Category Archives: wildlife

Choice and Change in Humboldt County


People talk about homelessness as though it were a choice. How many times have you heard someone say, “If that’s how they choose to live…” when talking about homeless people? What a ludicrous idea! Homelessness happens to people. They don’t aspire to it. They don’t plan it, and few are well prepared for it when it happens to them. People don’t choose homelessness. Homelessness is what happens to people who run out of options.


On the other hand, people do choose to become middle-class. The aspiration to become middle-class is so pervasive that it has acquired a nickname. We call it the American Dream. Yes, people choose to become middle-class. They aspire to join the middle-class. They work to achieve middle-class status, and even after they’ve established themselves within the middle-class, they never quite feel middle-class enough.

not middle class enough

A lot of people choose to live a middle-class lifestyle, and it’s a choice most people make without giving it a lot of thought. It’s an expensive choice. The middle-class lifestyle consumes people’s lives as greedily as it consumes the earth’s resources. The middle-class lifestyle doesn’t happen by accident. It takes dedication and lifelong commitment to join the ranks of the middle-class.

chance of middle class

At the same time, the middle-class lifestyle has a very poor record of making people happy. As anyone raised in a middle-class home can tell you, the middle-class lifestyle ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Still, people throw themselves at the middle-class, like proverbial lemmings over a cliff. Even real lemmings aren’t that stupid. What gives?

another way to go

You see, most people don’t choose a middle-class lifestyle because it looks particularly attractive. Most people choose to become middle-class because the prospect of homelessness frightens them so much. In this way, the middle-class are a lot like Christians, who abstain from earthly pleasures, not so much because they dream of someday flying through the clouds playing a harp, but because they fear the fires of Hell.

hell fear

This kind of fear grows into resentment. In the same way that deeply frustrated Christians vent their resentment at gay people and women seeking abortions, the middle-class vent their resentment at the poor and homeless. In both cases it’s a gross display of stupidity, gullibility and cowardice aimed at the most vulnerable. Like Christians, the middle-class have been frightened into believing a fairy tale that controls their lives and makes them resentful of non-believers.


No one forces them to become middle-class. I’m sure they feel a lot of pressure from family and friends, not to mention the media, and society at large. Even the government tries to enforce a middle-class lifestyle through policy, sanction, and ordinance. However, the decision to pursue a middle-class lifestyle remains a personal choice, and one that can only be realized through dedication and hard work. Still, it’s a choice most people make without much serious thought.

choice consequences quote

We know that most of the serious crises we face today, like global climate change, habitat loss and the extinction crisis, result directly from too many people choosing a conventional American middle-class lifestyle. From a scientific perspective, it seems clear that the single biggest threat to our long-term survival, is our global infatuation with becoming middle-class. If we actually thought about it, we’d realize what a destructive, high-maintenance, low-satisfaction lifestyle the middle-class have chosen. Few of us would eagerly repeat their mistakes. But instead of thinking, we blindly perpetuate a culture of fear and oppression that serves only the super-rich, while it pushes us all relentlessly towards extinction.

extinction c n h

Who do we blame for this? Invariably, we blame the poor. We blame the poor for not pulling their weight. We blame the poor for frightening children, driving off tourists, blocking sidewalks, and especially for not going away. Then, when they finally crack, under the pressure of poverty, lack of sleep, poor diet, constant harassment and social isolation, we blame their poverty on mental illness. How does this make sense?

no logic exists

If you ask me, I say, “Blame the middle-class.” Blame the sniveling cowards who turned their backs on humanity and stuck their tongues deep into the rectum of the super-rich, just for the chance to spend the future, today. Blame the middle-class for their greed, stupidity, and cowardice. Blame them for their choices, because the choices were all theirs to make.

thats so middle class

Whether it was their lack of imagination, their gullibility, or their infatuation with bright shiny objects that lead middle-class people to make the dreadful decisions that define their lives and shape our world, ultimately, blaming people doesn’t solve the problem. To solve this problem, people have to learn to live differently.

learn to live differently

I realize that you’ve heard this before. “Create a sustainable lifestyle” has been a mantra of environmental organizations for decades, environmental groups that rely mainly on the middle-class
for their support. Still, if we manage to survive this century as a species, it won’t be because we developed some new clean energy source, it will be because we learned to live differently.


Do you remember that part of our Humboldt County heritage? You’ve seen the experimental houses, the strawbale, cobb, ferro-cement, and wattle-and-daub buildings, the yurts, tepees, wikiups, and benders, the domes, tree-houses, house-trees, and the thousands of funky, idiosyncratic little wooden dwellings that grace our Humboldt County hillsides. Those houses exist because a lot of people came to Humboldt County to experiment with different ways of living, not to become middle-class yuppies by growing dope.

funky tree home humboldt

We’ve seen how these experiments pay off economically. The Solar Living Center in Hopland, and the Schottz energy lab in Arcata come to mind immediately, as examples of how a modest cultural experiment can catalyze change and create real economic opportunities.

solar living center

We have a long history of experimental, owner-built housing in Humboldt County. We need housing now more than ever, and we need housing that works for people, rather than vice-versa. We need to learn to live differently, and few things reflect the way we live more than the homes we live in.

tiny home-tile

Here in Humboldt County, we have the opportunity to take a humane approach to our housing shortage, and open a door to the future, or not. People need a place to live. We can continue to deny our neighbors the dignity of privacy and a place to escape the elements, or we can create the kind of cultural incubator that solves problems, sets trends, and creates the economic opportunities of the future.


Class War against the poor will never succeed, and the middle-class will never be happy with what they have. We need to find another way to live, and if we want to know what that looks like, we need to allow the people who need it the most, an opportunity to build it for themselves.

build it yourself1

Humboldt County’s Nuclear Caviar

nuclear caviar

We have a long history of shortsightedness here in Humboldt County. I suspect that we’re as eager to throw our long-term assets away for a fast buck as we ever were, and the impending legalization of marijuana gives us another opportunity to do just that.

chase the fast buck

Right now, the black-market cannabis industry holds this county hostage, politically and economically. The illegal marijuana industry has already brought enough social problems to Humboldt County, problems ranging from poverty and homelessness to hard drug abuse, violent crime and murder. Feeding this disease, and fueling the destruction it causes, the misguided War on Drugs has turned a harmless, easy to grow weed into expensive contraband. Now that the tides have turned on the War on Drugs, politicians and drug dealers will try to convince you that marijuana is nuclear caviar.


Nuclear, meaning that they will tell you that marijuana is so dangerous that it requires as much government oversight, control and regulation as a nuclear power plant. Caviar, because they intend to concoct some scheme to control cannabis production, to keep the price of cannabis artificially inflated, so that good pot remains an expensive luxury that working people can ill-afford.

luxury marijuana

Cannabis is not nuclear caviar. Cannabis is a giant fucking ripoff. Until now, the price of cannabis has been highway robbery at the point of a cop’s gun. If the CA legislature passes the current passel of pending cannabis legislation, they will simply turn iron-fisted prohibition into a state sponsored racket. It will still be highway robbery at the point of a cop’s gun, and pot will remain a giant fucking ripoff. For now.


Still, dramatic changes, already underway in the cannabis industry, will continue. The marijuana industry of today looks nothing like the marijuana industry of 20 years ago. Humboldt County will probably produce more marijuana, this year alone, than it did in the entire two decades between 1980 and 1999, and the cannabis industry of the future will look nothing like the cannabis industry of today.

the future

The cannabis market will become more competitive, production will expand and automation will increase. Profit margins will shrink, leading to rapid consolidation. That means lots of people lose their jobs or go out of business. That’s how legal industries work. The cannabis industry is rapidly becoming a legal industry, full of businessmen who know how to run a business, and aren’t afraid to make tough decisions.


That is a dramatic change from the cannabis industry we all know and love. We like pot growers to be spendthrift fools who have no idea how much money they really make, buy everything retail, and drip money as they walk down the street. More than the cannabis itself, our local economy relies on the stupidity and shortsightedness of black-market dope growers who’s lack of business acumen lured them into this line of work to begin with. The black market takes money out of the hands of hard-working people, who might otherwise save it, and puts it into the hands of the people most likely to squander it. That’s how prohibition boosts the economy, and that’s what we see here in Humboldt County.

spendthrift economy

The fact is, no matter how legalization plays out, most of the people who benefit from the marijuana industry in Humboldt County today, will eventually get squeezed out. Will it happen in three years, or will it take five? That depends on a lot of things, but it will happen, regardless. A lot of people around here will have to find something else to do, and the sooner, the better.

find something better to do

The War on Drugs is a cruel racist policy. Mostly, the War on Drugs provides a legal framework for the violent control of minority communities, but here in Humboldt, we see another racist aspect to the War on Drugs. Here, the War on Drugs provided a relatively low-risk avenue to affluence for privileged white kids with no particular skills, talent or ambition. Hey, I’m a privileged, white, college drop-out myself. I certainly understand the attraction, but it’s still racist. It’s still wrong, and it’s still a huge fucking ripoff, but rest assured; that side of the War on Drugs, will evaporate too. The marijuana industry will no longer be dominated by white middle-class dilettantes looking for a low-stress, way to support their high-consumption lifestyle.


When you think about it, these are the people who make Humboldt County attractive and interesting, at least to me, the artists, performers and musicians, the idealistic art history, English and ancient language majors and the disillusioned scientists and engineers who decided they didn’t want to build weapons systems or devise new, environmentally destructive, products. For people like this, growing pot was a way to finance their art or their writing or their political activism, or their other interesting hobbies, without distracting too much from them. The cannabis industry of the future will have no place for these people.

no room for you damob

Instead, the cannabis industry will be dominated by greedy white farmers who know how to grow pot and run a business, but have few, if any, other interests. Greedy white farmers do not attract tourists. If they did, people would flock to Iowa to watch corn grow. Greedy white farmers drain rivers, kill fish and destroy habitat, and they use their political clout to make sure that no one gets in their way. That’s what greedy white farmers do everywhere, and that’s what they intend to do here.

Silly Greedy Farmer

Yes, farming is boring and ugly and no one wants to see it, and the same is true of farmers, but we have something else here in Humboldt County that is worth more than all of the black-market marijuana we’ve grown here in the past, and all of the nuclear caviar we hope to produce in the future, put together. That is natural habitat.

natural habitat humboldt

Natural habitat has become remarkably rare around the world. I mean really rare, not artificially price-controlled, “rare,” but genuinely uncommon, and truly valuable. The Earth has lost half of its natural biodiversity since the first Earth Day, and the primary reason is loss of habitat. If we should treat anything around here like nuclear caviar, it is the natural habitat here in Humboldt County.

habitat loss

People want to see natural habitat, and they want to see it teeming with life.. Natural habitat attracts tourists. Biodiversity attracts tourists. No one will ever figure out how to produce habitat on the cheap and flood the market with biodiversity. Habitat will only become more rare and valuable. Pot, on the other hand, is easy to grow and cheap to produce, and it won’t be long before some state, like Nevada, Texas or Kansas, decides to get out of the way and open up the floodgates to an ocean of cheap cannabis.

habitat disregarded

That will leave us, here in Humboldt County, facing the same decision we face now, but with fewer options, and greatly diminished assets: Do we sacrifice our lives, and the natural habitat we love, in a vain attempt to compete with market forces beyond our control, or do we use our imagination, and learn to do something else, that harmonizes with the natural splendor of this unique place, and works for the kind of people who make up this community, and make this community special.

sohum people-tile

SoHum in August: Come for the Smoke, Stay for the Helicopters


I love August in Southern Humboldt, triple-digit temperatures, the air hazy and thick with the ever-present smell of smoke and the hellish red tint it lends to the sunlight. Everybody’s nervous, nervous about fire, nervous about water, nervous about fish, nervous about their crop, and nervous about helicopters. Don’t forget the helicopters. Ya gotta love helicopters.


Yes, to see SoHum in all of its glory, come in August. They say sunlight is the best disinfectant, and one August afternoon in Garberville will remind you why. Nothing can survive there. In Garberville, every fiber of your being will tell you that the sun wants to kill you. You will try to accomplish whatever you went there to do, but you will become ever more stressed, fatigued, irritated and confused, by the minute, as the sun steadily beats the shit out of you, until you finally realize you must flee for your life.

flee for your life

For miles around, the forested hills mitigate the harmful effects of solar radiation, but Garberville has the only substantial assemblage of concrete and asphalt in the area, and it concentrates sunlight like a magnifying glass. The locals have cut down damn near every last tree in town to insure maximum solar gain. They really don’t like people hanging around town.

Garberville welcome to buy

The proliferation of wildfires in our area seems like a wet dream for our local merchants. Every cafe and restaurant in town has a cue of at least six clean cut young men in uniform, just the kind of customer they’ve always wanted. Now they’re everywhere. I had to wait in line for lunch behind a whole platoon of regular Army GIs. I don’t think that ever happened to me in Garberville before.

GIs in line

2015 is shaping up to be an exceptional summer for smoke in SoHum. We love smoke in SoHum. As anyone who lives here will tell you, we have the best smoke in the world here in SoHum. Pot smoke, cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust or good ol’ wood smoke, whatever your favorite flavor, we’ve got plenty of it here in SoHum, and we’ll happily set fire to a car, a homeless person or an RV to spice it up for you.


Personally, I really love the smoke. I know it’s killing me, but for some reason I appreciate the air more when I can see it, and I find warm smoky air particularly comforting.  It might remind me of something from my childhood. I vaguely remember that my grandfather smoked a pipe and kept the thermostat too high.

smokes a pipe

Speaking of too high. I love smoking weed so much that I hollowed out my toothbrush, and attached a bowl to it so I can smoke pot while I brush my teeth. That’s how much we love smoke here in SoHum, and we’ve become connoisseurs of the finest smoke. We’ve developed our appreciation for smoke to a high art. We prefer to call ourselves “smokiers,” rather than “smoke snobs,” but it’s just our way of celebrating the pure joy of breathing contaminated air.

breathing apparatus

And nothing compliments the light-headedness that comes from breathing contaminated air on a hot summer day like the ominous reverberations from the incessant beating of rotor blades. Few sounds strike more fear into more hearts around the world than the sound of an approaching helicopter. Locally, decades of conditioning by CAMP have effected us deeply. This year, the choppers are all fighting fires, but they remind us of our PTSD. …all day.

ptsd pot

So, please, visit SoHum in August and you’ll get a warm welcome. You’ll see us at our best, and taste the air when it’s thickest and creamiest.

Firefighters walk under smoke from fires along Morgan Valley Road near Lower Lake, Calif., Friday, July 31, 2015. A series of wildfires were intensified by dry vegetation, triple-digit temperatures and gusting winds. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SoHum’s Post-War Potential

war potential

Some people will tell you that the people of Southern Humboldt are too stupid to do anything but rape the environment, deal drugs, or both. I’m not one of those people. Despite our inglorious legacy, we have a lot to be proud of in our past, and we have a lot of potential for the future, but we have a lot of work to do right now to get there.

dealing with loss

Change is coming. It’s happening as we speak. As the War on Drugs comes to an end, the cannabis industry will undoubtedly go through dramatic upheaval. We should expect difficulties and challenges we’ve never faced before, and we should expect that these challenges will be made more challenging because of what the War on Drugs has done to us as a community.

after the war

The War on Drugs has done terrible things to this community, and, like soldiers returning from war, we won’t know how profoundly the War on Drugs has affected us, until it is really over. Some of us may find successful careers in the post-war cannabis industry, but we’re all still bleeding from wounds we got from thirty years of the War on Drugs, and a lot of people around here simply cannot imagine any other way to live.

cant imagine living without

Humboldt County may or may not own the future of the cannabis industry, but we do own the War on Drugs. No one can take that away from us. What Lexington and Concord are to the American Revolution; what Gettysburg is to the American Civil War, Humboldt County is to the War on Drugs.

war hero1

The War on Drugs lasted for more than 30 years, and you would be hard pressed to find a community anywhere in the US on whom the War on Drugs has had a more dramatic and lasting effect. No one likes to dwell on anything so terrible as war, but people die in them, people suffer through them, and they define people’s lives. We shouldn’t just try to brush it under the rug.


The War on Drugs has affected us all. We need to understand what happened to us in the War on Drugs more than anyone else. We need to understand how the War on Drugs impacted this community, and how it effected the whole country. We need that understanding this to heal ourselves. If we can find that healing for our own community, we can offer it to the millions of survivors carrying trauma from the War on Drugs.


Seriously. A Drug War Museum. It should have a plaque or something with the name of every American who died in the War on Drugs. Make it a place where Drug War Vets can be honored for the time they served… in jail. Tell the story of what happened to this community, honestly, but make it a compelling narrative, and don’t skimp on the details. Honor the herb, and honor the people who risked their lives in a war zone to keep America high during the War on Drugs. I’m not kidding. That is our claim to fame, as a community, and it’s our wisdom to share.

Wounds Into Wisdom_0A

Take tourists on day-hikes that simulate the treks guerrilla growers had to make deep into the woods to tend their hidden patches. Have exhibits showing some of the sneaky tricks people used to hide their plants. Make each tourist carry a sack of chicken manure in their backpack for the whole hike, and hide some speakers in the woods that intermittently play the sounds of helicopters, to simulate an impending CAMP raid, for added realism . Show people what it was like here.

Marijuana raid w/ helicopter

A trip to Southern Humboldt could become a therapeutic part of healing the traumas inflicted by the War on Drugs. When people come here, we should remind them that there’s nothing wrong with consuming cannabis, but that the War on Drugs is a crime against humanity that has taken a toll on all of us. We should show the War on Drugs for what it is: a dark chapter in American History that must never be forgotten because it must never be repeated.

war never again

Garberville should become the place where people come to heal the wounds of the War on Drugs, but we can also make Garberville a place to explore the healing powers of cannabis as medicine. We have a strong community of healers here who already have a lot of experience with cannabis as medicine. I imagine that we’ve barely scratched the surface of cannabis’ many therapeutic uses, and that the potential for new products, therapies and treatments involving cannabis is huge. Look, cannabis feels good. Feeling good is good for you. Therefore cannabis is good for you. If you ask me, that’s all the recommendation anyone needs to enjoy cannabis. Now that cannabis is going to be legal, and cheap, let’s see how many imaginative new ways we can find to use it.

cannabis -tile

Cannabis is not wine. It is not a decadent luxury for the well-to-do. Cannabis is medicine. Cannabis is tonic. Cannabis is good for you. That’s why everyone needs cannabis. We can’t possibly grow enough cannabis here for everyone, and we shouldn’t even try, but we can dream up new ways to use it, and we can use it to heal ourselves, our economy, and our community from the traumas inflicted by the War on Drugs.

cannabis is my medicine

The Cannabis Economy

cannabis economy

Some people say that legalizing cannabis will ruin our local economy here in Humboldt County. I think it’s too late for that. The War on Drugs has already done it. Not only has it ruined our economy, it has ruined our community. All of the serious problems we face, or refuse to face, as a community result from economic forces set in motion by the War on Drugs.

war-on-drugs money and jobs

You can see it any day of the week in Garberville. You see lots of poor people, and the contempt for them is palpable. Merchants mostly cater to tourists or dope yuppies. Few pay a living wage, fewer still offer benefits like health insurance, so few people work regular jobs in town.

shitty hours and pay

Local non-profits exploit the poor even more than the businesses.  They rely on the unpaid efforts of hundreds of idealistic volunteers with limited economic opportunities. These volunteers happily work a four hour shift, or more, for a T-shirt and a meal, or less, even though they have no safe place to sleep, can’t afford one, and the people who they volunteer to help, would call the cops on them any other day of the week, just for being poor in public. The dope yuppies point to the non-profits as evidence of the generosity of cannabis growers, but the non-profits mainly serve the interests of the growers, while they ignore the needs of their volunteers, let alone the rest of the community.

People protesting for squatters' rights at the home of the justice minister, Ken Clarke

Dope yuppies, on the other hand, exploit people much more directly, and with much more coercion. They rely heavily on taxpayer subsidized violence, both to inflate the price of their product, and to insure that they have an endless supply of cheap labor. Mandatory drug screening disqualifies most pot smokers from pretty much every field except drug dealing and the arts.  If you’ve been busted, you’re doubly screwed.  Who else would “hire” someone convicted of a drug felony?

felony franks

I say “hire” in quotations, because dope yuppies rarely pay people for their time and trouble. Instead, they take on “sharecroppers;” people who do all of the work, and take all of the risk, for a share of the crop, which they then have to sell, along with the dope yuppie’s share, before they get paid. Or they “hire” house-sitters. Dope yuppies think that house-sitting is it’s own reward. They expect people to watch their property, do their chores and take care of their menagerie of pets, while they jet off to Belize, just for the privilege of staying in their home while they are away.

need a housesitter

Dope yuppies want people to be that desperate. Just watch how shocked and disappointed they become if you turn them down. It’s not enough for them to have plenty of money. They know that they are only rich, so long as they can bend the poor people around them to their will. They like economic inequity That’s why they vacation in Central America. They don’t wish you well. Don’t forget that.

dont forget

So, the non-profits need volunteers. The merchants need serfs and the dope yuppies want slaves.  The non-profits have their mission statements. The merchants just want to make money, and the dope yuppies want people to do their work for them. None of them care about the people they exploit.  Then they have the nerve to complain that most people would rather live on the street and shit on the sidewalk than work for any of them. Who can blame people for opting out? Just because you have three shitty offers, doesn’t mean you have to make a deal.

shitty deal street

No one likes it. People hate the whole situation so much they voted to increase taxes to pay for more police. How bad do things have to get before drug-dealers demand more cops? So now the whole sad, ugly mess is crawling with cops. That’s what the cannabis economy looks like in Garberville: punk-ass kids in in brand new trucks, poor people with no good options and nowhere to go, and a bunch of cops just looking for trouble. Lovely, isn’t it?

lovely fucking

Who cares how much money is involved, if that’s what it looks like on the ground? Just because the War on Drugs brings a lot of money into Southern Humboldt, that doesn’t mean it makes life better here. Quite the contrary. Look around, SoHum. Look at what the cannabis economy has done to your community.

SoHum triptych

It takes millions of dollars to cultivate this level of social dysfunction. It takes big money to create the kind of poverty you see wandering the streets of Garberville. All over the country the War on Drugs has turned vibrant communities like, and including, Southern Humboldt into drug ghettos, to feed the insatiable greed of Drug War profiteers. You’d have to be a fool or a cad to want it to continue.

We love the cannabis economy!

We love the cannabis economy!

Therein lies the true heart of our real economic problem. For more than 30 years, the War on Drugs has made Southern Humboldt extremely attractive to cads and fools. Fools don’t understand; cads don’t care. Both of them measure everything in dollars and cents, either because they fail to comprehend, or they fail to care about, anything else.

dont fuckin care bear

Think about it. What would we lose if this county never saw another dollar of pot money? First we’d lose the cads. They know they can’t compete on a level playing field, so they will jump ship first, on their way to the next big scam. They’ll make a lot of noise before they go, but we’ll be better off without them. The fools won’t know what hit them, but they’ll get used to whatever comes next.


We’d lose our housing shortage, as property owners realized that they better find a new way to make money from all of the residential floor space they own. They’ll begin, for the very first time, to rent it to people to live in. What a novel idea! Others will simply liquidate their Humboldt County holdings, creating opportunities for nicer people who just want to live in the forest.

real estate signs

We’d lose the illegal water diversions,

illegal water diversion

the clearcuts,

clearcut grow

and the illegal grading,

unpermitted grading

not to mention the rat poison,

rat poison dead fisher

Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey examines California fisher who died from ingesting rat poison set out by cannabis farmers

the fertilizer runoff,

fertilizer runoff

and all of the garbage they leave in the forest,

grower garbage1

as people realize that there’s no point in growing more weed than you can smoke.

grow your own2

We’d probably lose 5 or 6 murders each year, not to mention countless other violent crimes, ranging from home invasion robbery to kidnapping and rape. We’d lose CAMP. We’d lose the helicopters, the law-enforcement convoys, and the raids. We’d lose the lawyers. Would anyone miss them?

miss you cat

We’d lose the soil trucks and the water trucks and all of the damage they do to our roads. We’d lose the endless parade of brand new giant pickup trucks. I miss the rusty old ranch wagons, don’t you? And of course, we’d lose the money, but most of us don’t see much of it anyway. The main thing that pot money does for most of us, is make it harder to afford a home, and allow local merchant to focus on meeting the needs of people with more money than us, rather than us.

wealthy interests-vert

When you add it all up, it amounts to a hell of a lot of money that this community would have been better off without. It’s high time we said “good riddance” to the cannabis economy. Instead of worrying about the inflated incomes of the greedy bottom-feeders who ruined our economy, lets work on making this community a better place to live for the people who have been hurt most by them, namely, the poor and working people of Humboldt County.

bottom feeder cannabis

Island Mountain and the Truth About the War on Drugs

truth about the war on drugs

They say truth is the first casualty of war, and that’s certainly true of the War on Drugs. News reports and public statements about the recent raids of cannabis flower-forcing operations on Island Mountain point out just how far from reality both sides have gotten lately.

far from reality banner

I heard Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. Wayne Hanson explain that they “went to Island Mountain to eradicate marijuana just like we’ve done for the last 30 years.” They still haven’t gotten the memo that cannabis is legal in California, or that millions of Californians have the right to possess it, and businesses all over the state have licenses to distribute it. It’s only been 18 years since prop 215 passed. You can’t expect them to change overnight, especially considering how dependent they’ve become on asset forfeiture for their budget.

Hansen_Lt Wayne Humboldt County Sheriffs dept-tile

At some point, though, someone needs to point out that these kinds of raids no longer constitute law-enforcement, but instead cross over into armed robbery, home invasion, vandalism and terrorism. Like Lt. Hanson said, they’ve been doing this for 30 years. They’ll do it for another 30 years, regardless of what the law says, unless we stop them. No arrests were made. The DA will probably not bring charges, because a jury would not convict, and the jury would not convict because no one complained, no one was injured, and no crime was committed. That is, unless you count what the cops did, as a crime.

cops are badguys

Still 100 cops spent all week, including a generous amount of overtime I’m sure, out at Island Mountain making criminal mischief with their newly allocated Measure Z funds. They’re like, “Hey, we’re cops, it’s summertime, what else are we going to do?” This is how cops justify the continuation of the War on Drugs these days. Heavy-handed assaults on unarmed vegetation have always been pointless, but now they have become a cherished tradition that they intend to preserve for future generations.

okra raid

Hanson made sure to talk up the environmental crimes they uncovered at Island Mountain, like water diversions, illegal grading and water theft, and they dragged folks from the Water Quality and Wildlife Departments along for show, but this raid had all the hallmarks of an old fashioned Drug War style marijuana raid: unnecessary, excessive, and expensive. Obviously our Sheriff’s Department has entirely too much money at its disposal.


I have no doubt that those industrial grow operations on Island Mountain have an enormous impact on the environment, but I’m also sure that Hanson exaggerated the impact, at least as he perceived it, by claiming that each of the plants they eradicated used six gallons of water each day. I saw pictures of those plants. They were all small plants with big flowers, probably potted in 5 gallon containers. You cannot put six gallons of water into a five gallon pot on any day, let alone everyday. Despite the large scale of the operations they raided, Hanson still felt the need to exaggerate, just like in the good ol’ days of Drug War hysteria.


On the other side of this counterfeit coin,

counterfeit coin

we see the pervasive dishonesty of drug-dealers on display as well. LOCO reports that three people in the upper management of California Cannabis Voice Humboldt, or CCVH owned properties involved in last week’s raids. CCVH is one of those new groups lobbying to protect the incomes of local dope yuppies from the scourge of legalization. For months now, these groups have all recited the same mantras: “Preserve family farms,” “Protect Mom and Pop growers,” and “Support sustainable agriculture.”  They’ve all reacted with indignation about the raids on Island mountain.

Lobbying to Keep Pot Expensive

Lobbying to Keep Pot Expensive

Hezekiah Allen wrote at length about how these raids breached the trust that they had worked so hard to build.

hezekiah allen

He mentioned the Mendocino County system of institutionalized bribery as an example.

mendo bribery

He criticized law-enforcement for targeting people who were “working to come into compliance,” as though those Island Mountain monstrosities were shining examples of the “best practices” he talks so much about.

grow funk island mtn-tile

Those were not little “Mom and Pop” operations. Those were not homesteaders growing a little herb to put new tires on their old truck. Nor were they “small family farms” To me, they look like industrial mono-crop operations, newly hacked out of prime forest habitat. Even if they got all of the water for these grows from rainwater catchment ponds, the sheer size of these operations, the number of them, and the density of them, constitutes a real threat to wildlife because of how they fragment forest habitat

fragmentation habitat

We hear a lot about the need to conserve water in these drought times, but widespread cannabis farming in the forest impacts wildlife in many different ways. Every clearing, every road, and every truck on the road has an impact.

truck on dusty road

Large operations like the ones on Island Mountain punch big holes in the forest canopy, and turn the animals that live there, like deer, bear, mountain lions, coyotes, gophers and woodrats, into pests, to be exterminated, or at least excluded.

forest animals-tile

Fertilizer runoff, erosion, light pollution, noise, traffic, pesticide contamination, all of these things accompany industrial agriculture wherever it happens, and I daresay, all of it was, and is still, happening on Island Mountain.

island mtn

Those Island Mountain operations offer a glimpse into the future of the cannabis industry, and that future looks a lot different from its past, for which Humboldt County is so well known. Back in 1995, for instance, if you could manage to harvest five pounds of weed, which wasn’t easy, you could probably make your land payment, pay your taxes and feed yourself all year from the money you made. Back then, if you grew a hundred pounds, you were a big shot. If you did it outdoors, you were Houdini. This year, 2015, if you don’t harvest at least a hundred pounds, people around here will consider you a hobbyist.

stoner hobby

The scale of grow operations in the area has exploded by orders of magnitude in recent years, and in this year in particular, as exemplified by the totals tallied in the raids on Island Mountain. The cops seized over 4,300 pounds of processed, packaged bud. That’s over TWO FUCKING TONS of high-grade marijuana, ready to smoke.

tons of weed

They eradicated more than 86, 000 plants, most of them in full bloom. That’s got to be another couple tons of bud. All tolled, this one raid might have taken 10,000 pounds, or five tons, of weed off the market. How do you like that for a price support system?

Discovery Channel

I’m not saying that large scale cannabis farming is inappropriate. Quite the contrary. I hope I see operations ten or twenty times the size of the ones raided on Island Mountain, but on established farmland, all over America. I like cannabis. I think everyone should have plenty of it, and we should grow it everywhere.


However, I am saying that these large scale cannabis operations are a totally inappropriate use of forest habitat, and their economic viability is likely to be short-lived, at best. It took the insanity of prohibition to drive industrial agriculture into the forest to begin with. It would be colossally stupid to encourage it to remain there, after we change the law.


Yes, these Island Mountain raids should remind us that there are no “good guys” in the War on Drugs. You can’t trust cops, and you can’t trust drug-dealers either. The War on drugs is being waged by heartless, lying, mercenaries on both sides, and their short-term agendas threaten our long-term survival. The sooner we take this industry out of the hands of the cops and the drug dealers, and put it into the hands of honest farmers with real farms, the sooner we can heal our country, our communities, and our watersheds from the ravages of the War on Drugs.

meanwhile in colorado

A Springy Bass and the Humboldt Horn

big horn

People seemed to like the Harp Project last week, so I thought I’d lay a couple of my other new homemade instruments on you.

homemade creations

I built this electric bass from a hunk of 2×4 I extracted from a shipping pallet, and the cast-aluminum housing from a long-dead car-stereo amplifier.


This bass uses vibrating springs, salvaged from expandable curtain rods, instead of strings, and additional sympathetic springs, concealed within the body, increase the instrument’s resonance.  More springs attached to the outside of the body increase the instruments sonic potential.


This bass has two piezoelectric pickups, one designed to pick up vibrations from the long springs stretched over the neck of the instrument, and a second that allows the body of the instrument to be played like a drum. A single potentiometer allows the player to balance between the two.


It’s really a very crude device. I had a lot of trouble getting decent sound to video, and I’m just beginning to explore what this instrument can do, but compared to, say a washtub bass, I think this instrument has a lot of musical potential.

I feel strongly about working with salvaged junk. I hate to see the natural world sacrificed to produce disposable consumer crap, but one distinguishing characteristic of our time is this abundance of exotic materials that would have been unbelievably rare, or completely non-existent only 100 years ago.


We live in an age rich in garbage. All of the earth’s natural beauty, and life-sustaining abundance, has been ravaged, transformed, consumed, abandoned, and discarded. There it is, our stolen future, on the curb, in the rain, free for a generation of dumpster-divers.


Here in Humboldt County, this black poly-pipe waterline grows wild in the woods. I find it everywhere, along with chicken-wire, buckets, flower pots, tarps, water tanks, soil bags and worse.

pot grow garbage 1

These woods are strewn with the detritus of thirty years of guerrilla growing, including enough abandoned poly-pipe waterline to reach a grow on Mars. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. Prohibition may soon end, but the miles of black poly-pipe in our forests will last forever.

black poly pipe

“Let it sing.” I say.


I made the Humboldt Horn out of waterline and a flowerpot.


I cut the mouthpiece off of a cracked and discarded vuvuzela I found while cleaning up a property in Ettersburg. I reinforced it with a bit of electrical tape, and adapted it to fit the horn.  vuvuzela

I can vary the range of the instrument by substituting longer or shorter lengths of waterline. The flowerpot acts as a resonance chamber, and has an omnidirectional microphone mounted inside.


Because the flowerpot is turned upside down and rests on the ground, the instrument is very quiet, but the microphone inside the flowerpot provides a strong signal to drive amplifiers, effects and/or recording equipment. While not particularly attractive, I find the Humboldt horn both expressive and versatile as a musical instrument. Give it a listen.


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