Medical Marijuana and the Men in the Black Car
Humboldt County's Prop 215 Implementation Committee
Index of complaints & detailed list
Our legal actions against the Sheriff's Marijuana Suppression Program Grant
1997 in Review
1997 complaints began in early April. This is the first year that medicial marijuana has been legal under California law (Prop 215). It remains illegal under Federal law. We live in a major cultivation area and State law enforcement has been quite antagonistic to medical marijuana in California and we were gearing up for a big year, complaint-wise at the onset. We did have a big year, but not because of medical marijuana problems. Those were relatively few. See late august for one of the main ones. As of early October we have received 537 calls among which there were 65 serious complaints, and we have documented 19 of them for further action. These totals do not include civil liberties complaints from environmental demonstrations.
I996 up to August was a very pleasant contrast. Neither COMMET nor MET appears to have had many hours of helicopter time to use, possibly because of National Guard policy changes, and with less helicopter activity the volume of complaints fell dramatically. However both Humbolt and Mendocino counties got their Marijuana Suppression Grants approved for 1996, and CAMP began operating in Humboldt County in early August. Complaints came in steadily and unusually bad things happened on the ground when law enforcement encountered people. We end up with 300-350 calls, and we believe a similar ratio of complaints as in 1995
1995 was a very bad year for us in the Mateel. There were raids for 6 months. We logged over 350 calls which included over 120 complaints of violations of rights. More than 50 of these violations were documented in follow up work.
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There are a variety of medical marijuana issues. One involved so called contract cultivation. Contract cultivation occurs where a grower creates a garden the crop from which is to be sold to a patient, a group of patients, or a medicial marijuana club. Dennis Peron early in the season began issuing contracts specifying that 49 plants were to be grown and the entire crop to be sold to his club. We were told that hundreds of these contracts existed. The District Attorneys from our area were unanimous in their statements that such contracts would not sheild the gardner from criminal liability. In fact what occured seems to have been that several such gardens were destroyed by the "men in the black car". They did not identify themselves except to tell one gardener that they were not State law enforcement. The implication was that they were Federal, and were enforcing Federal law. No charges have been made against any gardeners whose crops were destroyed by the black car men, so far.
Prop 215 Implementation Committee
The County established a Prop 215 Implementation Committee to work on medicial marijuana issues with law enforcement. Now that some marijuana is legal the old fly over and grab what you see plan won't work any more. ED Denson from CLMP is on the committee, as is the Sheriff and a representative from the DA's office. So far it hasn't met, so it appears that its work will be done over the winter. The first meeting is scheduled for Oct 23, 1997. The State Attorney General, Dan Lundgren, appears to be opposed to local option policing on the marijuana issue, but he really can't give good directives either since the other shoe is in the hands of the courts and we can't predict when it will drop.
The 97-98 Marijuana Suppression Program Grant
A major problem with the Marijuana Suppression Programs (MSP) came to a head at the Board of Supervisors meeting in Humboldt County Aug 26. CLMP had a week earlier informed the Board that the MSP was not in compliance with California Environmental law, particularly CEQA. Aug 26 the Board heard the Sheriff's proposed grant application for funding for the MSP programs and County Counsel agreed that the programs did not comply with CEQA (see Daily Journal, Sep 2, 1997 front page). The Sheriff asked for a 30 day delay in applying for funding in order to do the required environmental work, which the Supervisors agreed to.
That should have left the program without funding as it runs on a fiscal year, and had only limited funding after July 1, 1997. However as you can see from the complaint log, it did not stop operating. CLMP can't explain this, but it seems possible that the Sheriff is taking money from other programs, like 911 service and residential burglary response, to fund the MSP. We hope not, since this is probably illegal.
The MSP program continued to operate in September and we filed a lawsuit asking for a temporary restraining order, and an injunction to prevent the MSP from operating until it got legal funding, and came into compliance with CEQA. On Sep 22 Superior Court Judge Bruce Watson granted us a TRO against certain practices of the MSP regarding helicopter use.
The Sheriff's office got a form from the State and checked off a box saying they enjoyed a law enforcement exemption from CEQA, and that by checking that box they had fully complied. The Board of Supervisors met to consider this idea, and after hearing testimony, approved the grant application on a 3-2 vote. They appeared to put certain restrictions on the use of helicopters (2000' over endangered bird nesting areas) but it is not clear that they have the authority or power to do that. Voting for the grant: Kirk, Neeley (wife of the District Attorney), and Dixon. Voting against: Rodoni, Woolley (representing the district we are in, and Arcata).
We hold that CEQA compliance requires more of the Sheriff than checking a box on a sheet of paper, given the scale and consquences of the MSP and continued to press the suit. Currently we have four actions going in the local court:
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- A request for an injunction against the MSP program's operation until it complies with CEQA
- A reguest for an injunction against the Sheriff preventing him from using funds to pay for the MSP which are not budgeted for the MSP.
- A request for a TRO to prevent the county from accepting or disbursing any funds from the MSP grant so long as the MSP program is out of compliance with CEQA.
- A request for a TRO to overturn the Board of Supervisors vote to accept the MSP grant on the grounds that Supervisor Neeley has a conflict of interest due to her marriage to the County's District Attorney, and so should not have voted on this matter.
The two TRO requests and the first testimony on the injunction issues will be heard Oct 8, 1997. The balance of the injunction hearing was rescheduled for Oct 21 and Oct 22, 1997 at the request of the State.
WARNING: The complaints logged below have not necessarily been investigated by us yet. The final versions may differ quite a bit.
Don't miss these complaints about 1997 Marijuana raid activities:
Basic civil Rights problems
Lands in driveway, too lazy to walk.
Helicopter noises chases family from home
MET team chases down woman with family laundry in car
Carpenters run off job after asking police for warrant
Helicopter almost hits house
Injuries to Animals and related problems
Aviary buzzed again
Breeder of endangered birds quits business
Ostrich breeder suffers damages
Ostrich breeder loses chick
Horses disturbed at stable
Pony spooked, caught in fence, endangers owner
Health related problems
Medical Marijuana destroyed
Veteran has Helicopter Induced Flashbacks
Redway Elementary School
Whitethorn Elementary & High Schools
Newborn cries as helicopter downdraft rocks home
Children frightened by helicopter overflight
Helicopters over towns and crowds
Basic Law Enforcement Neglected
Good things Law Enforcement Did
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COG LOG for the 1997 raiding season
A listing of some of the more serious incidents reported to us this year.
24 Sep 97
Blueslide Creek. Veteran has flashbacks after low flying helicopter comes over home at "tree top level."
Whitethorn. Helicopter involved in Sep 22 flip-off incident returns, flying at about 150-200'. It did not directly overfly the same resident's home again.
23 Sep 97
Redway. While listening to the radio news reports of helicopters, an 11 year old boy told his mother that a helicopter had flown over the swings at the Redway Elementary School playground so low that the child could see the pilot's face. The child was upset.
22 Sep 97
Whitethorn area. A low flying helicopter bothered a homeowner.
Whitethorn area. A dark blue helicopter with stripes flew over the Whitethorn fire station and a resident's home at heights between 20-50'. The resident attempted to wave the pilot off, and the pilot "flipped me off."
Whitethorn area. A blue and gray helicopter flew over several homes at a very low altitude. The reporter said the flight made him anxious for his safety.
16 Sep 1997
Whitethorn Elementary School. "The helicopters were flying very low, no higher than the tree tops. The noise from the helicopters was extremely disturbing to both student and teachers! The helicopters buzzing the school causes some of the students great distress! The noise was so great that...[school] activities ceased. The helicopters were flying so close to the school that the building vibrated." One child reportedly asked the teachers to call the police to deal with the menace. They had to tell the child that the menace was the police.
Whitethorn High School. "The helicopter noise was so loud over the high school campus that we could hear hear one another - and had to stop and wait until they passed - repeatedly!
These two complaints were signed by 10 people.
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10 Sep 97
Whitethorn area. A helicopter flew over a resident's home at an estimated elevation of 200'. Local children were disturbed and called her to come help. The resident got a camera and upon the helicopter's return photographed it.
4 Sep 97
Exotic aviary overflown by low helicopters . The breeder suffered damage to eggs and birds, and after years of these problems which he could not get the police to end, he gave up his business. "I have been forced out of the breeding business, which is very disturbing to me. I worked very hard over the years to develop this business that I loved."
3 Sep 97
Ettersburg. The ostrich aviary here was overflown by low helicopters for the 5th time this season. A check died the next day. The owner estimates his losses this season to be a least 30 chicks.
China Creek. About 11:50am a helicopter circled a home at about 200-250'. "I was dusted by prop wash and tree tops were waving around from the prop wash.". The helicopter was small, blue and red.
2 Sep 97
. She heard helicopter noise so loud that when she phoned for help it was difficult to hear her voice on the line. After a while the chopper came over her house very low, kicking up dust with the downdraft, and then landed in her driveway. A woman in uniform got out and ran off down the road. The pilot took off. Two more cops came walking up the road. Our victim was told that they came to raid neighboring property (so why didn't they all walk in? Supervising deputy too important to walk?). Other lzs available in area not by house. I called Sheriff's local office, and MET office to get them to back off. Answering machines on both phones. Guess everyone was out in the field.
. Peacocks disturbed near Briceland by helicopter flying at or above the *legal* limit of 500'. We don't know how high they they must fly to avoid disturbance to birds, but 500' isn't high enough.
Horses disturbed in Salmon Creek at riding Stable. No indication of helicopter height. But this is a recurring problem for owners.
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27 August 1997
Windy Gap, near Garberville. A helicpter flew directly over two homes at an altitude of about 150', twice. "My wife and newborn child were awakened from sleeping by the helicopter's loud noise. My newborn child was brought to tears when the helicopter was so low over our trailer that it shook the trailer. My neighbor's two year old child clung to him, very frightened."
Perry Meadow area. A red, white and blue helicopter flew for several miles across a valley at the level of the house. "It remained at eye level right until the moment it reached my house." It then rose up and passed over the house at about 20'. "The noise was bone jarring."
25 August 1997
Bridgeville. A woman in the Bridgeville area called . She is a Grad student working on her thesis. Moved to the country for peace and quiet in which to work. Has job offer waiting for her when she gets done. Helicopters buzzing house, flying nearby ridge. So noisy that family leaves home for midday errands. Towns of Mad River and Dinsmore filled with refugees. She goes home, more noise. Finally her family moved to motel in Redway for 2 nights to restore some peace and quiet.
Late august. Man in Blocksburg area has muscular dystrophy and lives on limited funds from SSI. Doctor approved marijuana. He grew 5 or 6 plants by the house, and kept the note on hand so he could talk to law enforcement. One day he went to town to buy groceries. He returned to find that Sheriff's men were in the neighborhood and had destroyed his medicial marijuana plants. We took his story to the Board of Supervisors, and he has filed a $13,000 complaint with the county, using the Sheriff's CAMP grant figure of $6500 a pound. Some kind people in Briceland are donating some potted plants to him which they will grow in a garden under protocols worked out with the Sheriff's deputy. They will harvest and give him the marijuana, estimated to be a few ounces. Its not exactly a fairytale ending but its better than nothing.
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21 August 1997
Briceland area. A low flying helicopter coming over the house and corral spooked the pony which got its hooves caught in the corral fencing. The woman went out to try and calm the pony down and extricate it from the fence. While she was working with the pony the helicopter returned. It was "less than 100' above me." The pony freaked out again and the woman was nearly injured.
13 August 1997
Redway. Warrantless search of house, carpenters sent away by police after they ask about warrant.
Mid summer. Exotic aviary buzzed again. Fred Bauer, owner, presents Supervisors with bill for $42,000 in damages to his aviary. You'll find complaints from Fred are present every year. Nothing will stop the flyovers.
Mid summer. One week after testifying at a meeting CLMP arranged between victims of helicopter fly-overs and the MSP team, the county district supervisor and the Sheriff, helicopters flew over Jim's ostrich breeding operation for the 6th time this season. The result is infertile eggs, and a large bag of them was taken to the Board of SUpervisors to look at. Each egg, according to Jim, represents $1000 in lost breeding stock. Worse yet his whole business is going down the tubes. Business opportunities are being lost which may never return.
11 June 1997
Ettersburg. The ostrich aviary was overflown for the 5th time this season by a low helicopter. "One female ostrich had a serious injury with a swolen neck from hitting the fence, and other birds had bruises and contusions."
6 June 1997
Ettersburg. The ostrich aviary owner attended a meeting with MET and the Sheriff and explained the continuing problem with overflights damaging his birds.
28 May 1997
Ettersburg. The ostrich aviary was overflown by an olive drab helicopter, disturbing the birds. This was the 4th incident this year.
5 May 1997
Ettersburg. The ostrich aviary was overflown by an olive drab helicopter flying very low. It made two passes "frightening the birds and causing them to run into fences." The birds started laying defective eggs, due to stress. This was the 3rd incident this year.
10 April 1997
Ettersburg. The ostrich aviary was overflown for the 2nd time this season. An olive drab helicopter made two passes over the birds at about 200'. The owner attempted to reach the MET team by phone but they were not available. A third flyover occured, and the owner finally was able to reach the local Sheriff's substation to let them know what was going on.
9 April 1997
Ettersburg. The ostrich aviary was overflown twice in an hour, in the first of what was to be 6 separate incidents. The helicopter was olive drab, and flew over the birds at about 200'. The birds were stressed.