Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Three Homicide Victims over Weekend

Posted By on Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 5:15 PM

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is investigating three homicide cases this week after two men were discovered dead at a large marijuana grow operation near Hyampom and an August robbery victim died of his gunshot wounds over the holiday weekend.

Deputies were called out to the Hyampom scene by the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday, which was determined to be just within the Humboldt County limits.

“We’re still investigating the incident and the investigation, at this point, leads us to multiple assailants,” sheriff’s office Public Information Officer Selena Zorrilla-Mendoza said.

The sheriff’s office also identified Dana Hudson, 44, as the victim of an armed robbery in Willow Creek in August. He died Monday from “multiple complications from gunshot wounds,” according to a news release.

From the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

On Sunday, September 4, 2016 at approximately 11:30 a.m. the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a report from the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) regarding a double homicide. Deputies responded to the incident location, a residence on US Forest Service Road 3N14 South Fork Mountain in Hyampom.

Deputies met with TCSO Deputies and were told two male adults were deceased in the residence.

Deputies located several living structures and large marijuana grow sites throughout the property. HCSO Detectives responded to investigate the homicides. The investigation at this time indicates multiple assailants. Additional suspect information will be released accordingly.

The Drug Enforcement Unit obtained a search warrant for the marijuana grows on site. The search warrant was served and revealed another marijuana grow on a neighboring property. A search warrant was obtained for the neighboring property and served on Monday, September 5th.

Autopsies will be performed on Tuesday, September 6th. Names of the victims will be released after next of kin has been notified.

The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case is encouraged to call Detective Peterson at 707-268-3663 or the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251.

From the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

On Monday, September 5, 2016 the victim from the armed robbery shooting passed away. The victim has been identified as 44 year old Dana Hudson. Hudson died from multiple complications from gunshot wounds.

This case is now being investigated as a homicide.

Previous press release: On 08-12-2016 at 11:50 a.m. Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Deputies responded to a report of an armed robbery that just occurred off Sabretooth Road, Willow Creek. It was reported to the Sheriff’s Office that approximately 2- 3 male suspects took the victim’s yellow pickup truck. While deputies were responding to the scene they received information that a male victim had been shot.

The male victim is currently being airlifted to an out of the area hospital. At this time unknown condition on the male victim. Sheriff Deputies are currently securing the scene. Detectives have been called out to take over the investigation

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Registration Deadlines Loom for Marijuana Farmers

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 2:24 PM

  • File
Humboldt County marijuana farmer's train to legitimacy is preparing to leave the station.

There are a couple of deadlines looming for marijuana growers throughout the county who want to go legit. Most imminently, Tuesday is the last day for people or businesses to register existing medical cannabis cultivation sites with the county. This is a necessary step for those wanting to be deemed in “good standing” under California’s new Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, a designation that will make folks eligible for “priority processing” for a state license when they come available.

Now to be fully eligible for the “good standing” designation, operations must be fully permitted and reviewed by the Humboldt County sheriff, the district attorney, the agricultural commissioner and the division of environmental health. But the first step down that road is registration, and the deadline to get the three-page registration packets to Planning and Building is the close of business Tuesday (packets can also be sent electronically or postmarked by the end of the day on Aug. 23).

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Medical Marijuana Tax Bill Goes Up in Smoke

Posted By on Sat, Aug 13, 2016 at 2:45 PM

The Legislature has backed away from a pair of bills that would have imposed next taxes on medical marijuana. - PHOTO BY SHANGO LOS
  • photo by Shango Los
  • The Legislature has backed away from a pair of bills that would have imposed next taxes on medical marijuana.
The second bill by a North Coast lawmaker seeking to tax medical marijuana has died quietly in the California Legislature, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat is reporting.

North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, had authored a unique bill aiming to tax the state’s booming medical marijuana market that appeared to have widespread support, passing the Assembly with a 60-12 vote and easily clearing a Senate committee a couple of months ago. But Thursday, according to the Press Democrat, the bill was shelved by the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee without comment. Making things all the bleaker for the bill’s prospects of resurfacing, Wood told the Press Democrat on Friday that he wasn’t given a reason for the committee’s decision and that he is “hugely disappointed.”

Wood’s bill would have imposed an excise tax of $4.75, $9.25 or $13.25 per ounce of produced marijuana bud depending on cultivation volume, and a $1.25 per-plant levy for immature plants. The bill was expected to raise up to $80 million annually, 90 percent of which would have been earmarked for local law enforcement and environmental cleanups.

A bill by North Coast Sen. Mike McGuire that would have imposed a 10 percent sales tax on medical marijuana products died in committee in June, as we previously reported. Opponents of both bills had voiced an ethical problem with imposing revenue generating taxes on a medicine.

The apparent death of Wood’s bill leaves no active medical marijuana tax bills in the Legislature this year. However, Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which seeks to legalize recreational use in California and is set to go before voters in November, does include some hefty tax provisions. Specifically, the measure would impose a $9.25 per ounce excise tax on all marijuana production and a 15 percent tax on all sales. In total, revenue from the proposition is projected to reach up to $1 billion annually.

For more, check out the full Press Democrat story here and prior Journal coverage here.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Lawsuit Settled, but HUMMAP Wants More

Posted By on Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 4:28 PM

  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
The suit the Humboldt-Mendocino Marijuana Advocacy Project brought against the county of Humboldt following its January adoption of a commercial medical marijuana ordinance was settled on July 5, but HuMMAP says there’s still much work left to be done.

The suit, filed in February, was an attempt to “block the environmental damage” it saw as an inevitability following the passage of the ordinance. Among HuMMAP’s chief concerns was the lack of an environmental impact report. As a condition of the settlement, the county has agreed not to modify or accept permit applications past the Dec. 31 deadline until an EIR is prepared. Additional language will be added to the ordinance to address noise from generators, the purchase of carbon credits and the role of Cal Fire. Cal Fire, in the words of HuMMAP’s press release, has such “strong objections … that they did not wish to be substantially involved in the permitting process.” (Cal Fire's public information officer did return calls or emails from the Journal; we will update if contacted.)

In its press release, HUMMAP calls out “environmental groups,” saying “as a trade group we saw it was necessary to make up for unacceptable lapses by environmentalists.” The Environmental Protection Information Center declined to comment on this issue.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cottage Marijuana Farm Bill and Other Provisions Pass Assembly

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 5:07 PM

  • Grant Scott-Goforth
A newly drafted protection for "micro" weed farmers is making its way through state lawmakers' chambers. 

The Assembly just passed North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood's “Cottage Cannabis Farmers Bill" that would add a new medical marijuana cultivator license to the state regulatory framework passed last year. The new license type will be available to outdoor farms under 2,500 square feet and indoor grows under 500 square feet, and will be regulated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“We are trying to ensure small medical cannabis growers on the North Coast can continue to do business as this industry moves forward," Wood said in a press release. "It is not fair to require the small farmers to adhere to the same standards as larger operations."

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Remains Found at Cuneo Creek Park Identified

Posted By on Thu, May 12, 2016 at 1:16 PM

Human remains found in Cuneo Creek State Park in 2014 have been identified by the county coroner's office as those of a Mexican citizen, 31-year-old Luis Eduardo Raya. The Journal originally broke the story here. (Heads up: the original story includes a photograph of the remains.)

While the press release says the remains were identified via DNA testing in August 2015, Undersheriff William Honsal told the Journal there was no call for the information to be released to the public at that time. The coroner made arrangements with Raya's family to transport his remains back to Mexico.

But a recent large-scale marijuana bust near the same area (see press release, below) renewed public attention to the remains, with some media outlets reporting that the two might be connected. This, says Honsal, is why the coroner's office was directed to send out a press release identifying Raya. Neither Honsal nor Deputy Coroner Roy Horton could confirm a connection between Raya and the grow site when the Journal contacted them Wednesday, and a cause of death for Raya is still unknown. 

From the California Department of Parks and Recreation:

WEOTT, Calif. - California State Park Rangers, assisted by multiple agencies, raided an illegal marijuana grow in Humboldt Redwoods State Park removing marijuana seedling plants, an assault rifle and toxic chemicals Monday, May 9, 2016.

Three armed suspects were located in a nearby illegal camp near Bull Creek and fled on foot when contacted by law enforcement. The three suspects remain at large.

At the illegal camp, rangers recovered an MK99 type assault rifle with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Rangers also found rodenticides and Furdadan, a highly toxic pesticide, within the grow site. Approximately 2,000 seedling marijuana plants were removed.

Twenty acres of State Park land had been illegally cleared of native vegetation. The marijuana plants were watered directly from water diverted from the tributaries of Bull Creek.

Forty cubic yards of trash, fertilizers, pesticides, rodenticides, water hoses, hazardous material and other supplies were removed from the area. Disposal costs were paid for in part with assistance from the Humboldt County Public Works’ "Measure Z" public safety funding.

The marijuana grow and camp was found within a quarter-mile of pristine old-growth redwood forest. Rangers were assisted by the California National Guard, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Lear Asset Management. A team from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps assisted with trash removal.

Anyone with information regarding this particular resource crime or others on our State Parks lands please contact California State Parks at (707) 445-6547.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Weed Legalization Headed to the California Ballot

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 12:47 PM

Gavin Newsom visits with pot growers and local lawmakers in Garberville. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • Gavin Newsom visits with pot growers and local lawmakers in Garberville.
Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (who visited Humboldt County pot farms last year) is launching the campaign for legal recreational marijuana today with support for an initiative that gathered enough votes to be on the November ballot.

The initiative, which will need voter approval of more than 50 percent, has long been considered the most realistic of several proposed and rumored initiatives to pass, given its financial support from bigwigs like ex-Facebook President Sean Parker and political support from many in the establishment. 

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Huffman Urges DOJ to Clarify Stance on Pot Advertising

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 1:57 PM

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman is urging the Department of Justice to rebuff the U.S. Postal Service’s requests and publicly state that it won’t prosecute businesses who are mailing advertisements for marijuana but are acting in line with state law.

Huffman joined seven of his colleagues in penning a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging her to “clarify” how the Department of Justice intends to respond to the USPS’ referring newspapers to her office for potential prosecution for violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act. By “clarify,” the members of congress mean publicly state “that DOJ will not prosecute individuals who are placing advertisements for marijuana products in accordance with state law.”

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Friday, March 11, 2016

There's Weed-Infused Vodka Now

Posted By on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 2:21 PM

  • Submitted
We all knew it was coming to this. Humboldt Distillery — which began selling its Humboldt Vodka brand a couple years ago — has released a cannabis-infused vodka called, obviously, "Humboldt's Finest." 

Owner Abe Stevens explains in a press release that the vodka — which doesn't have any THC in it, rendering it legal to sell — has an "herbal and aromatic quality reminiscent of fresh cannabis, and we've found it works very well in place of gin, giving classic cocktails a fresh new spin.” 

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Sundberg: Pot Tax Will be on November Ballot

Posted By and on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 5:04 PM

  • Sundberg
Humboldt County Supervisor Ryan Sundberg told KINS Radio this morning the county plans to put a medical marijuana cultivation excise tax on the November ballot.

A projection tallied by the interim county administrative officer, Sundberg said, projects the tax earning $2 million in the first year, assuming a $1-per-square-foot fee and 10 percent participation from growers. It’s unclear if that’s 10 percent of the growers expected to enter into the county program, or 10 percent of the county’s total growers (a sum which is currently unknown).

By law, permit fees can only cover the staff time necessary to implement the county’s new business licensing ordinance (over which the supervisors were sued the day it was enacted), but tax revenue would go into the general fund and could be used to pay for anything the supervisors deem a priority, whether it's bolstering public safety services or creating a Housing First fund. “I’m sure they’ll find a good use for it,” Sundberg said.

Meanwhile, North Coast Sen. Mike McGuire has introduced legislation that would impose a 15-percent excise tax on retail purchases of medical marijuana in California, which would come in addition to current state and local sales taxes. In a statement, McGuire said the tax proposed under his Senate Bill 987 is necessary to "help fund the areas that are most affected by the cultivation — those communities that have long been paying the price of the negative effects of cultivation brought on by the 'bad actors' who destroy the environment and bring in crime."

But the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has come out against McGuire's bill — and any taxes imposed directly on medical marijuana production or sales — saying, in the words of Director Dale Gieringer, that "it will only encourage marijuana suppliers to move to the illegal, untaxed, unregulated adult use market." Meanwhile, some patient advocacy groups have questioned the morality of taxing a medication relied on by patients, including some who are terminally ill and on fixed incomes, pointing out that even a tax on producers will eventually be passed on to consumers through retail pricing.

"I understand that we need to pay for regulation," Dale Sky Jones, chair of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, told LA Weekly. "However, slapping a sin tax on patients is not the way to do it."

Jones suggested lawmakers hold off on imposing taxes on marijuana until it's legalized for adult recreational use, which many expect will happen when voters hit the polls in November.

For his part, McGuire told the Sacramento Bee that federally regulated prescription drugs, which cannot be taxed, and medical marijuana, which can only be recommended by a doctor, are different. "I'm not saying it's right, but there has to be a clear distinction," McGuire told the paper.

Humboldt County, meanwhile, is confronting a sizable structural deficit. Under a budget forecast released last month, the county's moderate projection has it facing a $3.8 million deficit next year that will all but deplete its reserves, leaving some very difficult choices heading into 2017-2018, when it will face a forecasted deficit of $3.4 million without the cushion of reserve funds. The optimistic version — which includes marijuana excise tax revenues and some other favorable assumptions — has the county facing a manageable deficit through 2020-2021, when it will face a $1.5 million gap with about $1.2 million in reserves. The pessimistic version has the county depleting its reserves by 2017-2018, and facing a structural deficit of almost $10 million by 2020-2021.
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