John Hardin / @ 7:25 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: The ‘Heritage’ of the War on Drugs


Drug dealers suck the life out of a community. Look at what they’ve done to Southern Humboldt. Drug dealers use black market drug money to drive honest working people out of their homes, which they then convert into dope houses. Meanwhile, middle-class professionals, who could afford to live here, won’t, because they don’t want to associate with, and don’t want their kids to associate with, so many low-life, criminal drug-dealers. Who can blame them?

Even the non-profit environmental organizations that were founded down here have all fled to Arcata and Eureka, where the economy still boasts some diversity and black market drug dealers haven’t completely driven everyone else away. Ironically, even black-market drug dealers complain about black-market drug dealers here in SoHum. Apparently, kingpins don’t like to see street-dealers working their neighborhood any more than anyone else.

Working people either camp out in the woods or commute from Fortuna for the privilege of serving rude, disdainful drug dealers for little more than minimum wage. Retirees live in fear, behind locked doors,  because of drug-related violent crime, and because of the number of desperate drug addicts on the street. We all pay a high price for the black market cannabis industry in Humboldt County, whether we buy pot or not, and the concentration of drug dealers in our small community continues to increase because only drug dealers can afford to live here, and only drug dealers want to live in a community so dominated by drug dealers.

Despite all of the social problems that black market drug dealers create and the enormous costs of those problems borne by the community, our Board of Supervisors is totally hypnotized by the shady characters who sit in the gallery, fanning themselves with enormous wads of cash. As a result, the county spends the taxpayer’s money to punish the symptoms while it serves the disease. Now that the county has bent over backwards to embrace these drug dealers, it seems their efforts have mostly been in vain.

The vast majority of Humboldt County’s black market growers have opted not to apply for a permit to grow cannabis legally under the county’s new regulatory guidelines. The Humboldt County Planning Department has only received about 2,500 permit applications out of an estimated 10,000 illegal grows, and the deadline to file an application has passed. 

Many more permit applications were filed by tenants, rather than landowners. I imagine a lot of entrepreneurs have set up shop here because Humboldt County passed an ordinance first, and they want to get into the legal cannabis market early, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these companies move elsewhere as soon as the opportunity arises. Being first probably means more to them than being here.

So far, only about 300 applicants have completed the process and received permits. I wish all of them tremendous success. However, that means that Humboldt County’s back country still harbors thousands of black market growers who have made little or no effort to come into compliance with the law, despite the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors’ eagerness to court them. Clearly, the majority of Humboldt County’s growers prefer to serve the black market and remain outside of the law.

We should have expected that. After all, most of these people got into this business because they couldn’t compete in the real world, without cheating, to begin with. They know that they don’t stand a chance in the legal market. The legal market has an entirely different dynamic than the black market. While the legal market is competitive and driven by consumer choice, the black market is more of a hostage situation maintained by draconian police-state law enforcement.

By now, most of the “Mom and Pop,” “heritage” growers that everyone was so concerned about have sold out to greedy, out-of-control greenrushers, or turned the keys over to their kids. As long as we continue to craft cannabis regulations to protect the interests of black market so-called “Heritage” growers, we preserve that heritage of violent, drug-related crime, environmental destruction and social problems that we’ve come to expect from the War on Drugs. Haven’t we had enough of that?

Instead, California’s cannabis consumers should insist that the state immediately license large-scale cannabis farms, in appropriate locations. Only a bumper crop of legal weed will insure that the price of cannabis falls far enough, fast enough, to relegate the black market in marijuana to the pages of that long, dark tome known as the History of the War on Drugs. We should have closed the cover on that book a long time ago, but let’s do it now, before it can do any more harm.

Remember! Every single time a black-market grower goes out of business because the price of marijuana dropped too low, a homeless family finds a place to live. Five local kids don’t grow up to become drug dealers, and the legal cannabis industry creates ten new jobs for people who make “value-added” products, which in turn creates a hundred new jobs for builders, contractors and business service providers. The lower the price of legal, raw cannabis falls, the more it helps the economy, the community, and the environment.

It’s time to demand an end to the violence, environmental destruction and crime that black market drug dealers bring to our community. Cannabis consumers deserve safe, reliable cannabis products at reasonable prices, and communities everywhere deserve to be rid of the crime, violence and corruption that black market drug dealers bring to every town, including ours.

Humboldt County’s black market growers have demonstrated that they prefer the company of criminals to building strong community. They think they can hide their depravity behind a new downtown facade, bury it beneath ballfields at the Community Park, and drown it out with obnoxiously loud music festivals, but their contempt for cannabis consumers, the community, and the environment, as well as their eagerness to milk the War on Drugs,to the bitter end, reveals their true colors.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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