Bust season is in full swing, with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office serving warrants on parcels suspected of harboring marijuana grows in the northeastern corner of the county, near Weitchpec.
Sheriff's Lt. Wayne Hanson says it's all part of the yearly, decades-old eradication measures the county takes, and says there are about 20 law enforcement personnel involved, including officers from the county drug task force, the National Guard, Fish and Wildlife and CAMP.
Details were scant, though, as the Journal went to press. Sheriff's Lt. George Cavinta, who was in charge of the Island Mountain raids a couple weeks ago, was on scene in the Weitchpec area July 13 and 14, but hadn't compiled statistics from the first two days' operations (North Coast News reported 1,000 plants were eradicated Monday).
Hanson said there haven't been any "incidents" — meaning violent encounters — but cell phone service in the area is too spotty to get regular updates from officers on the ground.
The sheriff's office gets cash from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency on three-year grant cycles, about $150,000 a year, Hanson said, to help cover the overtime and operational costs of these summertime raids. "Regardless if we receive federal grant money, we would still be conducting these operations," he said. "It's beneficial that we do receive funding but it's a necessity to the county of Humboldt. We can't turn a blind eye."
As reported by the Lost Coast Outpost and others last week, Richard Marks has resigned his post as the executive director of California Cannabis Voice Humboldt, the political action committee that has introduced draft marijuana-related tax and land use ordinances in the last couple weeks (see the Week in Weed articles from July 2 and July 9).
Marks, echoing statements from CCVH, said he had agreed to serve the organization up until the point that legislation was introduced. He said he was happy with the group's accomplishments over the last year, though he acknowledged that it has a long way to go, with the ordinances now in a self-imposed 45-day public comment period, to be followed by a review by the board of supervisors, and a potential signature-gathering and ballot campaign if the board rejects the proposal.
"They have big mountains to climb but they've already climbed what's been in front of them," he said.
Between his roles as president of the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, treasurer of Humboldt Domestic Violence Services, director of the North Coast Railroad Authority and "babysitting 500 adults" this summer (he's also president of the Samoa Softball Association), Marks said he had plenty on his plate without CCVH.
Washington bagged $65 million in taxes from the sale of marijuana during the first year of legal recreational pot, Reuters reports, selling 23,000 pounds of the 31,000 pounds produced under the state's regulatory scheme.
That exceeds by a fair margin the amount collected in Colorado during its first year of collecting sales tax on adult-use weed. Colorado netted $44 million in taxes, underwhelming estimates. (The state may also have to return the money to taxpayers due to a loophole in state law, see "Tax Returns," Feb. 19.)
Clearly, recreational pot can be a boon to state (and potentially, local) governments, but another takeaway from Washington's announcement is that supply far outweighs demand. Twenty-five percent of the domestically grown product went unsold, which could mean many things, including that the state's oversupply would lead to cascading prices. And the black market is almost certainly still thriving, with people buying pot grown off the books. If Humboldt County is home to 4,000 marijuana grows, you can bet most of those are producing more than 8 pounds, which would match the legal production in all of Washington state.