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Growing Greed 

Proposed marijuana ordinance is bad for Humboldt

Greed is dangerous: Don't turn your back on it. As the environmentalist who incorporated the Environmental Protection Information Center, I also have worked for years, largely through the Humboldt/Mendocino Marijuana Advocacy Project (HUMMAP), in the effort to secure an economic future for our county that is not boom-and-bust. The following generally represents HUMMAP's views.

Our economic future is, in a large part, tied to the marijuana industry. However, as everyone knows, the industry is struggling with greed. Humboldt hippies made the county world famous, and this is fact, not hype. They brought in the good genetics from the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1979, the same area now showered with Hellfire from Predators and Reapers. Those rare, fat seeds spread their children across North America and Europe.

Then younger hippies stabilized the CBD strains now wildly sought for treating pediatric seizures. These historic acts were achieved entirely outside the motive of greed. The activists involved were HUMMAP members personally known to me, and they are people who always knew that marijuana is something much more than money. Some even felt that money should never taint marijuana, but the changes we have brought to our culture could only have been accomplished with money, for which we all find some necessary and reasonable value.

The horrendous scene at Island Mountain — the alleged major environmental damage and 85,578 plants claimed eradicated — is clearly an example of extreme greed, and I thank the three sheriff's departments for taking it down. Greed has no limits! As California Cannabis Voice Humboldt Executive Director Richard Marks informed media, the raided properties involved leading CCVH members, and media reports indicate one of the properties is owned by one of the group's co-founders. CCVH now has the arrogance to present a marijuana ordinance for our board of supervisors to approve.

My contact with CCVH people was early and often. From the very beginning, they were never willing to accept our strong concerns against big grows and for environmental protection, and that shows in draft after draft of their ordinance. In my experience, their interest was to push us out of the picture. We have no millionaires funding us. Now that we see what was going on at Island Mountain, I ask you: Is theirs the ordinance we want?

There are much better alternatives based on the small farmer model that CCVH has tried to co-opt. What is a small farm? Present consensus sets an upper limit of about 2,500 square feet of canopy area, for all marijuana grown, irrespective of destination or purpose. This means no wiggle room on total amount grown. In our view, the small farmer lives full time on the farm, and thus he or she sees every day the need to respect the environment. Here, a person can concentrate on producing an exceptional product.

The comparison to other agricultural crops that we are seeing is not insightful, because the high-volume production of marijuana will take place in the Central Valley, and because the marijuana here is a high-value product. The branded niche market is our future, and only a high-quality product will preserve the enormous worldwide reputation we have already earned.

The issues around a major industry like this are many, complex and ever-changing. HUMMAP has proposed a commission with industry membership that can continually adjust to essential change. In this regard, this proposal has parallels in other industries, notably agriculture and forestry. This model can be established at the county level as a model for the state. It is important to get these kinds of legal details right at the beginning.

When money is the principal product, the corporadoes soon follow. Or the cartels. Do you really think our government is beyond the reach of corruption? Here is where it begins. A greed empire will only arise if we let it get a foothold. Big grows are exactly that beginning. Excess money, political henchpeople, guns.

Big grows are unhealthy for the environment, the community, the workers and the consumer. They are against what the Earth is crying for. Small farmers offer much better alternatives, and they alone keep the money local.

Humboldt County has solidly earned the right to be the center of responsible, high-quality marijuana cultivation. Please join us in deciding against greed.

Robert "Woods" Sutherland, a founding member of the Humboldt/Mendocino Marijuana Advocacy Project, resides near Ettersburg. He is searching for a publisher for his book on how to save the world in 321,412 difficult lessons. Any hope?

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