Medical / Health

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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Thursday, July 28, 2016

UPDATED: Humboldt Dog Tests Positive for Rabies

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 4:56 PM

The 11-month-old dog that was euthanized after contracting rabies earlier this month had undergone its first round of rabies vaccination, which starts at around 3 months old with series of subsequent boosters, and was “legally vaccinated for its age,” said Amanda Ruddy, consumer protection supervisor with the division of Environmental Health.

“Of course, with all vaccinations, immunity does build up over time,” she said.

One of the owners told the Journal that his dog interacted with about half a dozen people in the time frame of the infection at two locations: his work and home.

Ruddy said the investigation and outreach by the health officials is still ongoing.
“The parties involved have been extremely cooperative,” she said.

Continue reading »

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Rat Infestation Leads to Finger Pointing as Ray's Leaves Hoopa

Posted By on Sun, Jun 26, 2016 at 11:55 AM

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A rodent infestation and a nasty public spat over who’s at fault have combined to close the Hoopa Valley’s only grocery store.

The problem first crept into public view last week, after numerous complaints to Humboldt County Environmental Health Services regarding a large rat infestation at Ray’s Food Place that left rat droppings, gnawed products and the smell of urine throughout the store. The store initially announced it would close some parts of the store, then announced it would fully close until repairs could be made. Now Ray's is announcing that it’s terminating its lease.

There has been a volley of finger pointing between the tribe, which owns the building, and the store, C&K Markets, Inc., which owns the Ray’s grocery chain and is officially the tribe’s tenant. The tribe has maintained that C&K has been callous and indifferent to problems at the store — the only place for tribal members to buy groceries in a 10-plus mile radius. And C&K has pointed the finger back, saying the tribe hasn’t kept the building up and has been unresponsive.

That trend continued Friday, when both sides issued accusatory press releases announcing the split.

In it’s release, Ray’s maintains it has not heard from the tribe since June 17 and that for nine years the store has been trying to negotiate for a long-term lease that would allow the company to make improvements to the store property, but that the tribe “did not respond to our inquires, so we’ve operated on a month-to-month basis.” The company says it has been working to address the rodent issue but wouldn’t reopen without a long-term lease from the tribe.

“Smooth store operations require a good working relationship with the landlord; we do not have that partnership with the tribe,” the release states. “Given the tribe’s lack of interest in talking with us about retaining us as tenants, we are giving notice that we will vacate the store on Aug. 31, 2016. The store will not reopen. … We cannot operate a store when the building owner ignores us and does not respond to us.”

The tribe, on the other hand, said in its release that it has made every effort to make the store a safe place to shop. “The rodent infestation inside the store, which appears to have developed over an extended period of time, is reprehensible and unacceptable,” the press release states. “Ray’s should be ashamed of themselves for expecting tribal and community members to purchase products contaminated with rat feces, oils, and urine.”

Regardless of who is at fault in the situation, for the foreseeable future tribal members will have to get by without a grocery store in their community, which poses as a problem as some members do not have cars and public transportation options are limited in the valley. The tribe states in its release that it’s “working diligently” on short and long-term solutions to ensure access to safe and healthy food. Some of these may include grocery distributions and free transportation to stores in Eureka and Arcata.

See the full press releases from both entities copied below:

From the Hoopa Valley Tribe:

The Hoopa Valley Tribe has made every effort to work with Ray’s Food Place and C & K Markets, Inc. in order to ensure that Ray’s Food Place in Hoopa is a safe place for community members to shop. The rodent infestation inside the store, which appears to have developed over an extended period of time, is reprehensible and unacceptable. Ray’s should be ashamed of themselves for expecting tribal and community members to purchase products contaminated with rat feces, oils, and urine.
The Tribe has therefore determined that the severance of our business relationship with Ray’s and C & K is in the best interests of the community due to health and safety concerns. The Hoopa Valley Tribal Council Members want to assure the membership and the community that they are working diligently to develop both short-term and long-term solutions that ensure access to safe and healthy food. The Hoopa Valley Tribe will make every effort to publicize any and all temporary services we provide on an ongoing basis, including grocery distributions and free transportation to stores in the Eureka/Arcata area, which will assist them with their household shopping needs.
The Tribe will continue to use all communication avenues at its disposal to provide updates to the membership and the community regarding our efforts.

Press release from Ray’s Food Place:

Our last communication from the Hoopa Valley Tribe was Friday, June 17. This is not an unusual situation, as the Tribe has often been unresponsive to us. For the past nine years, we’ve expressed our interest in negotiating a long-term lease, so we could make improvements in the store. The Tribe did not respond to our inquiries, so we’ve operated on a month-to-month basis.
Last week, we voluntarily closed Ray’s Food Place in Hoopa due to rodent issues that were not acceptable to us. We also took the initiative to hire contractors to seal the exterior of the store to prevent further rodent entry. Over this past weekend, our contractors removed refrigeration systems and started other in-store eradication efforts. Planning and completing this work required that the store be closed to the public. Earlier, we indicated that we would reopen the store as soon as we had a long-term lease with the Tribe.
Despite numerous attempts to communicate with the Tribe, C&K management has not heard from them for almost a week. Smooth store operations require a good working relationship with the landlord; we do not have that partnership with the Tribe. Given the Tribe’s lack of interest in talking with us about retaining us as tenants, we are giving notice that we will vacate the store on August 31, 2016. The store will not reopen.
We will offer Hoopa store employees positions at other stores, but we know that may not be an option for all of them. We also realize that our store is a very convenient place for people to shop, and closing will mean that many will have to travel to obtain food. Yet, we cannot operate a store when the building owner ignores us and does not respond to us. We extend our appreciation to our employees and customers for their support over the years.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Grand Jury Blasts Behavioral Health Board for Lack of Oversight

Posted By on Sun, Jun 19, 2016 at 8:47 AM

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The Humboldt County Behavioral Health Board, which is statutorily tasked with oversight of the delivery of mental health services locally, has been largely ineffective, making few recommendations and failing to deliver its mandated annual reports to the Board of Supervisors, according to a recent report by the Humboldt County grand jury.

The grand jury is recommending that the board not only submit its past due reports but that it also undergo “training to fully understand its duties and roles, and to proceed proactively to carry out the requirements” of state law. The grand jury’s report notes that the 15-member behavioral heath board is made up of “well-intentioned” people who are “well versed” on mental health issues, but it says the volunteer board members are “overwhelmed due to the amount of work.”

That work, according to the report, consists of sitting through monthly meetings in which administrators with the county Department of Health and Human Services and its Mental Health Branch made presentations. “The board did not proactively engage in making recommendations, advise (the board of supervisors) or evaluate procedures and programs,” the report states.

The report notes that this state of passivity continued even after a county consultant, W. Brown Creative Partners, issued a report that was critical of the culture within the department and “described serious and ‘special problems’ within the mental health branch." It also continued even as most of the branch’s psychiatrists resigned in 2015, setting off a widely publicized crisis within the department. Grand jury interviews, the report states, “confirmed that there was no discussion of either the Brown Assessment Study or the mass resignation of physicians by the (Behavioral Health Board).”

The grand jury's recommendation is that the behavioral health board expand its membership, catch up on its past-due reports, undergo training and “study and then proceed to proactively carry out the requirements” of state law. Further, the grand jury is recommending that the board of supervisors more actively oversee the board and that it ensure the behavioral health board has “sufficient resources and authority” to fulfill its duties.

A press release from the grand jury is copied below and the full report is available in PDF form below.

Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury
John Heckel, Foreperson

Press Release: 6-17-2016
For Immediate Release

The Humboldt County Behavioral Health Board

The 2015-2016 Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury (HCCGJ) received several complaints regarding the Mental Health Branch of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Those complaints conveyed dysfunctional work guidelines, distrustful working relationships, unresponsive upper management, mass resignations, and an unsupportive work environment. The complaints reflected the concerns of a broad base of community mental health advocates and Mental Health Branch staff. The number of complaints and the wide spectrum of those filing complaints instigated this HCCGJ investigation.

While many Humboldt County department heads and elected officials could have been more proactive in identifying problems within the Mental Health Branch of DHHS, this role is specifically assigned to the Humboldt County Behavioral Health Board by the Bronzan-McCorquodale Act of 1991. The HCCGJ finds that the BHB failed to exercise this important role.

A review of the BHB actions revealed few recommendations, fewer comments on policies, little advice to governing bodies, and seldom reviewed or evaluated community mental health needs. The Minutes from the board’s meetings reveal the BHB’s time was primarily spent listening to reports from the DHHS and Mental Health Branch employees. The Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury could find no evidence that mandated annual reports had been filed for several years with the Board of Supervisors.

The Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury recommends that the BHB submit its past due annual reports to the BOS and thereafter submit, in a timely manner, its required written annual report. The Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury recommends that the Humboldt County Behavioral Health Board undergo training to fully understand its duties and roles, and to proceed proactively to carry out the legal requirements of the Bronzan-McCorquodale Act.

With any coverage of this Grand Jury report please include: Access to the entire Grand Jury report may be obtained by going to 

Full Report

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Right-to-die, Smoking Bills go into Effect Today

Posted By on Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 4:29 PM

As of today, terminally ill Californians have the right — with doctors’ recommendations — to end their lives rather than live out the course of their diseases.

The bill, which passed after decades of attempts (and the ongoing work of former North Coast Assemblywoman Patty Berg) was controversial, unsurprisingly. It received Governor approval last year, after the high-profile death of Brittany Maynard, a Bay Area native who moved to Oregon last year to carry out her legal doctor-assisted death after being diagnosed with brain cancer. The Journal featured her story, and has written multiple times about the changing ways that locals face the end of their lives.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Drowning Near Holmes Flat First of the Year

Posted By on Mon, Jun 6, 2016 at 2:54 PM

A Fortuna man was this year's first confirmed drowning victim, according to the Humboldt County Coroner's Office. Timothy Hatten, 33, was reportedly trying to rescue two children when he succumbed to the current, according to an interview with Hatten's family on the SoHum blog Redheaded Blackbelt. The children were reportedly pulled from the water by two other men who joined Hatten in the rescue effort.

The Humboldt County Coroner's office said this is the first confirmed drowning death of the year, though 22-year-old Paul Martin, of Hoopa, is presumed dead after being swept away in the Trinity River in April. His body has not been recovered. Last year there were seven drownings by June, and a total of 12 for the year.

"There's no rhyme or reason to it," said Judy Price at the coroner's office. 

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Arcata Police Now Carry a Life-Saving Overdose Drug

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 4:22 PM

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Arcata police have become the first in the county to carry Naloxone, a life-saving medication that counteracts opiate overdoses.

Officers have been trained by county public health officials to identify and respond to people suffering from an overdose. Equipping officers with the drug and skills to administer is a big step in an ongoing effort by multiple local agencies to address Humboldt County's staggering overdose and hospitalization rates.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Human Remains Found on Eel River

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2016 at 9:33 AM

A person canoeing the Eel River on Sunday found human remains close to Stafford. Due to their extreme state of decomposition, the coroner's office has not been able to learn the sex or any other identifying features of the body.

Chief Deputy Coroner Ernie Stewart said it appeared the body had been there "quite some time." The majority of the body was on shore with one hand still in contact with the water. The remains may be shipped to Chico for identification; Stewart confirmed that dental records may be an option for identification.

A skull on the Eel River in March 2015 on the Eel River was identified as the remains of Daniele Bertolini, one of two missing women whose deaths are believed to be connected. The fate of Sheila Franks, the second woman, is still unknown. 

From the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office:

On May 15, 2016 at about 1:00 PM the Sheriff's Office was notified by a person canoeing on the Eel River of possible human remains found on the Shively side of the Eel River near Stafford. Deputies responded to the location and were able to confirm that the remains were of human origin.

A Sheriff's Detective and Deputy Coroner responded to the scene. The remains are described as mostly skeletal. Due to the extreme decomposition of the body, it is unknown if the remains are male or female at this time. Further examination by a pathologist or anthropologist may be needed before we have any further information to release.

Anyone with further information regarding this case is encouraged to contact the Sheriff's Office.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sorry, Kids: Tobacco Buying Age Hiked to 21, Vaping Restricted

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2016 at 1:40 PM

Beginning June 9, you'll have to prove you're 21 to buy tobacco. Thanks to a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Jim Wood, California is joining Hawaii as the second state in the nation to raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases. Members of the armed services are exempt. 

The announcement that Gov. Jerry Brown had signed the bill into law comes in the wake of a study from the Institute of Medicine, released in March of 2015, that predicted smoking rates for youth could drop as much as 12 percent were the purchasing age raised. 

"Most tobacco users start the habit when they are young. Along with increasing the cost of tobacco products, making access to tobacco illegal for youth up to age 21 will discourage use of this highly addictive product," said Susan Buckley, Public Health Director at the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services.

Brown also signed a bill banning the use of e-cigarettes (vaping) in the same public places where traditional tobacco use is currently prohibited. The federal Food and Drug Administration recently announced that e-cigarettes would be regulated under the same guidelines as traditional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. 

Another bill, Senate Bill 1333, which would ban tobacco use in state parks and beaches, is scheduled to go before the  Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday.

From Assemblymember Jim Wood: 

SACRAMENTO – Today Governor Jerry Brown signed SB2X-7 raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 for the nearly 40 million people living in California.

Assemblyman Wood said, “Getting to this point feels like reaching the finish line of a long quest in California, but it is just the beginning for the country. We have kicked this door down for our colleagues in other states to follow. The wave in Hawaii has turned into a tsunami in California, and I think it won’t be  long before we see it roll all the way to Washington D.C. As the largest state in the country California’s courage on this issue should lead the way for other states to step up to the challenge. The Governor and my colleagues deserve tremendous credit for displaying the courage it took to do the right thing.”

Senate Bill (SB) 2X-7 is part of the Second Extraordinary Session called by the Governor in June 2015 and represents a merger of Assemblyman Jim Wood’s (D-Healdsburg) Assembly Bill (AB) 2X-8 and Senator Ed Hernández’s (D-West Covina) SB2X-7. Assemblyman Wood is the principle co-author of the bill.

Assemblymember Wood served as Mayor when the City of Healdsburg became the first city in the state to pass a ban on the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 years old.

“It is incredible to see something I worked on in a small town in northern California turn into such a huge public health victory and something that will benefit the whole state. Finally, after decades of stagnation, we have passed the most significant tobacco reform legislation in 50 years in California. This policy will prevent countless young people from becoming addicted to a substance that has claimed the lives of millions of their ancestors,” said Assemblyman Wood.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bill Aims to Ease Hospital Hiring Restrictions to Boost Rural Docs

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 5:16 PM

Assemblyman Jim Wood. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • Assemblyman Jim Wood.
In an effort to curb the chronic lack of health care in rural areas like Humboldt County, the state Assemblyman Jim Wood-led Health Committee passed a bill that would give small-town hospitals more freedom to hire doctors.

The bill is a response to the difficulties rural areas have attracting and retaining medical providers (as the Journal has written about here and here).

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