Photo of Supervisor Rex Bohn from his election webpage.
“San Francisco has its sourdough, Napa its wine. Humboldt has weed,” says this morning’s Sacramento Bee.
And, according to the Bee, Supervisor Rex Bohn wants to brand the county’s marijuana. “Never underestimate the purchasing power of someone who wants a name brand,” the newspaper quotes him as saying.
Apparently, Bohn believes cannabis will be legalized and, with Bohn estimating that a quarter of the our economy comes from the marijuana industry, then branding our local marijuana just makes sense.
“I want Humboldt County to be known for fishing, logging and entrepreneurial beef ranching,” Bohn said. “But the marijuana industry is here. You have to have your head in the sand to think it’s going away.”
Spider waiting on its web to catch wayward insects in a marijuana garden.
“Good news,” tweeted Jared Huffman the North Coast’s Congressman this morning, “Humboldt County just named High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). This =more federal $ 2 fight illegal trespass pot grows.” (Translation of last part for non tweeters: “This equals more federal money to fight illegal trespass pot grows.”)
Is this good news?
That fact that Humboldt is actually an area with a lot of marijuana grows and marijuana sales as well as a significant meth problem will surprise almost no one but is this the right solution for our situation?
According to the White House, HIDTA (pronounced hide-tuh) exists to help local, federal, state and even tribal law enforcement work better together and “reduce the supply of illegal drugs in designated areas of the United States… .” The website explains, “The program’s 57 Intelligence and Investigative Support Centers help HIDTAs identify new targets and trends, develop threat assessments, deconflict targets and events, and manage cases.”
So, this is kind of special, right? This is saved for extreme measures?
No, not really. Actually, 60 percent of the U.S. population is in a HIDTA. Sixteen percent of all counties in the United States are given this designation.
In fact, Mendocino County was designated a HIDTA in 2011. Humboldt will join it under the umbrella of the Northern California HIDTA (NCHIDTA).
What exactly is the focus of this more local organization?
According to the 2011 NCHIDTA Drug Market Analysis, (LoCO recommends this—clearly written and lots of interesting statistics,)
Key issues identified in the Northern California HIDTA region include the following:
- Mexican DTOs maintain unrivaled dominance over wholesale drug distribution in the Northern California HIDTA region. Their deeply entrenched, well-organized, and extensive networks enable them to supply illicit drug markets in the region and throughout much of the country.
- Widespread methamphetamine trafficking and abuse, particularly of ice methamphetamine, re- mains a problem so pervasive that methamphetamine continues to pose the greatest drug threat to the region.
- Methamphetamine production continues at high levels in the region—largely facilitated by well-organized pseudoephedrine smurfing rings and a growing number of methamphetamine conversion laboratories.
- Outdoor cannabis cultivation continues at high levels in the region at grow sites principally operated by Mexican DTOs. The propensity of these DTOs for violence while protecting their grow sites poses a significant threat to public safety and law enforcement personnel.
- High-potency marijuana continues to be produced at illicit indoor grow sites in the region by various DTOs, criminal groups, and independent dealers exploiting California’s state medical marijuana laws.
In order to understand how being designated HIDTA will affect Humboldt, LoCO contacted Mendocino Sheriff (and Humboldt County native) Tom Allman.
Allman said that the purpose of HIDTA is to coordinate major investigations not to raid smaller marijuana grows. He stated, “HIDTA is not for the regular type of commercial grows in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. If someone has 150 monster plants,…that is not what HIDTA is for.” It is for a coordinated overview of large criminal organizations.
“Let’s say,” he explained, “we have a genuine cartel. We would be able to use HIDTA for coordination especially if it dealt with another region. It helps us communicate with outside law enforcement.”
“HIDTA was one of our biggest partners during [Operation] Full Court Press,” Allman pointed out. “It is a great example of the good [HIDTA can do.]”
As to increased money, Allman said the amount, around $50,000 his office receives, isn’t “going to make or break my budget…it helps pay for overtime.”
He said the new status “should open up some new funding opportunities [and] bring new resources to the table… .” The real benefit he says is a “deeper partnership between local and federal agencies.” He does state that HIDTA has a specific amount of equipment available to be shared. Though he won’t go into details on what that consists of.
“Many times,” Allman stated, “probably more often than not, organized crime is several steps ahead of law enforcement. HIDTA helps us catch up.”
Allman address worries that federal agencies will have more control in our local areas by insisting that “Your sheriff is the controlling officer in how the organization works…The trust your county has in Mike Downey is huge. He is not handing over the keys to somebody and saying here take over.”
“MA and Pa Kettle that are growing weed is not the purpose of HIDTA,” Allman reiterates firmly.
So, Humboldt? Good news or not?
Trinity County Press Release:
On November 14, 2013 at approximately 8:00am Officers with the Trinity County Narcotics Task Force and North State Marijuana Investigation Team served a search warrant on a private parcel in Trinity Pines outside of Hayfork, CA. Upon entry onto the property Officers contacted two subjects. Both subjects were detained without incident. Officers located over 300 pounds of processed marijuana that was packaged for sales.
Officers also located multiple packages of sample marijuana. With the information obtained at the scene along with the evidence located Officers believe that the marijuana was possessed with the intent to distribute. The amount of marijuana possessed far exceeded the amount that would that a physician would recommend for the two subjects. Petrov and Mihaylova were arrested on the above charges and were transported to the Trinity County Jail where they were booked. Both subjects were cited out of the jail on November 15, 2013.
Valeri Stoianov Petrov, DOB: 03/29/62, Pleasant Hill, CA
Maria Ivanova Mihaylova, DOB: 07/14/55, Hayfork, CA
11359 HS – Possess Marijuana/Hashish For Sale 182 PC – Conspiracy to Commit Crime
Trinity County Narcotics Task Force
North State Marijuana Investigation Team
From left to right: Maria Ivanova Mihaylova and Valeri Stoianov Petrov
Helicopter hauls trash from a marijuana grow in the Six Rivers National Forest near the eastern Humboldt County border. (All photos unless otherwise noted are by Kym Kemp)
Part two of a series of articles about how marijuana grows affect the environment: This post addresses the cleanup. In particular, who dealt with the mess and why it was believed necessary to remove it. (See Part 1 of this series for photos and description of the Bear Creek grow)
In the early hours of November 6th, a group of volunteers and National Guard trudged along old skid roads and trails deep into the Bear Creek drainage just inside the eastern border of Humboldt County. Cleaning up trash and infrastructure from a marijuana garden busted in August of this year was their mission. They joined a handful of scientists and a scattering of reporters who arrived early to learn about the realities of an illegal grow.
The goal that day was in many ways to “discourage, dismantle, and deter.” First Lt. Kara Siepmann of the National Guard explained, “What we see year after year is growers returning to the scene. Our goal is to tear up the infrastructure.”
This particular marijuana garden had first been brought to law enforcement’s notice in 2007. Then over 130,000 plants were removed making it the largest marijuana bust in Humboldt County. This year, it was noticed and raided again. But careful examination of Google Earth’s satellite photos show that it was also in place in 2012.