Indoor Grows in Arcata Face Neighbors' Anger

Rose, on her blog, linked to the Arcata Eye’s opinion piece on indoor grows (I highly recommend reading this short piece) and other marijuana related problems. The recent posts here about diesel grows have been an attempt to open the conversation about one aspect of marijuana production in the hills of Humboldt County. While I personally am for legalizing marijuana (even though the resulting financial fallout could be devastating to the North Coast), I recognize there are environmental and social problems associated with marijuana production in all aspects. As a community we need to talk about the situation and brainstorm solutions for the grower, the consumer, and the growers’ neighborhoods.

The Arcata Eye is advocating sending letters to suspected grow houses. Kevin Hoover, editor, charges that problems associated with those structures “…include pungent marijuana odor, building code violations, fires, home invasion robberies, threats to neighbors and loss of neighborly community.”

How prevalent are the concerns he mentions? Living in the hills, not squished on top of someone else, I find the aroma of just harvested marijuana pleasurable (and, no, I don’t smoke it). Might I feel differently if that smell daily overwhelmed the aromas wafting off my sweet jasmine or freshly cut lawn?

When I look at the concerns listed, I don’t find all the problems convincing. Building code violations are not just prevalent here in the hills but omnipresent without much fallout that I can see except to the owner. However, I know town dwellers rightly have a different set of expectations. Fire danger is a concern here as well as there. But I question the prevalence of violent crime associated in the letter with marijuana growing. However, I don’t live there. Maybe I’m not aware of problems. Or maybe the problems are puffs of smoke from some person’s pipe like the bodies littering Salmon Creek as mentioned in the comment section of Eric’s blog.

Real or imagined–failure to talk about perceived problems is going to lead to failure of our community spirit. I urge people to get involved and try and work together to solve the real problems and dissipate the smoke from imagined ones.

UPDATE: North Coast Journal posts a photo depicting increasing anger at Marijuana Grow houses.

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Photo from Wikipedia Commons

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19 comments

  • The problem is the amount you can smell from one area. Around the “special times” whole areas can just reek of pot, not smell of it, reek. You know those older ladies that wear way too much flowery perfume? It’s like that, but worse. The cars and trucks speeding around at night to visit the grow houses are also quite the pain. These “new town” growers think that they need a Dodge Diesel (which for some reason, people insult me with that comment, but that’s another story) with all the trick off road gear they can fit on it, so they can drive home to home to check their plants, and then when they are done with the used-up soil, they drive out Kneeland road and dump it on the side of the road.

    If everybody was fucking smart and grew a little, there wouldn’t be a problem, but when you stuff a house full of plants, which if you are renting a home means all kinds of damage to the inside, and the stink is a bit much. What is going to happen is that the FBI and DEA and going to come to Arcata and Humboldt and clean house like the Four Horsemen and I, for one, don’t want to read all the stupid letters to the editor about that happening.

  • I agree with you, Kym, this is stuff that needs to be talked about.

    There are building code violations and then there are building code violations. The ones associated with grow houses have to do with the serious stuff like bad electrical wiring, which leads to fires and endangers neighbors. It’s not the same as a set of stairs being a bit off.

    Then there’s the crime that comes with the grow houses. And the destruction of property (usually a rental)…

    It’s sad, the intent of 215 may have been compassionate use or just recognition that people growing a few plants for their own use weren’t criminals.

    The abuses are going to ruin it for those people. For everyone really. It’ll end up being hyper regulated, relegated to AG areas – already rental agreements are being written spelling out NO plants of any kind, not even house plants.

    Kevin’s had a number of excellent stories on the topic – maybe he’ll put up a master link.

  • BTW – I don’t know how accurate is, but some people are saying that 1 in 3 houses in Arcata are now growhouses.

  • Thanks you guys, I like hearing points that make me pause.

    1 in 3 is a grow? Sheesh, what is it going to do to Arcata’s finances if they all disappear? It can’t be that many houses.

  • One in three seems rather “high” But if you include homes that have small grows in them, I could see that. And how many are close to schools in this town?

  • I have lived next to a grow house in northtown for 2 years now and I don’t care for it for these reasons:

    1. I watched the house get sold above market-value (which creates a housing bubble)
    2. The residency of my block has gone down, which drives rent up considering it’s a desirable neighborhood to live in.
    3. The neighborhood/community feel starts to go away the more empty and anti-social houses that are around. That is something distinctly different than what I’ve experienced with growers in the hills where there is often a sense of neighborliness and comradery.
    4. They have very young and blatant trimmers coming and going once every two months. I have no problem with young people trimming, but there should be some professionalism – again, it is a neighborhood.
    5. Now after 2 years, they have been so blantant and are so well known for being a grow house that I am concerned about someone coming and ripping them off.

    I commend Kevin Hoover for taking on this topic because I’ve talked to a surprising number of people in Arcata that animately feel that this topic simply shouldn’t be discussed, it would only be inviting trouble. What kind of free and democratic society would that be?

  • You also have to worry about things like electricity theft. Those grow lights pull some serious wattage. Or do they have something new that doesn’t need that much wattage anymore? I don’t know. The one grow house I heard tell of was busted for electricity theft. I think around these parts they watch for spikes in electrical usage.

  • LED grow lights are the new rage. Technology can overcome…

  • I think the real problem about growing comes in two words: white privilege.

  • Anon R Mous, I’d like to see some reasoning behind the 1 in 3 numbers. That seems incredibly high even including small grows. Has Kevin Hoover put out any numbers?

    Kaivalya, are the houses mostly absentee or livein? Does that make a difference to quality of life for neighbors? Are the LED lights saving lots of electricity and cutting down on fire hazard?

    Silverstar, I don’t know if electricity theft is a real concern here. Does anyone else?

    Mike, you’ll have to elucidate for me. Do you mean that the neighbors are prejudiced against the growers because the neighbors are white and the growers aren’t?

  • Kym et al,

    The numbers given last October by housing official and the head of the DTF are 800 to 1,000 of Arcata’s 7,300 dwelling units.

    But that was last October, for one thing, but what has emerged in recent weeks of public conversation is that nobody really knows.

    The neighbors are concerned on several levels – potential fires, home invasion robberies/violence (which has happened in Arcata), cars and trucks coiming and going with briefcases being exchanged in driveways, and so on. When these houses are raided, the DTF almost always finds other drugs like meth or heroin, plus guns and large amounts of cash.

    But a more subtle horror is the deadening of neighborhoods. Where you used to have neighbors to wave at, with children to play with your kids, watch your house when you’re on vacation, etc., now you have these shuttered enclaves with unfriendly people you don’t know and who don’t want to know you.

    And so on. This has all been in the newspaper.

  • “Mike, you’ll have to elucidate for me. Do you mean that the neighbors are prejudiced against the growers because the neighbors are white and the growers aren’t?”

    Forgive me for being so vague. Here’s the problem in a brief flurry:

    The one conversation I do not hear enough here in Humboldt County is one that addresses the fact that marijuana culture/growing (particularly around here) is wrapped up in white privilege. Latinos and African Americans are incarcerated in massive numbers for marijuana related charges in California, charges that most white “offenders” see dropped before they even make it to the courtroom. Take a careful look around. Doesn’t it seem like Humboldt at times is a segregated (85% white) community, a community with privileges that others do not have access to? My problem is not so much with marijuana growing but with the limited scope of the legalization/grower movement. Some advocates talk a good game when it comes to decriminalization and race issues, but it seems very surface. I know I can’t make the growers take a step back and reconsider their position, but I’d like to think that I could encourage people to think about the social conditions that allow a conversation about indoor grows in Arcata to happen, namely power and privilege.

    Does this have anything to do with grow houses and their risks? Not really. So, I guess my post isn’t related to the original thread, but your blog did get my gears turning.

    Good blog, BTW.

  • Kym, the house across the street from me specifically was not occupied for well over a year. After a bit of public heckling by the more conservative and ‘onry neighbors, as well as some suggestions on how to keep it on “the d/l” from more friendly neighbors – they moved 1 young man in, although I don’t believe he lives there full time. He has been much better about parking his car in the driveway and opening the curtains every now and then. But no one knows his name and I’ve yet to see a trash can put on the curb for pick-up.

    I know someone else that lives in a house with their partner where they do their growing-business. And from what I’ve seen, they are rather paranoid and anti-social with the neighbors, even though they live there and are raising a son. Having known them for a few years, it’s not the kind of place or neighborhood I imagine they would get on their own volition – but in this case it made business sense for them.

    While I am not personally experienced with LED lights, I do know that they are all the new rage and can cut-down on wattage used by more that 75% which would also reduce the risk of fire. They are not full spectrum, which makes them much more efficient.

    Electricity theft is an issue – people are concerned about their electrical usage drawing attention of the authorities, so they hack into their neighbors. Reminds me of stealing cable back in the day. There ARE grower-friendly electricians around, but I’m afraid that most people are too caught up in parania to take advantage of the professionals as much as they should.

    I’m not sure what Mike was eluding to with the white privilege comment, but I have similar feelings at times. The Mexican Mafia comments really boil my blood – I’ve actually witnessed a cargo container in the hills that was used as sleeping quarters for 8+ hired mexican laborers hired by a well-to-do growing white guy. If CAMP or code enforcement or whomever rolled into bust the place, it would probably have been label a “mexican mafia camp” and not “exploitation-central setup by a greedy white guy”. In my opinion, the inability to talk about MJ in this community, opens it up to a long series of labor exploitation including that of young women.

    Additionally, I imagine that it is substantially easier to rent or buy a grow-house if you appear to be “upstanding” which is synonymous with white too often. I found Arcata to be a surprisingly prejudice area.

  • has anyone seen the LED lights in action?

  • has anyone seen the LED lights in action?

    theo therme – May 28, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Grow lights? No, but I’ve seen flashlights and most of the trailer lights on rigs are now LED’s.

    Anon R Mous, I’d like to see some reasoning behind the 1 in 3 numbers. That seems incredibly high even including small grows. Has Kevin Hoover put out any numbers?
    Kym – May 28, 2008 at 5:55 am

    While I can not say that all my information is 100% correct, I can tell you over ten years ago, I used to do a job that had me go into homes in Arcata, Just about every “college student” home that I entered back then had signs of a grow in one, if not more closets. Today, now that it is more legal, I have seen more open signs, large amounts of gardening goodies, yet the lawns look like crap, smells, actions of owners/renters.

    Heck, the fellow next door to me had a 50% of his house a grow, on the other side was a small grow, and I was the only one without a grow it seemed in my area. Guess you could go door to door if you wanted the real numbers.

  • Kevpod, (My apologies, my blog holds first time comments until I approve them. After that, you can comment without waiting. I wasn’t home all day so unfortunately your response wasn’t seen by other posters.) The numbers of grow houses that DTF estimates are in Arcata seem overwhelming–no wonder some residents feel besieged.

    Mike, I agree that the result of marijuana being quasi acceptable here has been low prosecution rates. In other areas, people can spend huge amounts of time in jail for crimes that here only get community service. I don’t blame Humboldt for that though. I praise it for moving it the right direction–towards legalization.

    I do wonder though if the back to the land movement had been made not out of middle class white youths for the most part but instead out of blacks, asians, or hispanics would marijuana have become so acceptable? (thanks for the compliment, btw)

    Kaivalya, as a whole, I tend to believe (without much but my own neighborhood to go on) that the Mexican mafia stories are overblown. I’m enjoying your perspective on how neighbors see grows in town. I like the gentle talking to and response made by the growers. Looks like some progress in meeting each other’s needs. I wonder how more could be done by each side.

    Theo, I haven’t seen LED lights in action. I notice that Dazey’s is selling them. I’m planning on doing a post on more environmental ways to grow. I’ll have to check them out.

    Anon.R.Mouse, Kevpod popped in with information from the DTF (Drug Task Force?) that says the numbers are less than 1 in 3 but still very high. It is hard to imagine that there is anyone left to complain.

  • led lights don’t work as advertised. you won’t save 75% on wattage. led lights are a little more efficient than mh or hps. the reason to use them is they don’t generate any heat. you can literally squash them one foot away, wrap everything in mylar, stick a so-so fan on it, and be done. you’ll get at most one or two degrees higher than room temperature. spider mites are less attracted since it isn’t hot. smells less because of less heat. led is expensive as can be and a better model is guaranteed out next year. best ones are procyon and ufo. reason why the pot growers don’t use this stuff is they aren’t the ones pioneering new grow tech, it’s all out of places like new zealand.

  • Thanks for the information. How do you recycle them? I’ve heard there is problems environmentally with them but I haven’t paid that much attention.

  • Pingback: The Arcata Eye Provides a Scary Look at Federal Views on Marijuana « REDHEADED BLACKBELT and Other Strange Connections

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