A recent convergence of events warrants a serious discussion on the 8,000 pound gorilla in Humboldt County. Yes, I’m talking about marijuana. From Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom coming out endorsing the legalization of marijuana to the latest Lost Coast Outpost Op-Ed from an anonymous grower under indictment who wrote, “Have you thanked a marijuana grower today?”, it’s a subject we need to have some sort of resolution, ‘cuz what we’ve got now ain’t working.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos recently spoke to the feds about Humboldt County’s problems and told his audience (and I’m paraphrasing here from a law enforcement friend) “It’s like lightning in the rain. We all go out into a rain storm and don’t worry about being struck by lightning because the odds of that happening are so low. Same with our local marijuana growers. With over 4,000 identified outdoor grows they don’t worry about arrest and prosecution because the odds of it happening are equally low. We need your help on the federal level. Either legalize marijuana or give us the resources to go after the criminals.”

It’s not often that I agree with Paul Gallegos, but I couldn’t have said it any better.

Let’s review:

  • Prohibition failed because Americans like to drink alcohol.
  • Our current marijuana laws are a failed federal policy because Americans like to smoke marijuana.
  • When you outlaw marijuana, the marijuana growers become outlaws.

We give tobacco growers tax subsidies and cigarettes kill an estimated 500,000 Americans each year. We regulate and tax alcohol and that kills an estimated 50,000 Americans every year. How many people die of marijuana (outside of the violence associated with it) each year?

The 1960-1980s days of the “back-to-the-landers” in South Humboldt with a little land, a small house and even smaller marijuana grow for personal consumption and to make a little cash on the side have been taken over by the new generation of industrial pot growers who only care about one thing – cash, and lots of it. Screw the environment, screw the rules, screw the regulations and especially screw taxes. None of that applies to them.

We live in a Republic, a society of laws and rules that all of us have to abide or suffer the consequences. All of us except Tony Montana, Walter White and the marijuana growers.

If I have to read one more bust on the LoCO with the usual insane amounts of marijuana plants, environmental damage, the killing of endangered species, stealing of water, enough weapons to arm a Marine Corps platoon, and of course, hundreds of thousands in cash, I might puke. But we all know we’ll be reading the latest mega-bust this coming week.

The way I see things is we have two choices.

  • One: bring down the Hammer of Thor with all the resources of the federal government and law enforcement to put a major hurt on our local drug dealers (AKA: marijuana growers).
  • Two: legalize marijuana on the federal and state level. Tax, regulate and control the product just like alcohol and tobacco.

This week let’s discuss the first – the Hammer of Thor.

Considering 80 percent of the murders in Humboldt County are marijuana related this is ain’t such a bad idea.

Every time I ask the Humboldt County Sheriffs, District Attorney and Building Department why they are not enforcing the laws on our books I get the same answers:

  • We don’t have the manpower.
  • We don’t have the budget.
  • We don’t want to get shot.

My first thought is, why would anyone shoot you over “medicine”? I typically don’t get shot when buying Advil.

My second thought is, why are we selectively enforcing the laws by picking and choosing which ones we are going to enforce? Does this mean I can drive 65 m.p.h. in the Safety Corridor between Eureka and Arcata because I don’t really like that law?

If I was the U.S. Drug Czar, I’d set up a DEA field office in Garberville staffed with at least a dozen agents and additional support staff. It wouldn’t be too hard to locate the marijuana busts for the coming week. Between Google Earth, helicopter flyovers and unmanned drones equipped with cameras and GPS tracking flying grids in South Humboldt, locating those 4,000 identified illegal marijuana grows would be pretty simple.

I’d have roving teams of four agents in conjunction with the Humboldt County Drug Task Force making at last two busts per day, that’s over 700 per year. And here’s where I’d put the hammer to the growers. Much like a CSI episode we’ve all watched on TV, I’d have the County Environmental Health Department and County Building Department follow up after the crime scene has been secured. Any McMansions built without a permit? Monetary fine. Build an industrial marijuana processing plant without a permit? Additional fines. Any environmental damage caused by diesel leaks, rodenticide and poisons would be more fines.

Cut any trees without a timber harvest permit or build any roads without going through the permitting process? ? Have the U.S. Forest Service slap another huge fine on the grower or land owner.

Did they illegally divert water from a stream or creek? Call in the State Department of Fish and Wildlife for another huge fine.

I’d have Sacramento amend the laws making environmental crimes a felony, not the current misdemeanor. I’d increase environmental damage fines by adding a zero to the current fine. A $25,000 fine, per offense, is taken more seriously than $2,500 fine.

The current law limits the use of asset forfeiture cash to capital expenditures, such as the new Eureka 911 phone system. I’d change the laws so law enforcement can keep any drug money and other assets forfeitures and use it for general funds, including hiring more law enforcement officers go make more busts, so they can get additional asset forfeitures, to hire more law enforcement officers… you get the picture.

I’d also RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) the growers for illegal drug sales and take their homes, land, cars and cash. If you can prove (via tax returns and/or public records) how you obtained all these assets and cash we’ll apologize and give it back to you. Otherwise we keep it and sell your assets.

Our U.S. Senators, Congressman and State elected representatives can rest easy knowing this entire budget expense would be paid for from the drug and asset forfeitures. The taxpayers would be making money from the marijuana drug dealers indirectly financing this venture.

For the final pièce de résistance I’d bring in an IRS auditor for a ten-year review of their reported tax returns and compare that to the assets and cash obtained on site. Remember Al Capone was sent to prison not for murder, drug dealing, bootlegging, prostitution, loan sharking or racketeering. He was sent to prison for something far worse. Capone was a tax evader. Do you know any growers that claim their marijuana income on their tax returns? Neither do I.

If you think a colonoscopy is “uncomfortable”, wait till you have an IRS auditor questioning you while reviewing your tax returns and bank records how you were able to purchase a 10-acre spread, clear-cut a forest, build a 5,000 square foot home, build an industrial-seized marijuana processing plant, drive a $60,000 tricked-out pick-up truck as one of their fleet of vehicles and have over $250,000 of cash in your possession when you’ve claimed minimal income for the past ten years. It will keep our local marijuana defense attorneys busy. Of course, I’d make sure they can document that their retainer fee came from legitimate sources and not illegal drug cash.

The penal code for tax evasion is five years plus a $100,000 fine and then the biggie – back taxes plus interest and penalties.

I’m not a federal or state elected representative or our District Attorney, so I’m not an expert on the laws and what we can and can’t do to combat the scourge we call the marijuana culture, but I do know how to make a grown man cry. Make him hire an attorney. Wanna to make a wealthy man cry? Take away his cash and his toys.

Next time – what legalization will look like for Humboldt County…