Get Benno! Shasta County Snuffs Out Medical Marijuana — And Gun Rights, Too?

Sometimes, I wonder what the Shasta County Board of Supervisors and the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office have been smoking. Wasn’t it just six months ago they were telling voters that Measure A, by totally banning all outdoor medical marijuana cultivation in the county’s unincorporated areas, would make it easier to enforce the law, even though it contained no funding mechanism?

Well, apparently their short-term memory has returned.

“The ordinance itself does make it easier to identify or see a violation,” Sheriff Tom Bosenko told the board last week, suddenly recalling that “you still have to have the staff to enforce the violation and proceed through the administrative hearings.”

Now he tells us!

In fact, Bosenko says he needs as many as six full-time deputies and four full-time code enforcement officers to cover the 3,847 square mile county. The board agreed to add one part-time code enforcement officer and two part-time deputies at a cost of $125,000 this year, money that will be taken from the general fund at the expense of other undetermined budgeting priorities.

For some fiscal perspective, consider the city of Anderson’s Measure A, the half-cent sales tax passed by voters last June. In order to face a simple-majority vote, instead of a super-majority, the city paired it with an advisory measure mandating that 50 percent of the revenue raised be spent on public safety. It’s expected to raise $1 million annually, and so far Anderson, population 10,000 or so, has hired three additional police officers. Despite the city’s stretched-thin public services, its voters only narrowly passed the tax increase, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Does anyone harbor any serious allusions that Shasta County’s total ban on outdoor medical marijuana cultivation, Measure A, would have passed if its proponents, including the county, the sheriff and the the Shasta County Chemical People, had mentioned how much it’s going to cost? Of course not. That’s precisely why the ballot materials made no mention of Measure A’s potential impact on the county’s finances.

It may be true that Shasta County voters are fed up with medical marijuana, but I’d wager they’re even more fed up with the way Shasta County officials spend their money. Last year, the Shasta County Grand Jury found that “the Board of Supervisors cannot provide effective oversight of the code enforcement process because it does not receive written reports regarding code enforcement activities and statistics.”

It also found that “the total cost of code enforcement is not clear from the county budget.”

According to the report, which did not include medical marijuana code violations, there’s a backlog of 1,728 open cases dating back to 1997. More than 600 cases have been open 10 years or longer.

Say what? The same governmental body that unanimously chose to transform every medical marijuana patient in Shasta County into potential code violators and felons has no idea how much money it spends on code enforcement?

I’m still sort of new here, so correct me if I’m wrong, but did someone say all the Shasta County supervisors are conservatives? Because that sort of fiscal responsibility isn’t necessarily the thing that springs to mind when I think “conservative.”

There’s no question that some marijuana growers are flagrantly breaking the law and wreaking havoc on the environment. These are mainly cartels from south of the border, and the occasional bad apples from this side.

Local law enforcement are already doing a good job stopping them without creating new code violations turning honest people into criminals.

Like I said, it doesn’t sound very conservative to me. But as I’ve discovered, Shasta County’s anti-marijuana coalition has nothing to do with conservatism and everything to do with extending government’s reach into your garden, your home and even your gun cabinet.

•••

James Benno’s trial date continues to be pushed back.

Anyone paying half-attention to Shasta County’s war on medical marijuana has heard of James Benno. An imposing 6-footer with a shaved pate who sometimes sports a fu manchu mustache, the 49-year-old Benno is a master gardener and perhaps the county’s most fervent medical marijuana advocate.

He’d rather storm out of a supervisor meeting than bare insult from a surly public official. He’ll calmly stare down code enforcement officers illegally attempting to gain entry to his home, then upload the video to YouTube. He’s what I call a medical marijuana true believer, which come in several flavors, in his case libertarian.

Benno is by no means the only medical marijuana advocate in Shasta County. In fact, judging by the ease that local advocates had putting Measure A on the ballot—the supervisors tried to cram it down their throats, so they circulated a petition—more people in Shasta County support medical marijuana than oppose it. Why wouldn’t they? Medical marijuana generates significant economic activity, from 530 Collective and Queen of Dragons, the two dispensaries in Shasta Lake City, to the smoke shops, hydro stores and big box retailers throughout the county. Some rightfully argue it’s the only economic activity of any note lately.

But it seems the so-called conservatives on Shasta County’s Board of Supervisors aren’t interested in rational arguments on the subject of medical marijuana. They refuse to recognize state law, namely the Compassionate Care Act and SB 420, the cornerstones of California’s medical marijuana regulations. They ignore the increasing body of research demonstrating marijuana’s remarkable healing properties. And it’s common for folks from the Chemical People to say “medical marijuana” with air quotes in the newspaper.

To them, demon weed was, is and always will be illegal, a position in which they are fully supported by Sheriff Bosenko and the board of supervisors.

What was done to James Benno and his sons is a textbook case of political persecution. After the ruckus caused when the supervisors tried to shove the first no-grow ordinance through without debate last January, Benno publicly announced he’d nevertheless be operating his 99-plant medical marijuana collective in Happy Valley as usual.

As it happened, last year Easter Sunday fell on April 20, which is also known as 420, the unofficial national holiday of cannabis proponents. So Shasta County building division director Dale Fletcher invited a Record Searchlight reporter along on a CHP helicopter surveillance flight in search of code violators above where else? Happy Valley.

In the story, Fletcher’s treacly sentiments were found beneath the headline, “Family values at heart of county’s 420 marijuana hunt.”

The story set the scene: “As dozens of kids hunted eggs outside of Happy Valley Elementary School on Easter Sunday, law enforcement and a county building official circled overhead in a helicopter, looking for marijuana gardens rooted nearby … “Seeing those kids hunting Easter eggs was great because that’s exactly why we’re out here today,” said Dale Fletcher, director of Shasta County’s building division. “We want to have a nice, safe place for our children to be raised.”‘

It’s so cringeworthy, it almost brings tears to your eyes.

The video accompanying the story cuts to the next scene, and they’re orbiting over Benno’s immaculate collective, 99 tan, 200-gallon smart pots lined up in perfect columns and rows. The Record Searchlight continues to use the same screen grab on nearly every medical marijuana story it runs online, without identifying it as Benno’s property.

“That’s what we’re looking for,” Fletcher tells the camera.

Yeah, that damned dirty drug dealer James Benno, hiding hashish in Easter eggs!

The reporter pointed out that Fletcher purposely flew over Benno’s collective—which is nowhere near any school, park or playground—and notes that the grow exceeded the number of plants permitted by the ordinance that was in effect last year.

In other medical marijuana coverage, the Record Searchlight infers that such large grows are illegal. But that’s not necessarily correct. Zoning violations can be challenged in court, and once in court, defense attorneys can take advantage of a California Supreme Court precedent that found no limit can be put on the number of plants a patient may cultivate, in part because the amount of medicine any given patient needs is a medical determination made by a physician that’s protected by the right to privacy.

What the state provides are guidelines: Six mature plants or 12 immature plants per patient. Patients who don’t have the property to grow their own marijuana can join a collective and contribute labor and money in exchange for their allotted number of plants. Growers generally keep a record of their members, including copies of medical marijuana recommendations, on site. For illustrative purposes, the average 99-plant collective has about 10 members growing 10 plants each, minus one.

It’s worth noting that the “99-plant” number is based on the federal government’s promise a decade ago that it wouldn’t raid gardens with less than 100 plants. They broke the promise of course, but the 99 number, which is completely arbitrary, stuck. In theory, you could have 1,000 plants, as long as you have enough patients to support the claim.

Martinez-based attorney Joseph Tully, who has successfully defended several Shasta County clients charged with illegal cultivation and various other related felonies, points out that many people, even law enforcement officials, don’t understand the legal differences between medical marijuana cooperatives and collectives.

Medical marijuana patients and their supporters who form cooperatives must register with the state as a business and keep records just like any other company.

On the other hand, for collectives, registration with the state and record-keeping are voluntary. Tully refers to this as an “informal collective.” Law permits medical marijuana patients and caregivers to exchange money and/or labor for medicine, in transactions that can be far less transparent. No doubt that bothers county officials, but that doesn’t make it illegal.

Tully recommends keeping accurate log books instead of going all “loosey goosey.”

That paid off for two of his clients, father and son Ron and Robert Drewson of Millville. The Drewsons each operated large informal collectives similar in plant number to Benno’s, one in Millville, the other in Anderson. Both were raided in October 2013 by agents from the sheriff’s Marijuana Investigative Team, Shasta Interagency Narcotic Task Force and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The agents seized 197 plants, five vehicles and $33,000 cash. The Drewsons were charged with four felonies, including suspicion of marijuana cultivation, possessing marijuana for sale and conspiracy. They were not arrested. You can read all about it in the Record Searchlight archives. What’s harder to find (at least with the newspaper’s search engine) is a small item that appeared in North State news briefs in early January, in which the Drewsons were acquitted of all charges by a Shasta County jury. As in not guilty on all counts.

I don’t mean to completely harsh on the Record Searchlight’s reporting. I’ve been a working journalist for 25 years, so I know a little bit about what I’m talking about. The reporter to whom I referred earlier, who went on the helicopter fly-along, has made an honest attempt to cover all sides of the medical marijuana issue, and has often given voice to local activists, including Benno.

Even so, almost without fail, the Searchlight falls into the habit of repeating anti-marijuana talking points without investigation, as was the case with the reporter’s story about his visit to Benno’s Happy Valley collective on Cinco De Mayo, two weeks after the flyover story.

You don’t need to pay for a helicopter to find Benno’s place, you can just call him up. He’s in the book. The cops have his cell number. I’ve visited him at the Happy Valley location on several occasions, and he doesn’t know me from Adam. He invited the Record Searchlight reporter, and anyone else interested, to attend his collective’s annual potluck planting, and the reporter’s story did a good job of capturing the community spirit that’s part and parcel to being a member of a medical marijuana collective.

Benno’s sons Jacob, 22, and Logan, 19, were on hand, and the flyover article’s “family values” headline would have been far more appropriate here.

And then the story suddenly veered off into the anti-marijuana gang’s favorite new talking point, the environment. In keeping with traditional conservatives, the board of supervisors has over the years shown little interest in the environment, if the ongoing flooding of rice fields by farmers, water diversions by ranchers and illegal pesticide spraying by timber companies is any indication. Yet suddenly marijuana growers have all been branded eco-terrorizing water thieves. So Clint Snyder, assistant executive officer at the Central Water Quality Control Board in Redding, was invited into the potluck planting story.

“Generally speaking marijuana does require a significant amount of water per plant,” Snyder said in the Record Searchlight story, adding that the exact amount can vary, but marijuana plants average between 12 and 15 gallons of water each day.

Here’s the problem with that figure: It’s off by a factor of at least 10. They don’t call the large fabric planting containers most growers use these days “smart pots” for nothing. They permit the plant to use soil and water far more efficiently. Using a drip irrigation system, Benno prefers to water his plants three gallons once every three days. This is in line with other growers I’ve talked to. For the math-addled, that works out to one gallon per plant per day.

Anyone attempting to pour 15 gallons of water per day on a marijuana plant in a smart pot would kill the plant in less than a week.

The newspaper reporter could have asked Benno this question, he was standing right there next to a smart pot. Perhaps he did ask, but it was cut from his story.

That’s not to say that there aren’t large illegal grows in the county, with tens of thousands of plants that are extremely destructive to the environment. Most of these are cartel grows, but some are medical marijuana patients pushing way beyond the law. Rat poison—strychnine—is used liberally to prevent varmints from eating the immature plants, poisoning the ecosystem. Water is illegally siphoned off from streams and ditches. The most caustic, cheapest pesticides are used, further polluting the water table.

To their credit, Shasta County’s law enforcement agencies appear to do a fairly good job at detecting this blatantly illegal activity. But to equate that activity to collectives such as Bennos and the Drewsons is flat-out wrong.

In the flyover story, Benno is quoted as saying such aerial surveillance is illegal. That might be true if the U.S. Supreme Court stuck to the original intent of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment was thrown out three decades ago when the War on Drugs began in earnest.

Here’s what the Supremes say about helicopter searches: Law enforcement can fly over your property and look in your yard, but law enforcement can’t fly over your house and use infrared cameras or other devices to peer inside the walls.

I hope you feel better now.

That’s why the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office had no qualms whatsoever about using the “intelligence” gathered on Easter Sunday, along with one more taxpayer-financed aerial adventure, to come down hard on James Benno.

•••

What agent Tom Barner of the Shasta County Sheriff’s Marijuana Team did was spin up the information gathered to investigate alleged code violations by Shasta County’s most outspoken medical marijuana proponent into a full-blown felony search warrant, including a search for “weapons commonly used by individuals to facilitate trafficking or to protect their cache of marijuana and offensively used against peace officers serving a warrant such as assault rifles, hunting rifles, shotguns, handguns, and their ammunition, and illegal or combat style knives.”

The only way the warrant works, presuming cops and judges are honest, is for Barner and the judge to have willfully pretended they’d never heard of James Benno.

If this sort of behavior doesn’t shiver the timbers of every God-fearing Second Amendment rights supporter in Shasta County, I can’t imagine what would. A small cadre of righteous prohibitionists has decided federal and state law doesn’t apply to them. Now they’re coming for everything, including your guns. Today, it’s medical marijuana patients. Tomorrow, who knows? Perhaps people who mouth off too much about local government on the Internet?

On May 20, they showed up in force at Benno’s place in Happy Valley, patrol cars, unmarked SUVs, dump trucks and kevlar-clad agents armed to the teeth. Benno told his sons “don’t do anything freaky!” and came out on the front porch with arms in the air, holding a cell phone in his left hand, which he’d just used to call 911. Benno said that as the operator answered, tiny red dots of light appeared on Benno’s chest—the laser sights of multiple police assault rifles.

Benno also said he’s uncertain exactly what happened next. An agent on his left was holding the search warrant. Benno assumed the agent wanted him to read it, so he reached for the warrant. As he did so, the officer standing on his right struck him and took him to the ground. Several other cops dog-piled on top of him. When he emerged from the pile, he had a four-inch gash on the side of his head, visible in the mug shots taken later. He’s not sure if he was struck by a rifle butt or kicked in the head.

In the 15 felony drug and weapons charges levied against Benno and his sons that day, this one is called “resisting arrest.” Benno and both of his sons were jailed on $500,000 bail each, where they languished for a month until members of the medical marijuana community raised enough to make a down payment on the bail.

After hauling the Bennos off to jail, government agents brought in the dump trucks, loaded up all 99 plants, pallets, smart pots, dirt and all, and carted it off to the local landfill. All of the Bennos’ legally-owned guns were confiscated. Police took $5,900 in cash, including $600 found in a drawer that has since gone missing from the evidence list, according to Benno.

In the Record Searchlight story on the Bennos’ arrest, Sgt. Barry Powell with the Shasta County Marijuana Investigative Team claimed, “Our team wasn’t out to get Mr. Benno at all. We’re taking these (investigations) one day at a time, one step at a time and one cultivation at a time.”

If you believe that, you’ve been sipping a few too many poolside margaritas.

District Attorneys stack up multiple charges against the majority of medical marijuana defendants for one simple reason: To force them to take a plea deal rather than face the risk and expense of court battle.

One member of Benno’s collective, Elias Dippold, who was charged but not arrested, did just that. According to the Record Searchlight, on July 10 last year, Dippold, faced with a felony cultivating charge, “pleaded guilty to a charge of cultivating marijuana on the property in exchange for a deferred judgment. He will be required to complete drug education classes and obey all laws for two years in order to have his charges dropped.”

One wonders if Dippold will be taking those classes from one of the recovery homes partnered with the Shasta County Chemical People.

Benno says the District Attorney attempted the same tactic, and even offered to drop all of the marijuana charges if he would plead guilty to the felony weapons violations. Being no fool, Benno refused to do so. Benno and his sons are now being represented by a public defender and the trial date keeps getting pushed back.

It’s easy to imagine Shasta County isn’t too eager to bring the case to trial. If they lose and a jury acquits them of all charges, they can expect to be on the receiving end of some serious Benno blowback, via a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit. Benno figures the value of his collective’s certified organic crop, which was destroyed by Shasta County, was at least $108,000 per patient, which he conservatively estimated thusly: Six plants per patient, 4 pounds per plant.

The value of his certified-organic soil, which he has been composting for nearly 20 years and was also destroyed, is much higher: $17 million.

This is no joke, as Benno’s civil attorney, Michael Scheibli, explained at a meeting convened by the ACLU in February to address concerns by Shasta County’s medical marijuana community. Asked if the county can afford to prosecute the number of new cases that are sure to develop if Measure A is fully enforced, Scheibli, who has been extremely successful at getting compensation for clients who have been cleared of all charges, predicted the county would go bankrupt within 10 months as long as every single patient charged with a code violation pleads not guilty.

Judging by the county board of supervisors long track record of code enforcement mismanagement, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if that’s what happened.

Not too long after the ACLU meeting, I visited James Benno at the Happy Valley location for the last time.

I arrived just as Jacob and Logan pulled the final fence post out of the ground with a Bobcat tractor. The vast field behind the house where 99 marijuana plants in perfectly arranged smart pots once grew now lies bare and fallow.

“They’ve been trying to make me homeless for five years,” Benno said, with some resignation in his usually antagonist demeanor. Three times they’ve forced him to move from rental properties where he’d established large collective grows.

Nevertheless, he remains defiant.

“In 2009, I started making videos,” he recalls. “The computer is a powerful tool, they can’t hide shit now.”

He’s right about that, too.

Photos by Kelsey Falle.

R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas.
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75 Responses

  1. Hal Johnson says:

    As a guy who’s been subject to federally-mandated random drug tests for decades, I don’t have a dog in the hunt, I suppose. Hell, I’ve always been afraid that listening to too much Bob Marley or Pink Floyd might trigger a false positive on a drug test.

    But, I’ve always known people who’ve used marijuana. I also know people who hadn’t used it since college, but upon getting a recommendation for medical cannabis, were able to get off of prescribed synthetic opiates. It’s been obvious in all cases I’ve witnessed that the folks ended up with a better quality of life. Well, except that some of them gained weight.

    I hope that we’ll soon grow up and quit persecuting people for growing a damn plant, and using a substance that is safer than aspirin.

  2. A Brady says:

    As a local resident that has already publicly taken the Supervisors to task, I am livid that they would take over $100,000 from an already reduced/slashed county budget to fund this measure. They made no mention of it during the campaign and they had ample opportunity to do so, having several Supervisors and the Sheriff (sometimes in uniform) out in the community politicking for Yes on Measure A.

    It is not only irresponsible, it is under-handed and W-R-O-N-G!

  3. John Dunn says:

    7 out of 10 registered voters in Shasta County are Republicans who love their whiskey and consider pot to be the devil’s weed. Its up to the rest of the state of California to push for outright legalization for a plant that no one can prove has ever killed anyone and actually has medicinal benefits to many people.

    • Breakfast Guy says:

      Marijuana safer than aspirin.

      The aspirin industry fought a warning label for five years – during which 300 children died of Reye’s syndrome.

      When Bayer introduced aspirin in 1899, Cannabis was America’s #1 painkiller. Until marijuana prohibition began in 1937, the US Pharmacopoeia listed cannabis as the primary medicine for over 100 diseases. Cannabis was such an effective analgesic that the American Medical Association (AMA) argued against prohibition on behalf of medical progress. Since the herb is extremely potent and essentially non-toxic, the AMA considered it a potential wonder drug.

      Instead, the invention of aspirin gave birth to the modern pharmaceutical industry and Americans switched away from cannabis in the name of “progress”. But was it really progress? There can be no doubt that aspirin has a long history as the drug of choice for the self-treatment of migraines, arthritis, and other chronic pain. It is cheap and effective. But is it as safe as cannabis?

      History:
      Marijuana has been used for over 5,000 years.
      No one has ever overdosed on marijuana.
      Aspirin has been used for 108 years.
      Approximately 500 people die every year by taking aspirin

      So if safety is your concern, cannabis is clearly a much better choice than aspirin. If you eat it or vaporize it, it just might be the safest painkiller the world has ever known.

      “In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.

      Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care.

      [DEA Administrative Law Judge – 1988]”

      Francis Young

    • Susan Bryant says:

      I think the next booze event in downtown redding should be met with a few hundred phone calls to chp and rpd to do their job as thousands of the drunks walk out of market fest and brewfest and get into their car and start that weapon ….

      I feel that its time people stop looking the other way. As a non drinker who picks people up from these events, Im appalled at the lack of cops at an obvious drunken affair.

      Selective policing is rampant in Shasta Co. its so much easier to pick on a medical patient, hell half of em have cancer and cant even make it to the meetings…Thats I guess why the supervisors dont feel they need to represent them.

  4. lg says:

    smart pots. whatever.

  5. Ms. Heidi Grossman says:

    Thank you RV Scheide, that was the best REAL article I have read in a long time. James is a personal friend of mine and what has happened to him and his family is a tragedy. James is a hero to many of us and we are trying to raise money for James and his sons legal costs. You can go to http://www.gofundme.com/freethebenno3. The Benno 3 raid clearly reveals the moral degradation of our community leaders and furthermore, what are supposed to be intelligent “peace officers” and “official representatives” in our community. The same “representatives” and “peace officers” that put their costumes on then call themselves Judges, DA’s, Sheriffs, Fish and Game Wardens, and the unidentified support team who raided The Benno 3 raid also came to my house in Yuba County with a Butte County warrant on September 30th, 2014 and they decided that one unarmed drug free woman needed to be raided and intimidated with 15 assault rifles and two vicious dogs. Meanwhile, I was being questioned by the Sheriffs who sat across me at my table surfing the Internet for porn for 81 minutes during my questioning. They did not erase their history from my computer, they just left it there. They laughed and made jokes about medical cannabis patients and James Benno. They tore my house apart, destroyed my research facility, my professional consulting business, and stole my personal property. I boldly posted on my property with legal documentation that I was 100% compliant with California State Law and represented by Attorney Joseph Tully in the event of my arrest. They did not arrest me but they do have up to 3 years to charge me with a crime. These people are beasts and not in any way shape or form peaceful or respectful to Medical Cannabis Patients. Please donate to the Benno 3 Today and help make a difference in our community!

  6. Susan Bryant says:

    Shasta County will pay for writing an unconstitutional ordinance. Drewson and others are filing as we speak, when they are awarded tons of money will the R/s report it?

    No where else in this whole USA is there a place where they have “voted” away a federally protected constitutional right. You cannot vote that its ok to have an unwarranted search on your neighbor without probable cause…anymore than you can vote that there wont be any minorities allowed here. Get Real Shasta Co. These officials are WASTING your and my tax money. Now they get to waste another $125,000.

    Yes, Isnt it odd, that the record searchlight didnt report on the cases that the county loses…they only print the busts, they dont follow up with the huge cost to the county and that the state laws do not support what shasta county is doing. I am interested in seeing some lawsuits against officials who are CLEARLY not operating inside the parameters of their authority. Those people will find themselves on the not so friendly side of some lawsuits that the county will not defend for them. When people Like Baugh,..start paying with their money for the violation of rights they of course will look at it differently. They will also try to hide their assets, oh never mind thats already been done..

    Bosenko and Baugh are personally responsible for Spencer (4 yr old with brain tumor who relied on Mr. Benno providing medicine) not having medication for 2 months and he is now sent home to die. Is that really what Christian is about these days….is that really representing the people of the county ….NO. Wait til Shasta Co is hit with Spencers wrongfull death suit….I know if I were his mother I certainly would make them pay for their illegal interference in a legal medication that was being used by him to shrink his brain tumor..

    Thank you for writing this article, you pretty muched nailed it. Shasta Countys current corruption is worse than what we faced 40 years ago. At least the corruption then was just pure thuggery and wasnt disguised as real Law Enforcement. It was right out in the open, He stabbed em and He slabbed em….they werent even pretending to represent anyone but their gang. They all wore stars then too.

    Why do we keep electing people who suffer from amygdala hijack?

  7. Steve Steve says:

    The environmental impacts of marijuana growing shouldn’t be laughed off as trivial — I witness those impacts first-hand throughout the growing season, all over Northern California. (My line of work puts me out there.) The impacts of water being ripped off from our streams is observable, measurable, and significant. That said, the illegal water diversions that cause environmental harm were already illegal prior to the passage of Measure A. What was lacking was the funding, manpower, and willingness of the local and state agencies to enforce the law. And — surprise! — that hasn’t really changed.

    As for that screen shot of Benno’s operation that the Record Searchlight uses on a regular basis — if it’s the one I’m familiar with, it includes a high security fence and a guard tower. It looks like third-world prison or a human trafficking wholesale facility. (The latter would probably attract far less scrutiny from the Sheriff’s Department.) I sure as heck wouldn’t want a thing like that erected next to my rural Shasta County property, out east of Redding.

    I agree that marijuana should be legal, and legal to grow. But I’m not down with the “anything goes” mentality of a lot of the growers.

    • Susan Bryant says:

      The anything goes mentality is not that of the real patient. Illegal grows are something that they refuse to do anything about, they just keep bothering patients, who for the most part are in their own backyard.

      No legal patients is stealing water etc. Thats all part of what the Sheriff is not taking care of. You can thank the BOS for the fencing requirements that look like a concentration camp.

      • Steve Steve says:

        The illegal diversions and illegal site grading that I see are typical of operations that are growing scores of plants, not MMJ patients growing a few plants for personal use. And it’s all over NorCal, not just Shasta County.

        • A Brady says:

          But Measure A did nothing to make cartel grows any MORE illegal than they were under the old ordinance. They were already illegal and the law enforcement could only nip them in the bud.

          Measure A will only impact the mom & pop mmj growers. The cartels will go about “business as usual”.

          • Steve Steve says:

            I wasn’t referring to cartel grows or to Mr. Benno’s operation when I described growers who break the law — my employees run into cartel grows several times a year on federal lands (which, incidentally, have not disappeared from my home state of Colorado now that pot is legal). I was referring to growers who buy some rural land, drag a trailer onto it if it doesn’t have an abode, often illegally grade the land, and divert or pump irrigation water from nearby streams. Some of the sloppier growers use large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides and allow these to run off into local streams. There are thousands upon thousands of these operations in the North State.

    • shasta heart says:

      A fence might not be appealing, but at least, it isn’t harming you. My neighbor planted an entire wall of Oleanders, between us, and I am highly allergic to them. Oleanders are highly toxic, and the most allergic plant in the world, that we know of. However, there is no legal recourse for me, and, to be honest, even if there were, I wouldn’t use it against her. I might be old-fashioned, but I come from a time when we respected our neighbors rights to their own pr

      • shasta heart says:

        *property. (sorry, it sent by accident & wouldn’t let me edit)

      • Steve Steve says:

        It kind of depends on your definition of “harm.” If your neighbor builds something that looks like a concentration camp next door to your idyllic rural five-acre hobby ranch, it’s going to influence property values in certain settings (maybe not so much in Happy Valley). But if the standard in the area is a well-established “a fella ought to be able to do what he wants with his own land” ethos, then a fortified MMJ grow ought to be as acceptable as a goat pasture, a christmas tree farm, a solar array, or a heavy equipment boneyard.

    • R.V. Scheide says:

      I agree about the “anything goes” crowd. One of the first things anybody should do before you start growing, in say, Redding, where it’s still legal, is ask your neighbors. And if they honestly have real reservations, that’s why you join a collective, where someone who does have land to grow on can do it without causing a hassle.

    • R.V. Scheide says:

      That’s an interesting perspective on the photo that I hadn’t considered. It does look like a prison from above! And they use it over and over and over. Now from the ground, when you’re down it, it’s an extremely modern farm using the latest most efficient and in Benno’s case 100 percent organic methods. I’ve toured quite a few of them. The 4-acre plot he put to use was in a run down property in Happy Valley that was sitting bare, fallow, forgotten. They have those photos too, maybe they could use them instead.

  8. Kath Surbaugh says:

    I was arrested for possession, possession for sale and sale of marijuana in the Haight-Ashbury District of SF in March, 1965. At that time, possession of even 1 seed was a felony. After my preliminary hearing, I was “sweated” for three days in the SF jail, until some of my friends bailed me out. After a few months, the charges for sale and possession for sale were dropped and I was given two years informal probation on a felony simple possession charge. At the time, I remember, everyone said, “Don’t worry! Pot will be legal by next year.”
    Didn’t work out that way, did it?
    In 1970, I (“a white chick”) got the whole episode “reduced to a misdemeanor & dismissed” so I could go on with my upper-middle-class life and get a broker’s license in RE. (Had I been black or Mexican, I would probably have died a felon by now.) But the “moral of the story,” from my point of view, is that pot-laws are legal ways of dis-empowering people who resist control.

  9. Robert V. Scheide Sr. says:

    The massive pot farms mostly on public grounds are the product of Cartel growers setting out thousands of plants. To mix them up with an operation such as Mr. Benno’s is like comparing oranges and apples. Benno’s layout would make any Master Gardner proud no matter what they were growing.

    Using and abusing zoning laws to harass individuals and collectives following the laws applicable at planting and then using uncalled for force to scare the homeowner into allowing police to search without warrants , destroying property and dragging growers off to jail in cuffs.

    Almost daily you see one more example of police misuse of power to beat or shoot for just about any reason. Less than 2 seconds to shoot and kill a 12 year old with a toy gun to putting lots of red dots on Mr. Benno’s chest.

    It would be interesting to see how other zoning infractions are dealt with, no comparison I’ll bet.

    The absurd use of water per plant is greatly exaggerated. A growing pot is exactly like growing tomatoes which require 1 to 2 gallons per day even in the hottest weather . If you use the 20 to 25 gallons per plant would shortly kill the plant.

    Financing the operation to police all the grows would cost a ton of money add that to the ton of money required to prosecute all those charged would bankrupt the county in a heartbeat.

    It still makes my head hurt to understand how citizens not affected by the imitative have a vote to limit us country growers to use our ground as we see fit.

    • Steve Steve says:

      Seems to me, Mr. Scheide, that the MMJ growers in Shasta County had a narrow window of opportunity prior to the passage of Measure A during which they could have formed something like a cooperative, akin to the various viticulture associations around the state. That coop could have collected fees and engaged in various forms of self-policing to ensure code compliance, adequate security, legal water supplies, labor law compliance, certification of organic farming, etc. And yes, the cooperative would have to agree to rat out bad actors to the authorities, which I know rubs a lot of people the wrong way. But as a selling point, the growers would be incurring the cost of policing, rather than putting it on the taxpayers. (The sudden Jack-in-the- box realization here in Shasta County that it’s going to cost money to enforce Measure A is a laugh riot.)

      I realize that a lot of people voted for Measure A because they think marijuana is Satan’s weed, and the formation of a coop wouldn’t have altered their votes. (These are the conservatives among us who often talk the libertarian talk, but walk the authoritarian walk.) But there are also a lot of people who voted for Measure A because they were fed up with the bad-actor growers. If the growers had figured out a way to organize and propose the herding of its own cats, Measure A might not have passed.

      • Hal Johnson says:

        “These are the conservatives among us who often talk the libertarian talk, but walk the authoritarian walk.”

        Amen.

        Also, many “conservatives” out there apparently cannot conceive of how giving tacit approval to the trampling of Fourth Amendment rights could one day come around to bite them in the ass in regard to their Second Amendment rights.

  10. cheyenne says:

    Marijuana is harmless?
    Denver husband shoots and kills wife when she calls 911 to report he is high on marijuana edibles.
    A university of Wyoming student dies in Colorado after he gets high on marijuana edibles and runs off a motel balcony.
    Greely couple smoke marijuana outside their trailer while their 3 year old daughter dies in a fire inside the trailer.
    12% of Colorado DUIs in 2014 were for marijuana impairment.
    Want more, we get them all the time on the local news here.
    On the medical side, many families have moved to Colorado for MMJ treatment for their children. Dr. Kelly Knupp, a pediatric epilespy specialist works with over a 100 of these children at Aurora Childrens Hospital. She has been given a $500,000 grant for research. She states that while many parents say their children are helped by medical marijuana there is no hard research yet. She is an actual medical professional who advocates for medical marijuana, not some out for profit grower claiming to help medical patients. She does it legally.
    In Utah, those evil Republicans passed Charlees Law 58-9 that allows cannabis oil for epilespy.
    In Wyoming the legislators voted against decriminalization of marijuana but are set to pass a law like Charlees Law.
    Next year it will be twenty years since California voters voted to legalize medical marijuana and the state is no closer to figuring it out now than it was in 1996.

    • cheyenne says:

      What does awaiting moderation mean?
      Everything I posted was reported in the Denver Post or the Wyoming Tribune-eagle. It is part of public record, not heresay.

      • Hal Johnson says:

        Cheyenne, if you posted more than one link in a comment, I believe that will trigger the need for a moderator to look at it before it’s posted. I’m guessing that’s to keep spam down.

        • cheyenne says:

          Hal, I posted no links. I posted marijuana information that disputes both the harmless drug and the demon weed posts.
          I lived in Shasta County for forty years, my wife is from Hayfork. We now live in Wyoming, where marijuana is illegal, and have a second residence in Colorado, where marijuana is legal. I know as much, probably more, than the other posters. I have no cares either way on marijuana. I try to post both sides of the issue while the other posters seem to promote their view only.
          Anyone that wants true marijuana stats from a state that has legal marijuana can get on the Colorado State Health Department and read actual stats from average age of medical marijuana patients to how many legal honey oil factories there are.
          And in the Denver news today, $2.6 million in excise tax off of marijuana sales in January. A state with one fifth the population of California. The excise tax goes to the schools, other marijuana taxes go to other public services.
          If the two sides of the marijuana issue in California would quit fighting each other the results could be immense.

      • Cheyenne, I am as perplexed as you regarding why your comment was waiting for moderation. No links, no personal attacks … so I approved it.

      • R.V. Scheide says:

        Those papers, just like the Record Searchlight, are merely extensions of law enforcement for the communities they serve. That is one point of the story–the Record Searchlight, mostly due to laziness, simply regurgitates police reports. Elsewhere you say “you know more about marijuana than any one posting.” When I hear stuff like that, I stop listening. Thanks for reading.

    • Hal Johnson says:

      Cheyenne, I don’t think anyone here has maintained that marijuana is harmless, but the real science out there seems to indicate that it is safer than most any other drug known to man.

      As for the man who shot and killed his wife, do we know for a fact that marijuana was the only drug he’d ingested? Even if it was, that’s a very unusual case. I mean, consider Woodstock, when nearly a half-million people got together with nary a fistfight.

      I half-jokingly suggest that repeat violent offenders be required to smoke marijuana daily as a condition of parole.

      Harmless? Nope. Although the evidence shows that it isn’t as damaging to lungs as cigarette smoke, I’m sure cannabis smoke ain’t good for the lungs. It sure as hell ain’t a good idea to go out for a Sunday drive while stoned stupid. And, while most people I’ve known over the years who used marijuana have led productive lives, I do have one long-time friend who is a poster boy for amotivational syndrome. I’m not sure that marijuana caused my friend’s “plenty of horsepower but no torque” tendencies, but it sure hasn’t seemed to have helped.

      Still, looking at the big picture, it just doesn’t make sense to continue to prosecute people for growing and using a plant. I don’t think you’re suggesting that it does make sense, but people can focus on some of your points and think, “Yep, we gotta keep them hippies down.”

      • cheyenne says:

        Hal, I bring up what Colorado is doing because the posters in Redding on both sides of the marijuana exaggarate and outride lie. Colorado is making tax money and furnishing jobs with legal marijuana but the rules have to be followed. There are people who have invested time and money into Colorado marijuana and some of them will become millionaires and the state benifits from this. Right there in Shasta Lake City it appears the two MJ stores are following the rules and cordinating with officials and not walking out of meetings and boasting they won’t follow the rules.
        On the other side from the Colorado Health Board the largest group of mmj patients is 21-30, the second largest group is 31-40 and the third largest group is 41-50. Kinda gives the lie to grandma and grandpa being denied their medical needs. In fact since recreational mj was legalized the average age of mmj patients has gone up. Either a lot of old people moved to Colorado or a lot of young people had their aliments cured. The real truth was found when the Denver Post interviewed people at the recreational pot shops. Many of the young were happy about recreational mj as they no longer had to fake injuries to get a mmj card.
        Marijuana will continue to be an adverse concern in Shasta County until the two sides can work together.

      • cheyenne says:

        Hal, the husband who shot his wife is in court now. While initially it was said he had consumed a pain pill also because of an empty scrip bottle the investigators said only THC was found in his system. And this is not an isolated instance.

        • Matthew Meyer says:

          What is certainly not the case is that a loving husband in a harmonious relationship with his wife up and shot her one day because he ate a cannabis edible.

          Every article on the case makes clear that the marriage was falling apart before this happened, and that the husband had gone so far as to alter his automatic pay deposits, sending them to a different account in his name only.

          I’m curious about the idea that this is not an isolated incident. Common sense suggests that widespread cannabis use–and intense media focus upon it–will produce stories in which pot is “associated” with a whole range of bad outcomes.

          So when is it not an isolated incident? If you can point to two or three cases, does that mean we should start to think that cannabis induces violence? All the broad statistical data coming from Colorado indicates that violent crime has either stayed the same or gone down since pot regulation went into effect there. I’d be interested to learn otherwise.

          But even if there were a connection, what would it mean? There is a very robust relationship between alcohol consumption and domestic violence, but no one campaigns for alcohol prohibition today because we know we are better off with real regulations, not a ban.

          So why should we think that prohibiting cannabis will reduce violence, when we know that violence is the only way of enforcing contracts in the underground economy? It just doesn’t make sense.

          • cheyenne says:

            Matt, this was not an isolaleted case as I pointed out about the Wyoming student who died. Also there have been several instances reported about Colorado school children who have been sickened by marijuana edibles, that none have died is pure luck. The Colorado Public Schools have stated that a third of student suspensions are for marijuana possession.
            I am not against legalizing marijuana just against those mj advocates that say mj is a harmless drug and all the problems will disappear if it is legalized. Legalizing marijuana will make some problems go away but new ones will arise. Just like legalizing alcohol, some of the problems went away while others surfaced.
            If Benno had only planted the amount of plants he was legally able to, I believe 99 was the number, and not boasted he would plant more would LE have envaded his property. What this looks like is Benno was making a point and LE made their point. And this happens in Colorado too. A grower by Pueblo was raided last month. He said he was a coop for several medical patients but had over 600 plants, well over the legal limit.
            Marijuana, from all the information I have seen has its medical benefits and some Republican states, Utah and Wyoming, have passed laws to use it.

          • Matthew Meyer says:

            cheyenne, people don’t die from cannabis overdoses, ever.

            Sometimes inexperienced people who’ve eaten too much cannabis can have very unpleasant feelings, like the cop who stole pot from a suspect, then made brownies, and later called 911 insisting he was dying.

            But all this talk of kids begs the question: would you rather have children able to buy pot from a street dealer, who doesn’t ask for ID, or have it behind the counter in a licensed business where there is an incentive to keep kids out?

            Look at what has happened to smoking rates in this country–they are lower than they’ve been in decades, and it’s all been done through education and age restrictions on purchases.

            I’m still waiting to see where pot law reformers say it’s “harmless.”

            But there’s not a problem with cannabis you can point to that’s not made worse by prohibition, including youth access.

    • Matthew Meyer says:

      Please show me where anyone working on cannabis law reform says the plant is “harmless.”

      That’s a red herring.

      What has been shown, in study after study, is that cannabis is far less harmful than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, and less harmful than illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin.

      Here is one recent attempt to put different drugs in order of relative health risk: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/23/marijuana-may-be-even-safer-than-previously-thought-researchers-say/

      There are other ways to rank the drugs, as the article indicates, but this finding is quite in line with earlier studies.

      Marijuana may not be “harmless,” but the evidence shows it’s safer than its alternatives, especially alcohol.

      • cheyenne says:

        For a person suffering chronic pain I belive smoking marijuana to relieve that pain would be better and less harmful than taking pain pills. Even common aspirin is warned that too many pills will harm the liver.
        On R/S there have been more than one poster who rallied against the war on marijuana, a harmless drug. Now those posts are turning to less harmful than other drugs like alcohol, or pain pills. No argument there.
        But, I think the marijuana problem in Shasta County is more over the regulation of gardens than the plant itself.

        • Matthew Meyer says:

          Agreed. People actually die from taking too much aspirin. (“Fifty-two deaths involving single-ingredient aspirin were reported in the United States in 2000”–Wikipedia.)

          If, by Shasta county’s regulation of cannabis gardens, you mean the ever-tightening rules, developed without the informed input of people like me (who tried to participate), and apparently intended to “make pot go away,” I agree it’s a problem.

          Shasta County’s policies have guaranteed that the only control we have collectively over cannabis gardens is exercised through eradication. That’s no way to manage all the cultivation in the county.

          Where are the carrots? Shasta’s policy is all sticks…some like that, as they’d like to beat a hippie with one, but it’s going to make things more expensive and less effective for us all to pursue this route.

  11. Tyler Terrell says:

    R.V.,
    Thank you so much for writing this article. You summed up the truth of what is really going on here in Shasta Co. I witnesses too many lies from The Chemical People, the BOS and Sheriff Bosenko during the No On Measure A campaign. Here is a fun fact: After the plants are ripped up or cut down, and sent to the dump in Anderson, they get picked over and taken by any person that happens to be around after the Sheriff’s department leaves.

  12. lg says:

    So the author has a conflict of interest in this opinion piece. I think it would have been appropriate to put a disclaimer in the article stating so, not waiting for it to show up in the comment section.

  13. bill masson says:

    There would have been a lot of impacts having that many plants smell /pits running wild gun shots to keep the rippers a way just a few .

    • Steve Steve says:

      Buckley was intellectually rigorous and pragmatic. No doubt he spent the final years of his life being referred to as a “RINO.”

      • Hal Johnson says:

        Steve, I had to Google “RINO.” Perhaps I lead a sheltered life.

        “Republican in Name Only.”

        I wonder if the same folks would brand Barry Goldwater as a RINO?

        • R.V. Scheide says:

          Oh no. They consider Barry a god still, those who know who he is. He was mad as a hatter.

          • Hal Johnson says:

            I’ve heard folks say that, R.V., and yet I remember him as one of the few Republicans who spoke up during the nuclear arms race. “We have enough nuclear weapons,” he said. LBJ ran one of the dirtiest campaigns in history against him, but I think he was just as damaged by the efforts of the Rockefeller arm of the Republican Party. The last thing they wanted was a true conservative in the white house. Did I agree with all his views? Nope. But if the Republican Party had gone his way instead of the authoritarian/crony capitalist route, I think the United States would be better off. That’s assuming, of course, that Mr. Goldwater wouldn’t have started World War III, as many feared would be the case if he’d been elected as President.

          • Steve Steve says:

            I’m descended of western Colorado ranchers of the “just-leave-us-the-hell-alone” brand, so I prefer to remember Goldwater as the guy who personified the western libertarian wing of the GOP before it sold its soul to bible-thumpers, gun-humpers, and Antibellum-era nostalgic Southerners. Goldwater was a gay-rights advocate way back in the early 90s, he lamented the GOP’s alliances with evangelical busy-bodies and the miltary-industrial complex, and he took Repubs to task for trying to make Whitewater into everything from a real estate swindle to a murder case. “Get off his back and let him be president,” he told his fellow Repubs, regarding Bill Clinton.

  14. Robert V. Scheide Sr. says:

    Your right Robert V. Scheide Sr. is RV’s dad. Interesting how some look for any way to discredit a piece they may not like.

  15. Cheyenne, Hal is correct that comments that contain links sometimes trigger our spam filter and put the comment in moderation. I’ll go look for it.

  16. Matthew Meyer says:

    Just came across this piece trying to satisfy my curiosity about the status of the Benno Three’s case(s).

    This is the best investigative journalism published on Shasta County cannabis policy since the 2010 Wall Street Journal piece detailing how federal funding for marijuana enforcement was steering Sheriff Bosenko away from prioritizing public safety, and toward “where the money is.”

    That the bar on cannabis investigative journalism in the area is rather low is no knock on Mr. Scheide, nor even on the R-S reporters who’ve covered this (and who surely know on which side their bread is buttered).

    But it has left Shasta County voters to the mercy of a largely law enforcement-shaped narrative that draws straight lines between cannabis cultivation and criminality, suggesting that suppressing the one will lessen the other, and, conversely, that to accept cannabis cultivation in our midst is bound to increase threats to public safety.

    There are carrots and sticks in public policy–incentives and deterrents. The Sheriff, the BOS, and their supporters have made it clear they will get the biggest stick they can possibly lay hands on to “make pot go away” from Shasta County. It is evident that they have done everything in their power to instill fear in the hearts of any who would dare to exercise the privileges granted Californians under Proposition 215.

    As a result, many residents of the county are making hard choices about health care, finances, and risk. Some of them are giving up growing cannabis entirely, feeling that the stakes are just too high to tolerate: a lot is at risk, from reputations to livelihoods to carefully tended properties folks just can’t afford to lose.

    The irony is that these more responsible people are the ones least likely to be abusing the environment, the law, and public trust. Yet under Measure A, they are just as guilty of a violation as Green Rushers from other states (countries?) who come here just to grow weed for the financial rewards. If they stop growing cannabis, our public safety will not be enhanced.

    That result will, if anything, provide more opportunities for the larger, commercial operations that exist in Shasta County, like the 30 gardens, operated by the same person, that one acquaintance told me about. The margins that still exist in the cannabis market mean that even several of those gardens getting busted is not going to change the economic calculus for those at the top. I don’t know what the agricultural practices are like in these gardens, but it seems likely attention is focused on the bottom line, not on best practices.

    It seems paradoxical that stricter rules could lead to more bad behavior, doesn’t it? But by using sticks to beat the good-faith operators out of the scene, the ones that will be left will, by definition, tend to be the bigger risk-takers. That’s not good for Shasta County.

    Carrots would be much better. Just last week a half-dozen rural counties sent representatives to a meeting in Sonoma to begin coordinating cannabis policy for the post-2016 environment. Even opponents of legalization agree that the questions are now When? and How? rather than If. Smart counties are preparing themselves to benefit from the new legal cannabis economy, rather than suffer from it.

    Shasta County has repeatedly failed to come to grips with the fact that, with the area’s sunny climate, abundant water, and lengthy summer days, it is one of the best places in the world to grow cannabis. Thar’s “green gold” in them thar hills, and people are coming to harvest it.

    The county needs–badly–a new, carrot-based approach that brings growers willing to follow reasonable rules into a system that both legitimizes their activities and demands accountability from them. Under a ban, the only rule is “don’t get caught.” Many, many people are going to take that risk.

    It’s a last-ditch, costly effort to deny the march of history. Some around here will tell you that this is not about combatting legalization or the normalization of marijuana use; it’s just a land-use ordinance that sensibly addresses an issue of common concern. The moralistic persecution of James Benno is one of a thousand signs that give the lie to that.

    We will all be better off when law enforcement can focus its energies on violent crimes and the truly egregious practices of some growers. Instead, Measure A seems bound to swamp code enforcement with neighbor complaints over small gardens, and guaranteed to spread officers too thin, going after the wrong things.

    • Robert V. Scheide Sr. says:

      Well said and very true. Cracking down on backyard gardeners makes no sense and surely ups the take for the bandit growers. Those that I know grow abide by the 12 plant rule and run well kept gardens.

      Going for the money shows the military look at a lot of police departments with their war surplus tanks etc.

  17. Virginia Stewart says:

    Abundant water supply for pot!!!! What world is that. Surely not Shasta County. I watch how many times I flush

    The growers are stealing water from the streams when others are having to be rationed, including the cemeteries that are going brown. They are poluting the water in the streams with runoff and the underground aquifers and killing the animals with their illegal bought Mexican fertilizer with killer chemicals.

    For what? Pot! Legal and real medical needs, not the way it is used today. Whether one wants to admit, it is not healthy, mentally and physically, to use.

    • Breakfast Guy says:

      Okay. Stealing water and polluting streams is definitely wrong, no question. Agreed. However, those who vigorously condemn “Pot!” and deny beneficial medical findings typically know next to nothing about the plant, it’s analgesic, healing, and industrial potential.

      • Virginia Stewart says:

        Oh, but I do know about Pot. I probably have read more info on Pot before 1972 than most have since then.

        Medical for medical that is honest, is one thing, which I approve of, not fantasy illnesses.

        • Matthew Meyer says:

          It’s past time when adults in this country ought to have the option to use cannabis responsibly without having to pretend they’re sick.

          Ms. Stewart, many people prefer cannabis to alcohol, and every study that compares the two shows that alcohol is many times more harmful to our health.

          Should we continue to make people choose between faking an illness and breaking the law if they want to use cannabis?

          Our children deserve a more responsible approach.

          • R.V. Scheide says:

            No one has to pretend they’re sick. They just have to expand their definition of sickness. Who the heck doesn’t have insomnia?

    • Matthew Meyer says:

      Ms. Stewart, wouldn’t it be interesting to see how much water cannabis cultivation uses relative to its economic and health contributions?

      People who don’t like cannabis obviously don’t think any water should be used to grow it, drought or not.

      But wouldn’t it be helpful to know more about how much water is actually used relative to other crops? It often seems that both those profiting from cannabis and those trying to stop it are completely uninterested in this information.

      That’s not good for us all collectively: making policy in an information vacuum leaves us at the mercy of politicking.

      On that note, it’s been amazing how many folks have seen the light on environmental issues since the cannabis issue blew up a few years ago.

      To be sure, there are real environmental scientists, such as Gabriel Mourad, who are studying the impacts of (mostly trespass / public land) cannabis cultivation. But everything I’ve seen so far suggests some negative effects, while completely failing to put them into context or show their actual scale.

      It’s also important, in consuming this literature, to understand the difference between the watersheds in Shasta County’s foothills and those in the coastal range. We are in the most water-rich region in the state, period. Humboldt and other coastal counties do not have anywhere near the water resources this area does because they don’t get the snowpack.

      So let’s have more study of the environmental impacts of cannabis, but let’s put them in context of grapes, almonds, and rice, and let’s see the economic benefits in relation to the costs and hazards. Merely to condemn cannabis cultivation because it requires water is to dishonor the good work of scientists studying the question.

    • R.V. Scheide says:

      Virginia, as I indicated in the story, law enforcement are catching growers that are diverting water and committing actual crimes already on the book. But why should you, for example, not be allowed to grow a rose bush in your own garden? You pay for the water, so why shouldn’t you be able to put it on whatever you want?

      • Virginia Stewart says:

        Oh, my goodness. You want to denounce me. Ok. If you think that the government of any department are catching all the illegal grows, I hate to delusion you, but they ARE not.

        And, those grows are stealing the water, but that is OK? Really….

        Maybe you ought to think of the chemicals that are poisoning our water ways and underground aquifers. For what? For a grow so many can smoke or otherwise, but who don’t need the product. Analogy. Eat candy because it tastes good, when it can be bad for you.

        I neither drink alcohol or smoke pot. I don’t need it to make me “feel” mentally better. You and I will never agree.

        • Sharon says:

          Well Virginia, I eat candy. I also eat eggs, drink coffee, and eat red meat. Oh, and I only consume real sugar! All these things have been said to be bad for you by some people. So now you think we should ban them all, because it could be bad for you! You are the type of voter who scares me.There are a lot of things I don’t do because I think they may be bad for me, but I don’t expect everyone else to feel the same. That is why the United States was founded on personal liberty, being allowed to think for yourself!

  18. iRon says:

    Good for Sheriff Bosenko. Only enforcing laws that the feds choose not to.

    • Matthew Meyer says:

      …and that the People of California voted to change.

      Are you really cheering this attempt to reverse state law?

  19. R.V. Scheide says:

    One thing I’d like to note in regard to the claim that there are no sick grandma and grandpas growing medical marijuana is that at the ACLU meeting held in Redding mentioned in the story, roughly have the 150 people or so there were exactly that, 40s, 50s and up. Whenever you’re in a group of medical marijuana advocates, there are sick people of all ages, and this case was no exception. Just because some kid’s dressed like a gang banger doesn’t mean he’s faking–as I found out one time when the kid showed me the hand he’d nearly severed at the wrist in a restaurant accident. Chronic pain from nerve damage is one of the maladies marijuana works wonders on and a surprising number of younger patients have similar injuries. Marijuana is also used as diversion and harm reduction therapy with young people, with admittedly mixed results.

  20. name says:

    Seems like the County went quite a ways overboard here, even from a neutral standpoint. It is ridiculous for the County to go after someone that is obviously very familiar with the laws & going out of their way to comply, while at the same time there are numerous illegal grows further out from the city (Mexican or otherwise). They got caught trying to make an example out of someone. My guess is that the guy and his sons will probably win this one.

    Somewhat unrelated: Why have they continued to block the farming of industrail hemp? This would be a very good crop to grow during a drought, as it requires very little water compared with almost anything else.

    • Breakfast Guy says:

      That’s a good question. My guess; Big oil, lumber & paper production lobbyists are blocking it… behind them of course, a knucklehead elephant and the K brothers.

      • cheyenne says:

        In Colorado, where big lumber, oil, and paper are going strong and the elephant is taking control, legal hemp farms have been producing in the southeastern part of the state for two years. Elephant Wyoming is watching Colorado as the state is discussing hemp farms too.
        Hemp, like marijuana, is a state issue.
        The feds have been keeping hands off Colorado about marijuana despite the problems the state has had implementing legal marijuana.
        One recent problem, a state problem, came up. Because taxes, on all items, exceeded budget projections tax refunds must be returned by state law to the residents. Trying to figure out how to refund, or not refund, marijuana taxes is comical to watch.
        And as a second home resident of Colorado this is fun to watch.

  21. Jan Gandy says:

    I think anyone who needs medical marijuana should get it. I don’t care if you smoke it recreationally or not. Legalize it. Fine. But I moved to the country for the clean air and I resent having to keep my windows closed all summer because it smells like a skunk has camped in my backyard. Many a night I have seriously considered moving into a hotel in town. What about my rights?

  22. James Benno is an outstanding activist and leader of the medical marijuana community.
    He is a fighter and will never back down, we fully support James and his two sons.
    We hope that he is vindicated and justice will be served in the form of a full acquittal.

    Be Well, Yuba Patients Coalition PAC

  23. Scott S says:

    I can’t wait to be called up on a jury for one of these MM cultivation charges. I hope this asinine measure A costs this county a bundle.

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