Happy 50th Birthday, Marijuana Growers of Humboldt

Fifty years ago today the first marijuana grower was busted in Humboldt County.  The beginnings of what was to become one of the most robust economies ever to fill North Coast pockets were humble.  The grower bumbling.  The officials either bored out of their minds with nothing to do or over zealously convinced that marijuana was the demon weed that must be eradicated at all costs.

I told this story 2 years ago but in honor of a half century of Humboldt grows I wanted to tell it again.

The trickling waters of Strawberry Creek, just outside of Dows Prairie (not too far from the Arcata Airport), washed past the first marijuana plants ever found growing in Humboldt county by law enforcement.  Apparently, Eugene Francis Crawford pioneered the illegal guerrilla marijuana business here.  In fact, he may have been the first marijuana grower ever in Humboldt County.

Crawford (aged 28 at the time) was arrested Friday, Sept. 29th, 1960 by Deputy Gene Cox who later became Sheriff (and was slain in a high profile shooting that rocked the county.)  Crawford, who was carrying a box and a shovel at the time of the arrest, claimed to be digging for fishing worms.  The deputies however claimed he slipped down to the property from his home only 260 yards away to transplant what the Eureka Humboldt Standard called “the first growing marijuana to figure in a narcotics case in Humboldt County.”

The “more than two dozen” three inch high plants about 2 ½ weeks old, barely discernible as cannabis,  were staked out by Cox and another deputy for some time.  The deputies believed that Crawford had purchased seeds and sold seven plants previously.  Investigating him for “several weeks,” they discovered where the small marijuana plants were growing on another person’s property and “staged a long stake out” of the crime scene.  Cox said he had been there “on previous occasions with negative results.”

On the day of the arrest, Deputy Cox hid nearby from “early morning’ until noon when he arrested Crawford who had yet to touch the plants.  This late in the season the danger of the plants growing to flower was fairly negligible as Cox explained to the media, “If left, they probably would have died with the first frost.”

Crawford, while never having been arrested on narcotics charges before was no novice to the prison system.  In fact, he had just been released from the county jail the day before this arrest.  Over the preceding decade, he had been charged with a variety of low level offenses including theft of beer.

The trial (which was reported as being for a Charles Crawford though that is not consistent with arrest or conviction information) began March 7, 1961 and ended, a scant 3 days later, March 10, 1961 unhappily for the defendant.  Reluctant to convict, the jury was summoned by the Judge at midnight to demand results which were still strongly divided. A 9-3 in favor of a guilty verdict was required for conviction.  The jury finally returned “in the early morning hours” after again being summoned by an apparently unhappy judge.  This time the verdict was guilty as charged.

Members of the jury, including alternates, were Gerald Chapelle, Ernest W. Colt, Robert Dilleshaw, Audrey M. Robinson, Lynford Scott, Carol J. Sellers, Irena Gates, Alex Brizzard, Gladys Buttram, Charlotte Dabler, Francis Mott, and Sandra McKenzie. The Judge was Donald H. Wilkenson.  The attorneys were John Quinn for the prosecution and Blaine McGowen for the defense. If anyone remembers any stories or knows any of these people, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Strawberry Fields

by The Beatles

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.
It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out.
It doesn’t matter much to me.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can’t you know tune in but it’s all right.
That is I think it’s not too bad.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Always no sometimes think it’s me, but you know I know when it’s a dream.
I think, er No, I mean, er Yes but it’s all wrong.
That is I think I disagree.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Story gleaned from old articles in the Eureka Humboldt Standard

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30 comments

  • Good job of researching this article.

    It’s really interesting to read the early origins of cannabis in this county. Especially pinpointing the first grower – Crawford. I wonder if he’s still alive?

    I hope you get some imput from some of the people involved with this historical post.

  • Good job of researching this article.

    It’s really interesting to read the early origins of cannabis in this county. Especially pinpointing the first grower – Crawford. I wonder if he’s still alive?

    I hope you get some imput from some of the people involved with this historical post.

  • Still crazy after all these years.

  • Still crazy after all these years.

  • It’s kind of hard to believe how hard those sheriffs worked to intercept 3-inch starts in late September. You almost wish they were going after civil rights pamphlets or edible panties or some such understandable idiocy. But I guess devil weed was every bit as horrible as edible panties.

  • It’s kind of hard to believe how hard those sheriffs worked to intercept 3-inch starts in late September. You almost wish they were going after civil rights pamphlets or edible panties or some such understandable idiocy. But I guess devil weed was every bit as horrible as edible panties.

  • 1960 is well before my time, but yeah that’s a whole lot of work for something so minor. I could see it as being their ignorance of marijuana at the time…the cops thinking marijuana is the devil’s weed…literally, and misunderstanding the scope of the bust…or the grower if he was being a loudmouth, or thought sprouts in september would do anything…who knows. I could also see it as politically motivated…with whom and on what terms were these associated land owners? Was this guy one of only a few local pre-hippies in a land where rogue beatniks or an occaissional nudist usually stole the criminal show? Did the sheriff’s department need to produce a bust for internal, state or national reasons? To obtain newly available funding, etc…the police can’t get more money if they can’t demonstrate (in this case create) a need to have it.

    Intersting read…woulda guessed the year to be a couple decades earlier.

  • 1960 is well before my time, but yeah that’s a whole lot of work for something so minor. I could see it as being their ignorance of marijuana at the time…the cops thinking marijuana is the devil’s weed…literally, and misunderstanding the scope of the bust…or the grower if he was being a loudmouth, or thought sprouts in september would do anything…who knows. I could also see it as politically motivated…with whom and on what terms were these associated land owners? Was this guy one of only a few local pre-hippies in a land where rogue beatniks or an occaissional nudist usually stole the criminal show? Did the sheriff’s department need to produce a bust for internal, state or national reasons? To obtain newly available funding, etc…the police can’t get more money if they can’t demonstrate (in this case create) a need to have it.

    Intersting read…woulda guessed the year to be a couple decades earlier.

  • well…while attempting to answer a couple of my own questions, I humored this easily formed conspiracy theory…

    Marijuana was illegal in California in 1915…but new, stricter mandates were introduced in 1961…including previously unpunishable acts related to the drug (plant). They musta had it out for this poor guy when they busted him, because it would have been news at the time that there were going to be newer, bigger punishments the next year for having anything to do with marijuana. This guy was conveniently picked up just in time to be one of the first (maybe first?) to have a super heavy book thrown at him.

  • well…while attempting to answer a couple of my own questions, I humored this easily formed conspiracy theory…

    Marijuana was illegal in California in 1915…but new, stricter mandates were introduced in 1961…including previously unpunishable acts related to the drug (plant). They musta had it out for this poor guy when they busted him, because it would have been news at the time that there were going to be newer, bigger punishments the next year for having anything to do with marijuana. This guy was conveniently picked up just in time to be one of the first (maybe first?) to have a super heavy book thrown at him.

  • Can’t forget about Crawford’s failed appeal… Includes a description of testimony by John Contreres, the original Humboldt grow show snitch.

    • Amazing catch. I wish I had found that. Thank you!

    • That description also includes the first instance of somebody in Humboldt trying to convince the horticulturally challenged that they were growing something other than marijuana:

      The defendant’s mother testified that she grew sweet basil in back of her home …

      Also, Kym, don’t forget your genealogy skills:

      Rootsweb Social Security Death Index

      CRAWFORD, EUGENE F 24 Aug 1932 20 Nov 2000 (V) 68 95519 (Mckinleyville, Humboldt, CA) (none specified) California 563-44-7923

      He died before the furthest back online TS obits, so I may take a trip to the library this weekend.

      • wow, 06! So he died only ten years ago…here’s how I paint the picture:

        Crawford, a local, had a record at least since he was 18…no mention of when he was caught “stealing beer” but that’s pretty important about the type of guy he was when arrested at 28. If he was an immigrant thief or involved in violence, that’d be one thing…but I get that he was a typical local boy.

        There’s also no mention of his relation to the snitch, which is really important. Who was this guy that Crawford completely trusted, so much to take up his suggestion of moving the plants? If he was a longtime friend, it’s possible that the police caught him with possession, and threatened years behind bars if he didn’t tell the cops whatever they wanted to hear. If there was no prior relationship, crawford might have simply made the mistake of trusting the wrong person who’d chanced into his life. It’s also possible that the guy was a narc on a mission, and intentionally got crawford’s plants off his mom’s property to protect her and/or make a warrentless stakeout possible….

        …so the cop, now able to stakeout a cultivation operation on trespassed territory, waits three days on the plants in vain…maybe because he made the mistake of taking one and thinking crawford wouldn’t notice? So the cops pick up crawford for something petty and he does at least a day behind bars (doesn’t say for what or for how long he’d been in jail the day before his arrest). The cops counted on him going to his plants right when he got out, and had the bust all planned.

        I’m still interested in his sentence, if it fell under 1961’s new guidelines, which mandated individual sentences (years in prison) for every seperate new category of new crime involving marijuana. He was either lucky as a mofo in being picked up just a couple months sooner than later, or as unlucky as it gets for being picked up a few months too late. None of it woulda happened if the doofus knew his seasons and planted in spring, sheesh.

  • Can’t forget about Crawford’s failed appeal… Includes a description of testimony by John Contreres, the original Humboldt grow show snitch.

    • Amazing catch. I wish I had found that. Thank you!

    • That description also includes the first instance of somebody in Humboldt trying to convince the horticulturally challenged that they were growing something other than marijuana:

      The defendant’s mother testified that she grew sweet basil in back of her home …

      Also, Kym, don’t forget your genealogy skills:

      Rootsweb Social Security Death Index

      CRAWFORD, EUGENE F 24 Aug 1932 20 Nov 2000 (V) 68 95519 (Mckinleyville, Humboldt, CA) (none specified) California 563-44-7923

      He died before the furthest back online TS obits, so I may take a trip to the library this weekend.

      • wow, 06! So he died only ten years ago…here’s how I paint the picture:

        Crawford, a local, had a record at least since he was 18…no mention of when he was caught “stealing beer” but that’s pretty important about the type of guy he was when arrested at 28. If he was an immigrant thief or involved in violence, that’d be one thing…but I get that he was a typical local boy.

        There’s also no mention of his relation to the snitch, which is really important. Who was this guy that Crawford completely trusted, so much to take up his suggestion of moving the plants? If he was a longtime friend, it’s possible that the police caught him with possession, and threatened years behind bars if he didn’t tell the cops whatever they wanted to hear. If there was no prior relationship, crawford might have simply made the mistake of trusting the wrong person who’d chanced into his life. It’s also possible that the guy was a narc on a mission, and intentionally got crawford’s plants off his mom’s property to protect her and/or make a warrentless stakeout possible….

        …so the cop, now able to stakeout a cultivation operation on trespassed territory, waits three days on the plants in vain…maybe because he made the mistake of taking one and thinking crawford wouldn’t notice? So the cops pick up crawford for something petty and he does at least a day behind bars (doesn’t say for what or for how long he’d been in jail the day before his arrest). The cops counted on him going to his plants right when he got out, and had the bust all planned.

        I’m still interested in his sentence, if it fell under 1961’s new guidelines, which mandated individual sentences (years in prison) for every seperate new category of new crime involving marijuana. He was either lucky as a mofo in being picked up just a couple months sooner than later, or as unlucky as it gets for being picked up a few months too late. None of it woulda happened if the doofus knew his seasons and planted in spring, sheesh.

  • Just found this story. This guy was my next door neighbor growing up on Chaffin. Why they threw the book at him is a mystery to me. One winter when I was very little my Dad was trying to get a load of firewood without a whole lot of luck. Eugene got wind of it and brought us a bunch of trim ends from the mill he worked at. He told my Dad, “This is so your little girl doesn’t get cold”.

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