Category Archives: Cannabis

The Cannabis Casino

weed casino

Last week I wrote about how our failure to address the housing crisis will ultimately force the emerging legal cannabis industry to move elsewhere in search of a reliable workforce, and about why smart growers are getting out of the business now, while the getting is good. One commenter at LoCO, who has since deleted his comment, said he was getting out of the marijuana business, and lamented that after 20 years in the cannabis industry, he had little to show for his efforts. Another commenter expressed shock and wonder that someone could work in the black market marijuana industry for so long without making more money. This commenter obviously had no experience in the marijuana industry.

 

The truth is, most people who try to make a career of growing marijuana, fare poorly. Growing pot is more like gambling in a casino than working a job. Legal businesses rely heavily on a stable legal system that supports their activity. From criminal penalties for shoplifting to a court system that upholds and enforces contracts, legal businesses only remain reliably profitable, because the threat of government enforcement keeps everyone honest. The black market marijuana industry enjoys no such support, and is made, largely, of people who specialize in evading law enforcement. No one plays by the rules, treachery, deceit and thievery are common, and violence is trump.

trump points up

Some people hit the jackpot in casinos, but most end up losing money, or at best, breaking even. The same is true of the marijuana industry. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the same marijuana industry that brings so much money into Humboldt County, also produces unbearable poverty for far too many of the people who work in that industry. There are no stable, good paying jobs in the marijuana industry. Instead, people gamble with their lives.

marijuana gamble

Here’s something that happens every day, all day, all over the country. It happened recently to a couple of young friends of mine. They got invited to come out here to work on a pot farm, and to trim the weed at harvest time. They both put in a lot of hard work in the hot sun all Summer, weeks and weeks of 16 hour workdays spent trimming weed, and many cold November nights sleeping in soggy dome tents in the rain. By the end of last year, they had saved a good chunk of money, but they knew they could make even more, if they used the money they earned here, to buy marijuana at Humboldt County prices, take it home with them, and sell it at the prevailing price there.

selling weed why the fuck

Unfortunately, they got pulled-over by a cop in a state with less progressive marijuana laws. The cop arrested them, confiscated their weed, and took their money. They spent a week in jail, had to have their parents bail them out, and hired a lawyer. Not only did they lose a year of their lives and everything they earned, they still have to pay hefty fines, legal fees, and spend a year or more on probation, at least.

chain gang

For a while last winter, in their scissor delirium, they thought they were doing pretty well. They went out to dinner once or twice at the Benbow Inn, bought some expensive scotch at the Redway liquor store, and donated money to KMUD. Now they’re broke, in debt, and have a criminal record. This year they’re back to try again, but they are worse off than when they started.

worse off

Something like that story has happened to almost a million people every year, for almost 50 years now, including about 800,000 last year alone. Just because the marijuana industry brings a lot of money here, that doesn’t mean that most of the people in this industry do well at it. Some do, but a whole lot more have the perception that they are doing well, for a short period of time, just like gamblers in a casino, and that feeling makes gambling, and the marijuana industry, addictive.

high steaks gambling

CAMP raids ruined a lot of people’s lives, for decades, even if they never got arrested. If you managed to put together a good year or two, and used the money to put a down-payment on a piece of property, build a house and put in a grow, you probably thought you were doing pretty well. Then, just as your plants approached maturity, helicopters showed up and CAMP smashed your whole operation. As a result of the raid, you lost a whole year’s income. Because you didn’t have the income, you missed your land payment, so you lost your land, the big down-payment you made, all of the annual balloon payments you made before they busted you, and the house you just built. This has happened to hundreds of people here in Humboldt County. Some people have sold the same piece of land, four or five times, to four or five different ambitious young growers, and gotten higher prices each time they sold it because of improvements made by each successive alleged “new owner” before foreclosure.

marijuana helicopter

Cops aren’t the only hazard in this business. Mold, woodrats, mites, deer, elk, gophers and ripoffs can all ruin a crop almost as fast as CAMP. Then there’s fire. Lots of people lose their crop in wildland fires. If the plants themselves don’t burn, they might die because no one could get into the evacuation zone to water them.

fire victim

One friend of mine was doing pretty well. He had acquired land and was building a house. At harvest time, he used the unfinished house as a drying shed for his crop. While drying, some of the weed fell onto a portable propane heater which started a fire that consumed the crop and burned the house to the ground. It devastated him.

destroyed house

 

Nobody has insurance in this business, and setbacks like this can take years to recover from, if they don’t crush your spirit completely. Some people never recover from setbacks like these. Instead, they fall into alcoholism and/or hard-drug addiction, which become setbacks themselves, which lead to more setbacks. After a few such setbacks, most people are pretty well screwed.

you know youre screwed

Damn near everyone in Humboldt, it seems, is on probation, parole, or has a felony conviction in their past, and our drug addiction rates are through the roof. Far from making us more prosperous as a community, the marijuana industry has become a trap that produces gross income inequity, devastates the natural environment, and unleashes an epidemic of economic refugees while it makes us feel ever more dependent upon it.

weed and money trap

Yes, the black market marijuana industry accounts for a lot of the money that comes into Humboldt County but it also accounts for a lot of the homelessness, poverty and drug addiction we find here too. Like a casino, the War on Drugs makes a few lucky people rich, while it swindles the rest of us with games of chance where the odds are stacked against us, and like a casino, it doesn’t really produce anything, except poverty, social problems, and money. Would you care to place a bet on the future of Humboldt County?

last bets


“Grow Big or Go Homeless”

grow big only options

The other day, I saw a guy wearing a T-shirt from one of our local grow shops. Nothing unusual about that. On any given day, half the guys you see in Garberville will be wearing an advertisement for one of our local grow shops. I didn’t see which shop sponsored the shirt, because I didn’t see the front of the shirt, but the message I saw on the back left me dumbfounded. “Grow Big or Go Homeless” the black shirt loudly proclaimed in bold white letters.

remember the homeless

Whoever came up with that slogan knows how to sell grow supplies. “Grow Big or Go Homeless” taps into growers’ fear. Everyone fears running out of money, especially growers. Growers tend to have pretty thin resumes, and the longer they grow, the less employable they become, so this slogan taps into the sense of desperation driving the current expansion in the marijuana industry.

easier to fool

People don’t think well when they’re frightened. Some people don’t think well at anytime. A lot of growers use money to insulate themselves from their own idiocy. They don’t like to think too much, but they know that having a lot of money makes life easier. The more money they make, the more silly ways they find to spend it, and soon, their lives become a death-spiral of greed and consumption that destroys natural habitat here in Humboldt County, wastes resources around the world, and contributes to global warming, while they poison themselves with their own stupidity. Just having to think frightens them, and thinking about money and the future frightens them even more.

stupid people exist because

A few growers have been paying attention, and preparing for the inevitable, others are getting out while the getting is good. As the marijuana industry becomes more professional and competitive, most Humboldt growers feel trapped. They know that they’ll never make it in the legal market, and they only have a few years left of the black market. So, like any compulsive gambler, they bet it all on this year’s crop, and made it a big one. If they can do it again next year, they’ll find a way to grow even more.

grow even more

People bought a shitload of soil and garden supplies this year, at least twice as much as last year, and then trucked all of that stuff back to a rash of seeping scars on our hillsides, where they worked like dogs in the hot sun, breathing dust and exhaust fumes all day, just so that they can double-down on last year. Why? You can only grow so much weed, and the more weed you grow, the harder you work, and the less you make per pound. You don’t have to worry about getting caught. You’ve been caught. They’re draining the pond around you, so becoming a bigger fish won’t help. We need to evolve if we want to survive in this changing environment, and turning our backs on the world and burying ourselves in weed won’t help us one bit.

buried in weed

Pretty soon, everyone will have plenty of weed, and growing it will be just another shitty low-paying job. Like the rest of our shitty low-paying jobs, nobody around here will work them unless they can find an affordable place to live. In turn, even the marijuana industry will be forced to move elsewhere because they won’t be able to assemble the reliable workforce they need, here. We’re not preparing for the future, we’re digging a pit, and the deeper we dig, the longer it will take us to climb out of it.

stuck in a pit

Business owners already complain about how hard it is to find reliable help, and they complain about all of the homeless people hanging around town too, but instead of creating affordable housing that would make money, inspire people to take those shitty jobs and give them money to patronize local businesses, they’d rather grow more weed, and pay higher taxes, so that they can pay cops to chase poor people away from their phony downtown businesses. It’s ridiculous, and it’s cruel, and it’s just one facet of the ridiculous, and cruel, War on Drugs, but there it was, distilled down to a slogan you could put on a T-shirt, “Grow Big, or Go Homeless.” Have we lost our minds?

lost my mind van gogh

Marijuana used to mellow people out, but today it has got them acting crazy. I realize that the answer to every problem we’ve faced in the past has been, “grow more marijuana,” but the future demands something else from us this time, and the sooner we realize it, the better. It speaks to the failure of our government, that it waged a War on Drugs against it’s own people, and it speaks to the bankruptcy of our economic system that we rely so heavily on the violence, corruption and human suffering wrought by the War on Drugs, but ultimately, how we handle this situation, here, together, as a community, will determine our fate. We have got to do better than “Grow Big or Go Homeless,” if we want to build any kind of a future here in Southern Humboldt.

it doesnt get better


We Sent an Invitation to “Big Pot”

michele alexander quote

I had a nice chat with Linda Stansberry about “the Greenrush,” and it got me thinking about how ridiculous it is for so-called “Mom and Pop” growers to complain about it. First, it is hilarious to watch people, who made their living, for decades, by evading the law, complain to the Sheriff and ask why he isn’t doing more marijuana eradication. They’ve been completely blindsided. Even they had no idea how big the marijuana industry really was.

attention drug dealers

 

Second, after all of the wrangling about big grows vs small grows, the terms of the new county medical marijuana ordinance don’t seem to matter nearly so much as the fact that we were the first to adopt one. Because Humboldt County passed the first industry-friendly ordinance, we painted a target on ourselves. While they worked so hard to craft an ordinance that would keep prohibition-era farmers in the game in a legal market, they unwittingly wrote an invitation to every major drug syndicate in the world. We constructed our ordinance with an eye towards keeping out “Big Tobacco,” but we completely forgot about “Big Pot.”

big weed inc

For large-scale black market distributors, Humboldt County’s ordinance offers low-risk vertical integration as well as an opportunity to “go public” when the time is right. Who knew there were so many big fish lurking in the murky waters of the marijuana industry, just waiting to devour Humboldt County. Now we face a feeding frenzy that threatens to displace most of our community. As large distributors take over production, marijuana money will increasingly flow out of the area, while long-term locals fall into poverty and homelessness. Property becomes even more unaffordable, housing even more scarce and good paying jobs go extinct because big distributors cycle through temporary help, none of whom want to live here long-term, rather than hire locals.

hemp temps

Since these operators work the, still strong, global black market, they pay no taxes and ignore regulations, while they suck the rivers dry and level the forest with impunity. They don’t care about this place or the community. They got the invitation and now that they’re here, we’re going to have a hell of a time getting rid of them, especially if we’re not willing to say good bye to the marijuana industry too.

say goodbye

 

We should have said goodbye to the marijuana industry years ago, back when Anna Hamilton asked us to think about “What’s after pot?” People just couldn’t imagine an “afterlife.” If we had worked as hard to build a diverse economy based on cottage industries, arts and crafts, ecotourism, hospitality, and who knows what else, as we did to expand our marijuana production and lobby for price supporting regulation, we wouldn’t be in this mess. What’s our excuse for not investing our pot money in education, skill building or starting legitimate businesses while we had the chance?

your excuse

Instead, we put all of our eggs in one basket and naively told our Supervisors that we wanted to protect the marijuana industry. So, the Supes passed an ordinance that created another real-estate bubble, and with it, one more opportunity for agents, brokers and appraisers to get obscenely rich, while the rest of us lose our homes, the fish die and our forests become an industrial wasteland. Not only have we failed to protect our livelihood, we’ve insured the destruction of our community and the environment, just because we couldn’t see beyond marijuana, and because we wouldn’t change.

cant see beyond beliefs

Change happens. Either we make change, or change happens to us. We became obsessed with marijuana and money and “marijuana money” as a community, and the more obsessed we got, the more our world shrank. Instead of thinking beyond pot, we decided to become the center of the legal marijuana industry. We asked the Board of Supervisors for an industry-friendly ordinance, because we thought we were the industry. We should be more careful about what we ask for.

change2

Now that we have passed the ordinance, the industry doesn’t really need us anymore, it just wants our land. The people who used to send guys to Garberville to sit in the Humboldt House Inn and buy your weed all day, now send people here to buy property all day, and then send more people and equipment and money to level the forest, sack your homestead and blow-up another mega-grow.

mega grow

Whatever reputation Humboldt County growers have earned, that reputation gets transferred, along with the title of the land, to new owners from all over the world, whether they know how to grow weed or not. One or three (or none) of them may even come out on top of the legal cannabis market, when the dust finally settles, proudly bearing the “Made in Humboldt” label. Several more will quietly amass vast personal fortunes in the these chaotic transitional years. The rest of us, on the other hand, will have to find something else to do. We should have done it years ago, but even at this late stage in the game, the sooner we face it, the better.

before this


A Meeting About “the Greenrush”

green-rush movie

I attended the “Greenrush” meeting Beginnings in Briceland. It turned out to be a great opportunity to see your neighbors, meet some government officials, and watch four hours of your life evaporate away. The Civil Liberties Monitoring Project hosted the meeting to air complaints about the expansion of mega-grow pot plantations in Southern Humboldt, and because those folks up in Bridgeville got to have a meeting about it, so we had to have one too.

i-want-one-too

Of course, the mega-grow plantation owners didn’t come to the meeting. They didn’t send a manager, or even a spokesperson. They were too busy growing pot, and making money, to care. Instead, it was all the people who have been complaining about them, including yours truly, as well as 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell, Undersheriff Honsal from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, Adona White of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Jane Arnold from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Senior Planner from the Humboldt County Planning Dept, Steve Lazar.

briceland greenrush meeting

It’s still weird to hear pot growers demanding stricter enforcement and more surveillance, but that’s what I heard. People were outraged that the Sheriff wasn’t busting these giant grows we can all see on Google Earth, when they used to look at every ridge in the county, every year, with a magnifying glass and a fine-toothed comb, pulling-up every single pot plant they saw. Undersheriff Honsel told us that since the Feds stopped picking up the tab, the Sheriff doesn’t do much marijuana eradication anymore.

marijuana eradication

Instead, Honsel referred us to the people sitting at the table beside him, Adona White from NCRWQCB, Jane Arnold from Fish and Wildlife, and Steve Lazar from the Planning Dept, and told us that they would lead the enforcement of the new regulations. All of the people from the various state and county agencies kept telling us, “We’d love to bust these bad guys, but we need you to file complaints against them first. Then we’ll send them a letter.”

county land use ordinance

“Oh great, a letter.” we all thought. Our neighbors carry machine guns and run international organized crime syndicates, and you are going to send them a letter. We know how mobsters work. Mobsters bribe public officials, but they kill informants. All of our state and county agencies would love to start negotiating with these new “clients,” if they haven’t already, and they’re happy to do it over our dead bodies. They can’t wait to try out these new shakedowns, I mean “regulations,” and they love to let the public do their legwork.

bribes

In order to make sense of this whole legalization process, you need to understand what politicians mean when they talk about “a well-regulated industry.” They don’t mean “regulated in such a way as to protect the environment, provide workers with a safe workplace, and insure regional economic stability.” When a government official talks about “a well regulated industry” he or she means that all of the bribes and payoffs that used to get paid under the table, have now been institutionalized as above-board fees and penalties.

rules and regulations marked on rubber stamp

 

As the spectre of legalization threatened to expose the corruption at the core of our local economy, the Board of Supervisors worked furiously fast to codify new licensing and fee structures to keep the economic ball rolling. Because Humboldt County acted so quickly to adopt these new regulations, big growers everywhere now know that they can grow big here, and if the county comes after them, they’ll send a letter, instead of 60 trigger-happy cops.

trigger happy cops

These new regulations have made Humboldt County look appetizing to a whole new category of speculators, gamblers, and weasels working both sides of the law. They pay ridiculous prices for real estate and then totally blow it up with clear-cuts, massive water-sucking light-dep operations, loud generators, bright lights and too much truck traffic. That’s what we mean by “Greenrush.”

big grow

The forest has become an unregulated industrial zone as operators race to suck the last gulps from the teat of prohibition while they position themselves to come out on top in the legal market. The stakes are high. No pun intended. The competition for domination of the emerging legal cannabis market is fierce, and Humboldt County has become the battlefield.

battlefield

That’s why it looks like a war zone around here. Our hillsides are cratered by pot plants instead of bomb blasts, massive convoys of dump trucks, cement mixers and earth-moving equipment crisscross our watersheds while desperate refugees survive in make-shift camps. The War on Drugs has given us all PTSD, and now that the government has finally conceded defeat, growers have gone on the offensive, and they’re fighting each other for market-share. This last battle in the War on Drugs may be the most deadly yet for Humboldt County.

dead bodies battlefield

At the meeting, they told us that they can only work with the growers who want to come into compliance. At the moment, about 2% of cannabis growers are actively working towards compliance, which means that about 98% of the marijuana growers in Humboldt County continue to supply a robust nationwide black market that doesn’t take names, ask for licenses or collect taxes. Undersheriff Honsell told us that most Humboldt County growers grow for the black market because: “That’s where the money is.” Duh!

willie sutter quote

Essentially, they told us that as long as the black market for marijuana remains profitable, we should expect the unregulated destruction in the forest to continue, and accelerate. In the meantime, the Board of Supervisors has proposed a new excise tax on every licensed pound of legally compliant medical cannabis, just to make sure that those cut-and-run greenrushers get a little more time to plunder the forest, while licensed legal growers pick up the tab.

pick up the tab1

They told us to be patient. In five years or so, this will all be over. By then, everyone will be in compliance and there won’t be any more black market. That’s what they told us. They didn’t bother to tell us that all of the salmon would be dead in five years, along with the local cottage cannabis industry, poof, gone, extinct forever. They didn’t tell us that real estate agents are getting fat as ticks off of this ruse, right now, by inviting every drug dealer in the country to come here to ruin the community, saw down the forest and suck the rivers dry. “Please be patient,” they said. “In five years, it will all be over.”

it will all be over soon

Yeah, that’s what we’re afraid of.

horror john carpenter


A Proposed Cease-Fire

cease-fire 

While I’ve greatly enjoyed venting my spleen at SoHum’s Bourgeois, I realize that you don’t all fit so neatly into my broad, and broadly negative, characterizations. I know a lot of you personally, and I know that you like to think of yourselves as basically decent people. Hell, I like to think of you as basically decent people. Why else would I waste my time communicating with you, but I also happen to know that the poor in SoHum are basically decent people, as well, as are nearly all of the of seasonal workers who descend on Southern Humboldt every year to harvest and trim your marijuana.

I didn’t start the class war in Southern Humboldt. I just answered it. I got really sick of seeing the way the middle-class treat the poor and homeless around here, and I got sick of the propaganda campaign in the local media. If the poor and homeless of SoHum were black, you’d call it overt, institutional and brutally violent, racism, but it just happens to be aimed at mostly white people. It’s just as ugly as racism, and just as hateful, but it’s something different. It’s a caste system, a community segregated by class.

caste system

Which strikes me as absolutely ridiculous, because nobody around here has any class. We can’t convince doctors to move here. Why? Not because of the climate, not because we don’t have plenty of natural scenic beauty, not because of traffic, noise or air pollution. Doctors don’t want to live here because no one around here has any class. This is the most low-brow community I’ve ever lived in, and this really ugly, scapegoating attitude towards the poor is just one example of our general vulgarity.

vulgarity periodic table

I understand your frustration. This town doesn’t look the way you would like it to look. You spend a lot of money to have a storefront on Redwood Drive and you want people to see your window display, not five hippies smoking a joint, but getting mad and calling the cops will not solve the problem. The people who hang-out in town live here, work here, and pay taxes here. They have a right to dress as they see fit and carry whatever they like. They can also walk their dog, smoke their cigarette and/or stand on the sidewalk talking to their friends, for as long as they like. None of these things constitute a crime. Now we all pay a special sales tax, Measure Z, so that local merchants can use law enforcement officers as bouncers and treat our public spaces like their own private club, and they’ve passed new laws to criminalize poverty. What an ugly waste of waste and money! It’s time to face reality.

face_reality

Reality isn’t pretty. The illegal marijuana industry isn’t nearly as benign as we’d like to believe. It creates tremendous economic disparity, and we see it on the streets of Garberville. This industry ruins many times more people than succeed at it. For decades, and still today, cops arrest nearly a million people a year for marijuana. They confiscate and destroy millions of pounds of marijuana every year, and every year thousands of people have their lives turned upside-down, lose their assets, spend time in jail, and/or have their good names besmirched with felony convictions, just to keep the price of marijuana high enough to make the dope yuppie lifestyle possible.

HCCC b

For every winner in this game, there are a lot of losers. You’ve got to figure that a lot of people end up on the street because of the marijuana industry, and you ought to accept that a lot of those people are here. It’s sad, but for a lot of people around here, marijuana is the only life they know. They’re like coal miners in West Virginia. This is all they know, so they come back to it again and again, never acquiring education, never paying into social security and never getting out of Humboldt. That’s one problem, but it’s not much better for honest working people.

coal miner and son

Most jobs in town offer $9-12 an hour. You will never find a place to live in Southern Humboldt that you can afford at that wage, and who can blame people for not working their lives away, just to pay the rent on a room to sleep in. It isn’t a matter of choice. A lot of people have no good options. They are all doing the best that they can, and they all deserve a little dignity and respect.

sleeping in public

 

In addition to our year-round population, we get a massive influx of seasonal workers every Fall who need low-budget accommodations. We’re going to have hippies. They will bring guitars and drums and dogs and sell stuff on the sidewalk. They will take drugs, smoke weed and drink. This is reality. The vast majority of the people who buy marijuana, sell marijuana and make marijuana are poor. These are your customers, your distributors and your manufacturers. Without them, there would be no marijuana industry, and all of that money you’ve come to depend on, comes from them.

Trimmigrant

We need to make space for people who are not middle-class, and we need services for people who are not middle-class. I do, genuinely, find the middle-class disgusting, revolting, obnoxious and belligerent. I don’t like seeing them on the streets, and I find them intimidating. I can’t stand the way they smell and I despise the air of entitlement they carry, but If I saw one meaningful action, something I, as a member of this community, could take some civic pride in, just one meaningful action that would make life a little easier for the people who are struggling, economically, and dealing with difficult situations, in Southern Humboldt, I could put aside those petty differences, at least for a while, and talk about some of the very positive things going on here in Southern Humboldt. 10 Bonus Points if it happens before the trimmigrants get here.

homeless in garberville


The Big Lie Called “Public Safety”

the big lie unmasking

Last year, Humboldt County instituted a a new regressive sales tax, Measure Z, that unduly burdens the poor in Humboldt County. This year, the county intends to pass a new ordinance that will infringe on our civil rights. Apparently it wasn’t enough to just send more cops out to harass the poor, which Measure Z funded, they now find it necessary to invent a new crime, for which the poor can be prosecuted. Still, no one wants to pay taxes, and no one wants to give up their rights, so how do our County Supervisors generate public support for these measures? That’s easy. They lie.

lies ill take apack

County Supervisors used the same lie for both Measure Z and this new proposed “aggressive solicitation ordinance.” That is the lie called “public safety.” Remember “public safety?” That was the lie the Federal Government used to justify marijuana prohibition too. “Public safety” is one of those big lies that fascists have used repeatedly throughout history to restrict civil rights, suppress dissent and control the public, and that’s exactly how the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors use it today. Don’t believe for one second that the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors gives a rat’s ass about public safety. All you have to do is watch Estelle Fennell drive to know that public safety is the very last thing on her mind.

Reckless-driving cartoon

“Public safety” sounds like a good thing. Who doesn’t support public safety? We outlawed fireworks, so we wouldn’t have so many forest fires. We outlawed driving while intoxicated so we could cut down on the number of traffic fatalities and we mandate seat-belt use for the same reason. Those are some ways that legislators have addressed public safety concerns through legislation. We can argue whether or not these laws work, but “public safety” becomes a big lie when politicians use it, not to save lives, but to steal our money and take away our rights.

big ripoff

I readily admit that Humboldt County is a dangerous place to live. We face many threats to public safety here in Humboldt County, some natural, some man-made. We’re prone to earthquakes, fires, floods, tsunamis and mudslides, all of which have a long, devastating history in Humboldt County, and we can rest assured that overwhelming natural disasters will remain a predictable part of our future. We could probably save a lot of lives by spending some money now to prepare for the inevitable. In a real disaster, it would really help to have plenty of bed space in emergency shelters, and it would help even more to have people with experience running an emergency shelter, who know what to expect when disaster strikes.

when disaster strikes

Just think of the lives that could be saved in a natural disaster, if we had a full-time emergency shelter in Southern Humboldt. Think of how many people need help in times of personal emergency, and how much good it would do for the whole community to have an emergency shelter serving people in crisis as a way of preparing for the major natural disasters that will inevitably impact all of us in the future. That’s what a policy designed for “public safety” might look like. You won’t see much of that in Humboldt County.

disaster-shelter2

Now ask yourself: When was the last time an “aggressive panhandler” killed anyone in Humboldt County, by panhandling too aggressively? I don’t think it has happened yet. I’m sure we would have heard about it on the news. Not one single death by “aggressive panhandling” in Humboldt County in as long as I can remember. I don’t ever recall hearing about a single injury, not even a bruise, caused by “aggressive panhandling” anywhere in Humboldt County, have you? The “public safety threat” posed by aggressive panhandling is entirely imaginary. We can only imagine how an aggressive panhandler might possibly threaten public safety, because we’ve never had a single aggressive panhandling related injury in Humboldt County in as long as anyone can remember.

25 cent jokes

On the other side of the coin, reckless drivers, like Estelle Fennell, kill and injure dozens of Humboldt County residents every year. Out-of -control drivers on the Briceland-Thorne Road constitute a serious threat to the public safety of the citizens of Southern Humboldt, but none of the money from Measure Z goes towards traffic enforcement West of Redway. Instead, the cops cruise around Redway and Garberville harassing poor people all day, poor people who do not own cars or drive cars, have not committed any crimes and do not pose any threat to public safety.

trouble with poor people

The cops themselves pose a serious threat to public safety. We have some of the most violent cops in the state. The Eureka Police Dept leads the state in police shootings, and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Dept is famous for torturing locked-down non-violent protesters by swabbing pepper-spray in their eyes. This we know for sure. Complaints and allegations of police abuse have only multiplied since then, and the EPD still refuses to turn over dash-cam video from an 2012 incident reported by Thadeus Greenson in the NCJ. Cops around here remain largely above the law which makes this threat to public safety even more insidious and dangerous.

police violence

But wait, there’s more.

but wait theres more 1

Dead bodies turn-up every month or so around here, and most of these deaths appear to be connected to the black-market marijuana industry. Hash labs explode every week or so, maiming and killing residents and destroying homes all over Humboldt County, and at least a dozen people, probably more, mostly young people, die in black-market drug deals every year in Humboldt County. Hundreds more die violent premature deaths in the black-market marijuana industry across the country every year in the process of selling Humboldt County marijuana. Not only does Humboldt County’s black-market marijuana industry dramatically impact public safety here in Humboldt County, we have become a public safety menace to the rest of the country.

pot plant

Speaking of black-market drug deals, we have some of the highest drug addiction and drug overdose rates in the state. We consume the equivalent of 14 Vicodin tablets every day, on average for every man, woman and child in Humboldt County, and that doesn’t include all of the heroin, meth and cocaine we consume. Drugs kill hundreds of people in Humboldt County every year. The deadly combination of an entrenched black-market coupled with our culture of addiction, poses, by far, our most serious threat to public safety here in Humboldt County, and the bright red cherry at the top of this public safety crises sundae is Hepatitis C.

Sundae

Humboldt County has been recognized as the most prolific breeding-grounds for Hepatitis C in the entire USA. The Hep-C epidemic threatens to overwhelm our public health system even without a natural disaster. Despite new treatments, complications of Hepatitis C claim tens of thousands of lives across the country every year.

Causes of hep C(4)

Welcome to the heart of the Hep-C generation, and you are welcome for that brief rundown of genuine public safety concerns that the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors could be working on at this very moment, were they not so busy lying to you, stealing your money and shutting you up. So, the next time your County Supervisor or your local newspaper tries to convince you that we need this new, unconstitutional, free-speech stifling, fascist police-state style “aggressive solicitation ordinance” in Humboldt County for “public safety” you will know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lying to you.

keep speaking the truth


“Aggressive Solicitation”

help

It’s open season on the poor and homeless in Southern Humboldt. Vigilante gangs terrorize them on the streets. Cops abuse them and local merchants harass them for not looking prosperous enough to patronize their overpriced ripoff businesses. Now the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors intends to pass a new ordinance designed to punish this oppressed population still further, while it chokes out our civil rights and strangles the democratic process to boot. The so-called “aggressive panhandling” or “aggressive solicitation” ordinance will make it a crime to ask for help in Humboldt County.

cops harass woman

Under this proposed ordinance, a person who had just been robbed, stabbed, beaten and left laying on the sidewalk screaming for help, could be cited for “aggressive solicitation.” This ordinance could stop Ray Oakes from asking the “Question of the Week” for the Humboldt Independent, and this ordinance could certainly be used to prevent effective grassroots organizing. Unions would have never gotten started without “aggressive solicitation.” It takes a whole lot of “aggressive solicitation” to get any grassroots political movement off the ground, and here in America we have whole religions dedicated to “aggressive solicitation.”

street preacher

Here in the USA, we decided, almost 250 years ago, that we prefer “aggressive solicitation” to violence, deceit and treachery, which had long been the custom in Europe, and it was the proud American tradition of “aggressive solicitation” established by such patriots as Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry and Paul Revere that made this country a beacon for freedom and democracy. More than a civil right, the right to “aggressively solicit” is a human right, and a birthright. In fact, “aggressive solicitation” is the only thing we know how to do, instinctively, from birth.

screaming baby

Without “aggressive solicitation” we would not survive as a species, and “aggressive solicitation” has an important function within the community, as well as the family. It makes no more sense to prohibit “aggressive solicitation” within the community, than it does to punish a baby for crying in the house. If your baby won’t stop crying, you don’t punish the baby, you feed the baby. “Aggressive solicitation” is a signal, and we ignore it, or worse, prohibit it, at our own peril.

feed the baby

In another era, both past and perhaps future, with more enlightened judges, the Supreme Court would almost certainly shoot down any ordinance resembling the one the Supes currently consider, but thanks to the Scalia Court, the court that handed down “Citizens United” and declared that money is protected speech and corporations are citizens, they could probably get away with it. Who knows how constitutional this proposed ordinance, or the one Eureka and Fortuna passed, will look next year?

future of the supreme court

I did a lot of political work back in the ’90s, to legalize marijuana, and to close nuclear power plants. We would never have been able sustain those movements without a significant amount of “aggressive solicitation.” I know, because I did it. I could get a complete stranger to write me a check for $100 in two minutes.

write a check

I didn’t just approach pedestrians, or stand on street corners, malls, parks and other public spaces, although I did plenty of that too. I went even further. I raised a lot of money for a number of organizations by wandering through neighborhoods where I didn’t know anyone, onto private property, and knocking on complete strangers’ front doors. I knocked on about 50 doors every night. That’s “aggressive solicitation” no matter how you look at it. Lots of people called the cops on me.

call the cops

At the time, what I did was considered constitutionally protected free speech. We had a legal department, and when we didn’t have a legal department, we had the ACLU. Occasionally, some little uptight burg would pass an ordinance like the one the Supes are now considering, and liberal New England lawyers would swarm them like hornets, and they’d never do it again. We won every time.

ACLU

Around here, non-profit groups seem to rely more on alcohol sales and parties to fund their campaigns, than the kind of direct grassroots fund-raising that I did. I doubt any of them will recognize the threat this proposed ordinance poses, or stand up for their right to become politically relevant one day. The poor and homeless don’t have a legal team to defend their rights, and the general public has no idea what it takes to organize a grassroots movement, and I doubt many of them even care.. It seems most people in Humboldt County prefer violence, deceit and treachery to democracy anyways.

treachery and violence

But here’s the kicker. I have, never once, been “aggressively solicited” by anyone in Humboldt County. I don’t spend a lot of time in Garberville, but I usually walk from the library at the North end of town, to the thrift stores on the South side of town, right through the Garberville shopping district,, at least once or twice a week. I’ve usually got a buck for anyone who asks, but hardly ever does anyone ask. When they do ask, people usually ask very timidly, and often I can barely hear them.

shy homeless person

Even in Eureka and Arcata, I get “spanged” every once in a while. Usually by the fourth ask, I’m tapped out, but I can’t remember the last time four people asked me for spare change on the same day, anywhere in Humboldt County. Does that really constitute a problem? Once, years ago, I got hustled for $20, by the kid who used to own Nacho Mamma, when I saw him a few years later, in the parking lot of Eureka Natural Foods. Honestly, I was glad to see that at least someone around here had it together enough to concoct an effective rap, and I knew the guy. If he told me he needed $20, for anything, I’d have given it to him, once.

20 dollar quote

I don’t think we have a problem with “aggressive solicitation,” so much as we have a problem with “aggressive fascism.” We have a craven cadre of drug dealers, real-estate developers and merchants pulling the strings of our elected officials to invent new laws that criminalize poverty and stifle dissent. They all want to skim the economic cream from the injustice of the War on Drugs, while they criminalize the poverty the War on Drugs creates in this community. Does it get any uglier, greedier or more corrupt than that? No, I don’t think we have a problem with “aggressive solicitation” at all. We have a much bigger problem than that, and it’s going to take a lot of “aggressive solicitation” to solve it.

Fascism mussolini quote


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 138 other followers