average person birders look like strange, out-of-place figures pointing at the horizon, busting out their large optical scopes, and cupping their ears.

But amid the bullet-ridden highway signs and discarded whip-its is a world filled with the sweet babbles of Western Meadowlarks, the eye-popping colors of springtime wildflowers, and of course, the curious coyote. This world is what motivated us to get up at the crack of dawn this past Saturday to join the Audubon Society for their annual trip to Alderpoint.

The gravel road that leads down to the old train tracks where the Aududon Society hikes is a dump site for mattresses, liquor bottles, car batteries, even cars. In spite of junk everywhere and the overcast weather, the our attention is on the abundance of Golden Globelily (Calochortus amabilis) growing on the rocky hillsides, and anticipation is thick about what bird species we may find.

Birders like this area because the oak chaparral habitat provides a different niche of birds that can only be found in this part of the county. Another reason why this place is on the birding radar is that it receives the first of the tropical songbirds migrating back after their long journey south from wintering grounds. The sounds and colors of these species of migrants add a different spice to the repertoire of biological diversity of Humboldt.

There is one species especially sought after by birders who sign up for this on this trip: the Rufous-Crowned Sparrow (Aimophila ruficeps). Our group leader, Tony Kurz, who has led the trip for the past four years, says the only spot these secretive guys are found in Humboldt County is a forty-minute walk down the train tracks to a shrubby rocky area surrounding an old train trestle.

Except for one washout on the trail, which forces hikers to trek down a steep hill with Poison Oak (Toxicodenron diversilobum) and then climb back up, the decaying tracks are a relatively easy walk. We stop along the way to watch Silvery Blues (Glaucopsyche lygdamus) hover over colorful wildflowers, turn over rocks for salamanders, lizards, and scorpions, and to call out of hiding two mischievous Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers (Polioptila caerulea)for a better look through the binoculars.

Finally the we reach the trestle. The search is on to find this reclusive bird. Birding is 95 percent searching and 5 percent victory dance. The tension in the air is high, and everyone is on alert for the sparrow’s piercing staccato song or sudden movement from the bushes below. However, as time slips on it becomes clear that they have found a new hiding place. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

As we walk across the old train trestle, sounds of metal grating under foot and laughter fill the air as a chilly wind begins to pick up. A Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) catches a cold front and soars quietly behind us across the Eel River. After birding a little longer, we head for the car, tired after a long day of taking it all in.

Whether they had been here before or were new to the whole experience, all have enjoyed the secrets of Alderpoint in their own way. It’s a 21 mile drive back to civilization.

Western meadowlark.

Trip leader Tony Kurz showing off a young Western Fence Lizard.

An Angry Pacific Northwest Scorpion (Uroctonus mordax): Don’t try this at home!

The railroad trestle.

Adult Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis).

Tony Kurz holding a Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog (Rana boylii)



GROWING OLD UNGRACEFULLY: Back Into the (GMO) Fray

Barry Evans / Sunday, April 19 @ 7:57 a.m. / Growing Old Ungracefully

I realize battle lines have been drawn and positions established, so this follow-up to my recent GMO post won’t change a lot of minds, but let’s give it one more shot anyway.

I’m coming from the point of view that genetically modified foods (e.g. 90 percent of corn, soy, beets and canola now grown in the U.S.) and medicines (including insulin and rabies shots) have been around since the mid-1990s, and I’ve seen no persuasive evidence that GMOs are harmful. Of course, they may yet prove to be, but after 20 years, you’d expect some obvious problems to occur if they were, since at least half of processed foods now sold in the U.S. include at least one GMO.

Actually, we’ve been genetically modifying foods for millennia by hybridization and cross-breeding – there are no honest-to-God “natural” foods to be had these days.

GMOs, meanwhile, are increasing yields while reducing the indiscriminate spraying of insectides, and offering (in the form of Golden Rice) a cheap and efficient way to combat Vitamin A deficiency in third-world countries.

LABELING

As far as labeling GMO foods, check out the Co-op—they’re already labeled! That is, non-GMO foods are labeled (along with “natural” and “organic” and all the other gimmicky labels to persuade us to spend more money than we need to feed ourselves). The problem with labeling a food as GMO is that is stigmatizes it, making it sound like the government is warning you about eating it. And GMO labeling doesn’t come free – one study estimates an additional $500 annual food budget for a family of four.

By the by, labeling’s probably good for Big Organic, though, such as Whole Foods Market (a $14 billion/year operation – coincidentally, the same as Monsanto), which is able to charge consumers more by selling the “purity” emotion.

META-STUDIES AND GMOs

A meta-study, as the name implies, is a study of studies. But instead of just averaging out the results of 10 or 100 other studies, a meta-study determines how much weight should be given to each individual study.

Taking a medical example, a study based on randomized controlled trials (especially those with double blind protocols) counts for more than case control studies (where, for instance, correlation may be seen, but causation not established). Case control studies trump animal and cell studies, and so on. The beauty of meta-studies is that they typically take into account hundreds of separate studies, which helps mitigate bias and errors.

So I trust the PLOS ONE (peer reviewed, open access journal) paper (November 2014) from the University of Göttingen, Sweden meta-study on the effects of GMO technology on soybean, maize and cotton. The paper concludes that genetically modified crops have

  • reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%
  • increased crop yields by 22%
  • increased farmer profits by 68%

(Note that increased yields means that farmers use less acreage to grow the same volume of crops; I’ve seen where non-GMO crops require up to twice the cultivated area of equivaltent GMO crops.)

Adding an insectide (e.g. Bt) directly to the crop (meaning farmers don’t have to spray insectide) is probably good, both for the environment and ultimately for the consumer.

There’s an argument to be made that herbicide-resistant seeds (e.g. Roundup Ready soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, and sorghum) encourages farmers to indiscriminately spray – or drown, as anti-GMOers like to say – their crops with glyphosate (Roundup). But I don’t see where that’s happening. For one thing, Roundup is expensive. For another, it takes time and energy to apply. And of course, the more Roundup applied, the more likely you’ll get glyphosate-resistant weeds.

Here’s Iowa farmer Dave Walton’s take on the controversy.

HOW DANGEROUS IS GLYPHOSATE TO HUMANS?

Depends whom you ask. Last month, 17 reviewers for the World Health Organization unanimously placed glyphosate (the world’s most widely used herbicide) in its “probably carcinogenic” category. This puts WHO’s agency at odds with virtually all other regulatory agencies, including the EPA and the European Union Glyphosate Task Force. (Interestingly, and as a counter to those who think of science as monolithic, the reviewers interpreted a rat study as evidence for carcinogenicity, while the actual authors of the 2004 study claimed their results showed no evidence!)

The full monograph of the new WHO recommendation hasn’t been published yet, so expect a battle royal to ensue when it does. By the way, you should know that the same agency lists alcoholic beverages as “probably carcinogenic.” Just saying.

And FWIW, of 515 hospitalizations in California due to agricultural chemicals over a 13-year period, none was attributed to glyphosate.

BUT ARE GMOs SAFE?

Maybe GMOs increase yields while requiring less pesticides and herbicides, but are they safe? Here’s a list of 21 international science and medical organizations, societies and associations (including the AAAS, AMA, the European Commission and WHO) with brief statements attesting to the safety of GMOs. (Specific references here, scroll down.) This is really a meta-study of a meta-study, since each of these bodies, composed of thousands of participants, has done its own meta-study to arrive at their conclusions.

The “GMOs are as safe as conventional foods” conclusions are consensus views, of course. In any group of individuals (particularly those with science backgrounds, given that science promotes skepticism), there will be dissenters. For instance, GMWatch (an anti-GMO advocacy organization) notes that after the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) issued a statement in 2012 claiming GM was safe (and opposing labeling), the statement was condemned by 21 scientists. Considering that AAAS has over 120,000 members, 21 doesn’t look like much of a condemnation.

For that matter, several commentators made much was made of the fact that the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) has a list of signatories to its “no scientific consensus on GMO safety” statement. This list of “over 300 independent researchers” (including doctors, judges, mathematicians and a host of just Ph.D.s – without listing their fields) is pretty slim pickings for what it’s claimed to be. You can find 300 professionals opposing just about anything! (Compare, for instance, with the 9,000 American Ph.D.s who’ve signed a petition gainsaying human-caused global warming.) (They’re wrong, of course, but that’s another rant.)

OK, I think I’m all GMO’d out, for now, anyway. Next week: The Case of the Missing Vulva.

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Barry Evans gave the best years of his life to civil engineering, and what thanks did he get? In his dotage, he travels, kayaks, meditates and writes for the Journal and the Humboldt Historian. He sucks at 8 Ball. Buy his Field Notes anthologies at any local bookstore. Please.