Here's a question of local perception about pot, which simply doesn't engender the same vitriol as other drugs around here: Do "upstanding" locals grow and use marijuana because it's less serious, or do we consider it less serious because more "upstanding" locals grow and use it?
A prominent community member arrested last year on cultivation charges was back in the news recently. Matt Nutter, who managed the successful Humboldt Crabs for 6 years (and was involved with them in other capacities for more than 20), was charged with growing marijuana, possessing marijuana for sale and "allowing a place for preparing or storing a controlled substance." He was arrested at his Blue Lake home in August (see "Blog Jammin'," page 8 for more details) and was subsequently put on paid administrative leave from the Crabs. This week, the team's board of directors announced a new manager to replace Nutter — who left the team to focus on his family, according to a press release.
Nutter's case is particularly interesting because of the deal worked out with prosecutors. While Nutter was charged with cultivation for the 265-plant grow sheriff's deputies allegedly found on his property, prosecutors were convinced enough that he was growing for personal use to agree to a diversion program. If he were growing pot to sell, he wouldn't have qualified. Now, if a marijuana plant grown outdoors conservatively yields a pound of processed pot, that makes Nutter's presumed personal use three quarters of a pound a day (or a pound a day, if he quits for baseball season). It sounds like a neighborhood play.
Now he must complete a judge-ordered treatment program (details still to be determined) and not get arrested for the next 18 months, and the arrest and the charges will disappear. It's as though it never happened, his attorney explained (aside from the public archive that will exist in newspapers like this one). Nutter's attorney makes a good point: How can someone lose their job over a crime that never legally happened?
Ostensibly, the personnel shift was Nutter's choice and it's all good cheer. Nutter was well-liked and successful. The team won more than 75 percent of its games with him as its skipper. It also makes sense that the Crabs board has not only the welfare of the team to look after, but the reputation of its collegiate athletes, many of whom are trying to work their way into the majors. The tarnish of a marijuana arrest is weightier outside the Emerald Triangle, no doubt, but so what?
People erupted from their seats to debate the physics and ethics of a Crab-thrown bat during last season's playoffs, but there were virtual crickets when cops said the team manager was growing dope.
If Nutter was good for the Crabs, and the Crabs are good for the community, why the stigma?
Well, it's done now. Hopefully the team will come out from under the semi-scandal and will continue to thrive without Nutter's leadership. And, hopefully Nutter will make the most of some additional time with his family. But, let's not let baseball become yet another victim of dubious criminalization. Legalize it. And play ball.
Is this the ticket? A new legalization initiative got greenlit this week, meaning pot-friendly signature gatherers may soon be standing outside a natural food store near you. Half a million signatures and this one's on the 2014 ballot: legal possession and cultivation; Alcohol Beverage Control regulation of retail sales; and a 25 percent sales tax on pot sales.