A Modest Proposal

This is a letter I sent a few days ago to a member of the Board of Supervisors of Shasta County.

Disclaimer:  I do not grow marijuana or use marijuana, nor do I represent anyone who is in or seeks to be in the marijuana growing business.  I just think that the county is passing up a serious opportunity

It seems very likely that recreational use of marijuana will be legalized in California by 2020 at the latest and probably by 2016.  Unless there is some major disaster in Colorado or Washington, it looks like that will happen.  A major disaster is unlikely because the nature of marijuana is such that it does not contribute to violent behavior (except, of course when there is a black market.  A black market in marshmallows would create violence).  The following about marijuana seems uncontroversial.

  1. Pharmacologically, it is a soporific (unless you are talking about synthetic forms, which I am not).  The point is that you do not find people smoking fighting pot, but fighting whiskey (or fighting cabernet) is common.
  2. According to Mayor LaGuardia of New York, who testified before Congress against the proposition of making marijuana illegal, the primary difference between tea houses and bars in New York City was that the cops were almost never called to the tea houses.  Just as now, they were called to the bars a lot.
  3. There is no reported case of marijuana causing death due to overdose.  The user falls asleep long before they get to that point.  Operating vehicles or equipment while smoking is very dangerous, but so is operating vehicles or equipment while drinking or sick or tired etc.
  4. Some people find the smell of marijuana gardens offensive.  Some people find a lot of smells offensive. Because of allergies, hay bothers the dickens out of me.  People raise hogs, chickens, dairy cattle etc and do it in a way that minimizes the impact on others.  Drive From Chicago into Indiana some time.  There is a vegetable oil plant there that will burn your eyeballs if the wind is blowing the wrong way.  Any slaughterhouse will get you if you happen to be down wind.  Nobody suggests shutting down any of these other enterprises due to smell.  Enclosing marijuana gardens inside buildings is also not the answer, if for no other reason than the fact that the operation will suddenly require huge amounts of electricity to replace the solar power it can get just from being outside.

I am told that Shasta County is a prime place to grow marijuana.  Marijuana doesn’t need a lot of water or very good soil.  It does need a lot of sun.  When it is legalized, there will be a lot of it grown in California.  If the County gets ready for that with regulations for sensible, outdoor farming that is legal and in the open, we will stop the damage being done to our public lands by illegal farmers and go a long way to replace the economic damage done to our community by the changes in logging that have occurred, in a way that will have little negative impact on the community.  It will inject millions into the local economy and hugely increase the taxable value of real estate that is taxed as scrub oak and manzanita now.

I am willing to bet that someone who had 20 acres of Shasta County Clay could raise a pretty sizable marijuana crop in the middle of it, leaving a buffer that would keep the smell from bothering anyone.  It might make sense to require someone who is growing marijuana to have a set back of at least 600 feet from property line to crop.  That would leave our hypothetical 20 acre guy with over half of his property to cultivate, well away from his neighbors.  Anyone who has trouble with the smell that is coming from two football fields away is like me with hay.  Hay isn’t the problem, my nose is the problem.

It is going to come, and I would like to see our county government get out in front of the issue and plan for it to do us as much good and cause as little harm as possible.

The older I get, the better I was.
Dugan Barr
Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. The offices of Barr and Mudford, LLP, are at 1824 Court St. in Redding and can be reached at 243-8008.

Dugan Barr
Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967, primarily in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. He can be reached at Barr & Mudford, 1824 Court St., Redding, 243-8008, or dugan@ca-lawyer.com.
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21 Responses

  1. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Disclaimer; I do not use or grow marijuana.
    As I am in Colorado all the time I can give you first person facts about legal marijauana. There are two distinct differences about legal marijuana, medical and recreational.
    Medical marijuana seemed to be well regulated and some families have moved to Colorado from other states to access the medical aspects. Colorado does have constant inspections of caregivers of patients to make sure the rules are followed.
    In January recreational marijuana became legal. There have been problems with edibles, honey oil explosions, and school students having marijuana.
    The governor has implemented a commitee to research edibles after a couple of deaths related to overeating edibles since January.
    Colorado does license Honey Oil plants with several restrictions regarding safety. At last count there have been 31 illegal honey oil explosions resulting in some deaths since January.
    Since January Colorado Public Schools have stated a third of student suspensions is for marijuana possession. CPS said the students get the marijuana from their parent’s stash, not some street corner drug dealer.
    Much of the news has focused on people lighting up joints in public places to promote the new recreational pot even though it is illegal to light up in public. Personally, I have not seen these massive public lightups, I was just in Denver Monday, and I believe it is more Media Hype than actual happenings. LoDo has more problems, highlighted in a Denver Post article, from the LoDo bars than any marijuana use.
    Clearly there is some more work to be done to smooth out the legal marijuana issues in Colorado.
    Colorado began its trek to legal marijuana by setting clear rules on how it will be regulated and taxed. I have not seen the same rules applied in California and I lived there for ten years after the passage of medical marijuana in the state.
    Pot advocates always say “Legalize, regulate and tax”. But somewhere down the line they forget the part about regulate and tax. Even in Colorado there is a group protesting marijuana taxes as a violation of their constitutional rights.

  2. AJ AJ says:

    Dugan, Dugan, Dugan . . . .boy, nothing like stirring the pot (so to speak) first thing in the morning!! Bet you got a lot of knees jerking, too. Aside from our knees jerking, you raise some valid points. . . worth thinking about anyway.

  3. Avatar A. Brady says:

    The Northstate does not seem to be on the forefront of any actual trend or industry that would be beneficial to our citizens. Other that Stillwater Industrial Park (and we know how that turned out), we have wasted a lot of time listening to a few complain the loudest.

    I do disagree with Cheyenne about the regulate and tax portion of the picture. Washington State has very stringent rules about growing (not familiar with CO’s rules) especially the crops for commercial sale. Her own state has reaped a huge benefit with tax income from purchase of the legalized material. And teens have been raiding alcohol cupboards, gun safes and medicine cabinets for many years, so like any other material, the parents need to take the extra caution to secure their possessions.

  4. Avatar EasternCounty says:

    The war on drugs has been a very costly boondoggle much like prohibition was. I completely agree that marijuana farms should be legalized, regulated, and taxed. Who knows, the feds may eve subsidize them as they do tobacco farms. I do wonder, though, if legalization will keep illegal grows out of our forests and hidden away — as near Igo indirectly causing the Bully fire.

  5. Avatar name says:

    They need to also legalize industrial hemp, which could be grown in great quantities and requires very little water (compared to most crops).

    Is there a reasonable explanation why the idiots in Sacramento will not allow this?

  6. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Colorado does have firm rules about legal marijuana complete with tracking the product from grower to user. I was talking about California when I said “Legalize, regulate and tax”. Medical marijuana was voted in in 1996 in California and right there in Shasta County growers are protesting the regulate rules. And in Washington state before legal marijuana went into affect the state was already training minors to test buying at stores. As far as I have heard since January Colorado has done one minor buying test and did not find one violation. It is an expensive process to start a marijuana store and I doubt any owners want to lose their permits over underage buyers.

    Colorado does have licensed Hemp farms that are in their second year of planting. They are in the southeast corner so I haven’t heard of this summer’s “Polar Vortex” damaging them like crops elsewhere.

  7. Avatar Zach says:

    This is the worst idea I can imagine. As a certified addictions specialist working with teens in Shasta County, I urge anyone that reads this to read Nora Volkow’s, director of NIDA, comments from recent articles on the legalization of marijuana. Her take is that marijuana, while arguably less physically dangerous that pot, should not be the third legal drug in America. Her reasoning is sound and she makes some great points about our current culture. She points to the physiological and pschological effect on the brain, particularly the developing teen brain. You can google her interview with National Geographic from March of this year and read it for yourself. I also believe that, in many ways, we are retracing the path of tobacco in that in the 1940’s Americans held the mistaken belief that cigarette smoking was somehow healthy. That proved to be a dangerous path with years of deadly consequences. Today, pro-marijuana folks are “selling” the public that it’s less harnmful that alcohol or tobacco and may even be healthy. 40 years from now, I suspect, we may look back at this experiment and the psychological effects of this drug, scratching our heads yet again.

    • “Her take is that marijuana, while arguably less physically dangerous that pot, should not be the third legal drug in America.”


    • Avatar Matthew Meyer says:

      You’d like us, Zach, to think that marijuana is as bad for you as cigarette smoking.

      Nora Volkow and NIDA have been trying to prove all kinds of bad things about cannabis for about 40 years now, and the best they have been able to do are scare headlines with “possibly may be linked to” in place of real causal connections.

      Indeed, one of NIDA’s best studies was going to prove that cannabis caused cancer. Except that the well-designed study seemed to show exactly the opposite:

      “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” he said. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”


  8. Avatar Breakfast Guy says:

    Humongous amounts of money spent to keep a relatively innocuous weed out of the hands of those who choose to use it baffles me. It is a fact that marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol from both a physiological and sociological perspective. It is also a proven fact that it has therapeutic values. I can not think of one person that I know who has overdosed, committed a violent crime, died of cirrhosis, or committed suicide while on marijuana. Perhaps a few are not exactly go-getters and perhaps they order pizza more frequently than most, but they should not be labeled as criminals.

    On the other hand, my life has been directly affected by alcohol. Quite a few of my parents siblings were raging alcoholics as are a number of cousins. I’ve witnessed first hand the destructive force of alcohol, and it is legal, as it should be. Everyone I know has been negatively affected by alcohol directly or indirectly.

  9. Avatar david kerr says:

    Marijuana came to Shasta county from Humboldt county because it is easy to hide grows behind hills. Shasta county soil is lousy. Pot is grown in raised beds. When it is legalized, it will move to the rich soil and flat land of southern Tehama county and Butte county and South. Farmers will rip out their tomato and prune crops and grow pot by the 18 wheeler load using mechanized equipment. They will need extraordinary fencing, guards and security systems, because the value of the crops is over $1,000/plant and a 40 acre farm would be a multimillion dollar operation. I image U.C. Davis Ag. school already has economists planning for legalization.

    I expect the $100,000+ commercial marijuana industry will move to better land and Shasta county will be left with small, farmers’ market scale gardens, which net $5,000/yr at most.

  10. Avatar david kerr says:

    is about the economics of Shasta county’s $100 million pot economy (for Humboldt county the number is $400,000).

    When the boom turns to bust, it could be a repeat of the mining and logging industries. Appalachia coming to the Emerald triangle and Shasta County.

    • Avatar Matthew Meyer says:

      There are many places in the foothills of Shasta County with good soil.

      I don’t doubt that cannabis will be grown in the valley, but the situation is comparable to grapes: E&J Gallo in the valley, producing mass wine (or others doing raisins), and producers of fine wines in microclimate niches.

      Mutatis mutandis, it will be the same with cannabis.

  11. Avatar david kerr says:

    Correction: Humboldt county is $400 million.

  12. Avatar Inthesticks says:

    You have a point David Kerr. Soil quality is an issue. Soil aside, costs to grow licensed crops will be substantial including fencing, security, tagging/tracking processes, taxes and fees. Criminal background screens will eliminate the felons. I think many of my current neighbor growers won’t be able to get in the game. Best guess is they will grow black market and sell half price. Perhaps the market will saturate and some will stop.

  13. Avatar Jhon says:

    Oh sure thing Mr. Barr. Your recent “speak your piece” recounted the alleged destruction of private property over a can of paint, that at best would have resulted in community service for the cuprit.
    And you think Shasta county would EVER allow legal weed to be sold?
    Even if Eric Holder woke up on the wrong side of his bed and requested the Congress to reschedule pot, I am certain the Supes would find a way around the law.

  14. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Breakfast Guy,
    An University of Wyoming student in Colorado plunged to his death when he became delirous from eating marijuana edibles. A Denver man shot and killed his wife after he became delirous from eating marijuana edibles. Honey oil explosions have caused at least three deaths and several burn injuries in Colorado.
    There have been several instances of students becoming ill at school from digesting marijuana edibles, luckily there have been no deaths.
    Marijuana is not a harmless drug and should be regulated and stored safely like any other drug or alcohol.

  15. Avatar david kerr says:

    Annual value of crops from 2012 report: Butte County $721 million. Shasta County $70 million.

    Butte, Yuba, Solano, Sutter, Yolo counties are great places to grow. They have large scale, capital intensive, mechanized agriculture, significant number of graduates of U.C. Davis and CSU Ag. school, and infrastructure to process crops and support agriculture. Shasta and Humboldt counties cannot compete. Legalization will mean the $100 million Shasta county and $400 million Humbolt county commercial pot economies will migrate to better places for agriculture. Shasta county will also lose the stimulus provided by the underground economy who bring federal food stamps and SSI dollars and to our Appalachia-like economy. Trimmers support the local motels and homeless camps. They provide jobs for Child Protective Services and child support enforcement county employees.

    As Bruce Ross reported in his blog, Shasta county is losing population. Marijuana legalization will accelerate it.

  16. Avatar pmarshall says:

    I’m not in favor of legalizing marijuana; however, in spite of our protests, it will come. I wonder why the guy who started the Ono fire is out on bail? We w ill never see him again! I suppose we will be seeing more “sleepy” people driving vehicles. I assume this is what happens when people partake of that drug.

  17. Avatar Cowboy says:

    From what I’ve seen, heard and read, there is very little that is “modest” about the MMJ crowd.