North Coast Journal bannerNEWSBRIEFS

August 3, 2000


Let your fingers complain

Marijuana ordinance eyed

Building in the redwoods

'Lonely Planet' in town

Senior drug policy debate


Let your fingers complain

You may have noticed that in the last few weeks your telephone's busy signal has a voice. To be more specific, it has a vaguely grandmotherly voice that, after a token busy signal is heard, chimes in to state the obvious: "That number is busy."

Thanks a lot.

The voice then continues with a sales pitch: "For 95 cents, let repeat dialing call you back when the line is free."

What the voice doesn't explain is how to register your displeasure with this new service or how to remove it from your phone.

For those unhappy with the new service, call the Public Utilities Commission at (800) 649-7570 to register a complaint, and then call Pac Bell's executive offices at (800) 791-6661 to remove the service.

Marijuana ordinance eyed

When District Attorney Terry Farmer presented the new guidelines for the enforcement and prosecution of the state's medical marijuana law two weeks ago, he sounded regretful. He said he was required to make decisions about how much marijuana is legally acceptable and for whom under Proposition 215, yet he "is not a doctor and not really qualified to do it.

"But somebody has got to do it," he added.

That somebody may the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors where his wife, Bonnie Neely, serves as a member.

A medical marijuana ordinance has been drafted by a committee that includes two of the five supervisors (John Woolley and Roger Rodoni), representatives of the medical community and individuals involved in the cultivation and use of medical marijuana. The ordinance sets out what is and what isn't allowed in Humboldt County.

But far from welcoming the proposed ordinance, Farmer is vocally opposing it. His own policy, formulated with input from Sheriff Dennis Lewis, is substantially different in the number of plants allowed, the method for measuring how much marijuana will be harvested from a given plant and how much discretion the officer at the scene has.

Under Farmer's policy, an individual is allowed to have 10 plants "of a size consistent with personal medical use," whether indoor or outdoor, or two pounds of processed marijuana. It is ultimately up to the officer at the scene to decide whether a recommendation is legitimate or if plants will produce more than the allowed two pounds.

That officer discretion is a source of controversy. On July 11 sheriff's deputies inspecting a medical marijuana garden owned by Larry Ford in Phillipsville -- at the owner's invitation -- destroyed 36 of 40 plants being grown for himself and three other patients. Deputies reasoned two of the four patients had no justification for having marijuana grown in that garden, as they didn't officially reside on the property. That left two valid patients, each with a two-pound allowance. Deputies let each keep two plants, reasoning that each plant could produce a pound.

Eugene Denson, an attorney and medical marijuana advocate who helped draft the county's proposed ordinance, said that while it was "botanically possible" for a plant to yield a pound, "very few plants actually do."

Denson said that the county's ordinance as drafted allows patients growing outdoors to have 24 immature plants or 12 mature ones. Patients growing indoors will have their capacity limited by parameters of space and light, rather than plant count. Officers at the scene, he said, are to comply with the ordinance and have less room to make judgments on the scene.

Rather than destroy plants while they are still growing, Denson suggested that law enforcement officials who suspect extra marijuana is being grown contact the district attorney to investigate -- or they could simply "come at harvest and bust 'em."

Both Lewis and Farmer say they do not agree with the ordinance and would not feel bound by it. At a supervisors meeting July 25, Farmer said he thinks the ordinance is more liberal than Proposition 215 and that following it would entail breaking state law.

The draft ordinance is in the hands of County Counsel Tamara Falor and will be considered by the board in late August.

Denson said passing and enforcing the ordinance was becoming a legal necessity, as the Proposition 215's local interpretation was simply too nebulous.

"At this point as an attorney I cannot tell my clients what they need to do to avoid prosecution."

Building in the redwoods

[drawing of HSU building proposal]Humboldt State University officials say the proposed behavioral and social science building is well designed, necessary for the future of HSU and appropriate to the site.

Some neighbors and Arcata officials say otherwise about the 87,000-square-foot building that has an overall height of 95 feet -- taller than the new jail addition to the County Courthouse in Eureka.

"Personally, my feeling is that it's a great building and a great site. The two are not compatible," said Jim Gast, a member of the Union Street Association, which opposes the building.

Gast, a retired HSU professor whose wife, Thea Gast, is a former Arcata mayor, also cites increased traffic, lack of community input into the planning process and the effect that the building could have on Arcata's skyline, not to mention the Union Street feeling as a neighborhood.

Ken Combs, HSU director of physical services, said many of neighbors' concerns stem from misinformation. He said Union Street residents have been involved in the planning process since the early 1990s and the building is designed to route traffic around the neighborhood.

Concerning the height, Combs said the building was designed to maximize space while saving the redwood groves which are supposed to block the view of the building from the south and west. The view from the east, visible by neighbors, will be unobstructed.

Arcata Mayor Connie Stewart said city leaders are concerned about the impacts of the building but are powerless to stop it. The site is on state land, not within city jurisdiction.

The building, to be constructed at a cost of about $23.5 million, is expected to be started next year and to be finished by 2003.

`Lonely Planet' in town

Lonely Planet, a widely popular travel guide company, is in Humboldt County filming this week. The footage will be used for the finale of its travel documentary Lonely Planet Guide to California to air in January on cable television.

The film crew is marveling at the redwoods, eating at the Samoa Cookhouse, visiting Willow Creek to search for Bigfoot and spending Friday at Reggae on the River, according to the agenda supplied by the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

And where does a film crew go to rest after all that hectic sightseeing? Complimentary accommodations at the Eureka Inn, of course.

"As usual, the members of the visitors bureau bend over backwards to make these people welcome," said Tony Smithers, marketing director.

With good reason -- the show has an audience of more than 30 million, guaranteeing anyone who gets a plug worldwide exposure.

Senior drug policy debate

While the Republican Party platform took national center stage in Philadelphia this week, some locals took issue with some of its planks -- particularly the GOP's solution to high drug prices for seniors.

Republicans are proposing a subsidy to seniors enrolled in Medicare health maintenance organizations, but such HMOs do not exist in Humboldt County and other rural areas.

Local Democrats, and some senior health care advocates, held a press conference Tuesday in Eureka backing President Clinton's plan --prescription drug benefit for all seniors starting at $25 per month.

In other medical news, the county Department of Social Services announced a new service, applications for medical assistance for low income individuals and families by mail. For information, call 268-3471.


In a story last week on the pending dissolution of the Arcata Family Health Center, an incorrect number of patients was reported. The correct number served by AFHC is 12,000.

The number of patients served by Eureka Family Practice, which is physician-owned and now independent of St. Joseph Health System-Humboldt County, is 15,000.

The Journal apologizes for the error.

-- reported by Arno Holschuh and Judy Hodgson


Comments? E-mail the Journal:

North Coast Journal banner

© Copyright 2000, North Coast Journal, Inc.