‘The Pressure Is the Point’: The Institute for Justice Has Filed an Amended Complaint for the Lawsuit Against the Humboldt County Cannabis Abatement Program
On January 20, the national non-profit public interest law firm, the Institute for Justice (IJ), filed an amended complaint for Thomas et al. v. Humboldt County et al., the class action lawsuit filed in October against Humboldt County’s “unconstitutional” cannabis abatement program. (See here for the previous story.)
Cyro Glad has been added as a fifth named representative in the amended complaint, accompanying plaintiffs: Corrine and Doug Morgan Thomas, Blu Graham, and Rhonda Olson. (They were all featured in past articles.)
The Institute for Justice alleges the program “Issues Ruinous Fines and Fees … without any regard for whether the penalty serves a valid governmental interest… [T]he County’s policy and practice is to ignore… the owner’s culpability, history of similar offenses, and the severity of the impact on public health and safety.”
The Institute for Justice elaborates in the amended complaint how they say regulation for profit ran rampant in Humboldt County since the legalization of cannabis. They write, “The County designed this code-enforcement policy to maximize its proceeds from legalized commercial marijuana growth, squeezing every possible dollar out of residents along the way…Humboldt County began aggressively prosecuting Building Code violations, [then] Imposes ruinous fines without regard for probable cause, [with an] abatement program…designed to force owners into settlements…[which is a] violation of the individual plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”
The defendants are Humboldt County, and the following officials in their official capacity as county officers or agents: the Planning and Building Dept. Director John Ford, and the current Board of Supervisors Steve Madrone, Rex Bohn, Mike Wilson, Michelle Bushnell and Natalie Arroyo, who just replaced retired District Four Supervisor Virginia Bass (a named defendant in the initial filing).
The named plaintiffs not only represent themselves; they represent what is called a “class.” Over 1200 abatement notices have been issued by the Planning Department, and all those who have been abated after Jan 1, 2018 who requested an administrative hearing within 10 days of receipt of the notice, who haven’t received a hearing yet, will be members of the class action lawsuit.
The Institute for Justice attorney handling the case Jared McClain said the legal claims had not changed in the amended complaint and detailed the basic differences in the added 130 paragraphs, saying, “In our initial complaint, most of the facts that were alleged came from our five clients… After we filed we were able to talk to about fifty other people…and add those stories to the complaint… The majority of the changes to the complaint were new factual allegations… [in addition to] our new plaintiff Cyro Glad.”
Just like most of the other plaintiffs, Cyro Glad recently bought his property and received a cannabis abatement notice six weeks later for the previous owner’s alleged wrongdoings, which included empty hoop houses, and an empty greenhouse seen via satellite.
The suit details how Glad came to own the land, stating,
“Cyro Glad moved to Humboldt County from North Lake Tahoe in the 1990s to attend the Heartwood Institute for vocational training as a massage therapist. After working between Humboldt and Tahoe for years, in 2008, Cyro began leasing a property in New Harris…southeast of Garberville. He cared for and helped develop a piece of rental property for several years until the tragic death of his life partner in 2015.”
After the loss of his partner, Glad left Humboldt and spent several years in Nevada caring for his mother who had terminal cancer.
In 2018, Glad got an opportunity to purchase 40 acres from his aging, prior landlords who, according to the suit, “[W]anted to sell to Cyro because he had always cared for the property and the subsequent tenants had not treated the property with the same respect.”
The Institute for Justice continued in the complaint, “Cyro had always dreamed of owning a piece of land in Humboldt but never thought he’d have the chance; with his mother’s blessing, he jumped at the opportunity.”
When Glad moved out in 2018, he immediately began cleaning up his new property and preparing the driveway for winter. On November 16, 2018, Glad’s dream quickly turned into a nightmare, when according to the amended complaint, “Cyro’s neighbor called him to let him know that he found a [Notice of Violation dated November 2] addressed to Cyro posted on a gate a few roads over from Cyro’s address.”
According to the Institute for Justice, an abatement notice with a ten day deadline is a common tactic, all a part of the “maximum pressure campaign” used by code enforcement. The backdated notice skews the clock and encourages property owners to settle and/or pay a penalty, for fear the daily fines are already accruing.
The suit states, “At the time of purchase, there was a greenhouse and several hoop houses scattered around the front parcel; the back parcel consisted almost entirely of an undeveloped mountain covered in forest…When Cyro took over the property, there was no cannabis cultivation and none of the structures on the property were being used to cultivate cannabis.“
Still, the Institute for Justice wrote, Glad received four violations:
(1) Violation of the building code to cultivate cannabis
(2) Grading without a permit to cultivate cannabis
(3) Unpermitted cultivation of cannabis
(4) Development within a streamside management system”
The county did not do a site visit to confirm there was cannabis, but instead based the abatement on satellite imagery, which is customary for code enforcement per the complaint, and is not sufficient probable cause to justify a cannabis abatement notice.
It’s not uncommon for four category 4 violations to come with $40,000 in daily fines, though early on in the program, it was customary for Code Enforcement to penalize people $10,000 a day regardless of the number of violations listed, like in Glad’s case. Glad’s notice said he would get $10,000 in daily penalties for 90 days, totaling $900,000, if Glad did not remove the alleged violations in ten days.
Making matters more complicated, “The notice did not specify which structures or grading on the 40-acre parcel that the County believed were constructed to cultivate cannabis,” according to the amended complaint, making it difficult to remedy code enforcement’s concerns.
The same day Glad received the abatement notice, he completed the form to request an appeal hearing.
The Institute for Justice added,
[Glad] explained on the form that the property just became his responsibility as of September 2018 and that he was already working to bring it up to the County’s standards… Cyro then hired an engineer to assess the property, and he continued his work of cleaning up the mess that the prior occupants had left.”
A few months later in February 2019, Glad had still not heard anything from Code Enforcement about his case or appeal hearing request.
So, the suit states, “Cyro sent a letter to Director Ford to plead with him and seek compassion over the violations the County cited Cyro for just weeks after he purchased the property.”
While $900,000 in penalties hung over Glad’s head, he never received a response from the Planning and Building Department Director John Ford, the suit said, “Over four years have passed since Cyro requested his initial hearing, but the County has still not scheduled one for him.”
The delayed hearings, and the penalties faced by innocent property buyers illustrates some of the issues addressed in the amended complaint.
The suit lists the overarching arguments:
- 1. Humboldt County Issues Ruinous Fines and Fees Unsupported by Any Governmental Interest
- Innocent Landowners Cannot Escape an Abatement Order Without Paying
- The County Refuses to Provide Timely Administrative Hearings While It Pressures Accused Landowners to Settle
- The County Illegally Prohibits Landowners from Developing Their Property While an Abatement Order Is Pending
- Challenging an Abatement Order Comes at a Great Cost
- The Pressure Is the Point
Excessive Fines used to “Scare the Panties off Them”
In the amended complaint, the Institute for Justice details the financial implications of the typical $30,000 daily penalty for the three most common violations (cannabis, unpermitted structures and grading), and how it compares to local wages.
The amended complaint states Humboldt County residents are “economically depressed,” adding,
Humboldt residents earn an average yearly income of roughly $29,500, well below the national average; about 16% of residents live in poverty…A single day’s worth of $30,000 daily fines already exceeds the average yearly income for Humboldt residents… The daily fines accumulate for 90 days—quickly exceeding one million dollars in many cases—unless the landowner “abates” the alleged nuisance within 10 days…To afford the County’s excessive fines, the average Humboldt resident would have to work for over 90 years just to earn enough gross income to cover the penalties for not obtaining a building permit that would have cost a couple hundred dollars…
The county’s attorneys from the firm Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP wrote in the motion to dismiss that the fines were not excessive essentially if they haven’t been imposed, writing, “The Complaint should be entirely dismissed because it does not establish standing as to any Plaintiff. It does not plead injury in fact traceable to the challenged action or that any injury can be redressed here. Alternatively, the County moves to dismiss Counts One through Five.”
The Institute for Justice argues the abatement itself is the injury however. Jared McClain explained on Attorney Eugene Denson’s The Rights Organization KMUD show on January 26, that abatement recipients “[have] already been injured.”
The Institute for Justice added a comment to the amended complaint from a 2019 Code Enforcement annual report featured in a Board of Supervisors meeting, when Supervisor Rex Bohn indicated the initial fines were excessive and used as a fear tactic.
The complaint reads,
The fines are so unaffordable that even Supervisor Rex Bohn, one of the program’s chief architects, asked the Planning Department what the fines are meant to accomplish: “We throw out these fines that are gonna be 35 million dollars if you don’t do anything… Should we bring that back to something more reasonable or is it to scare the panties off them?”
The Institute for Justice claims that because the plaintiffs and classes constitutional rights have been violated, they request relief, writing what that means exactly.
The suit states,
All members [of the class] share the same interest in ensuring that the County’s code-enforcement procedures respect the constitutional rights of landowners and in securing relief for those constitutional rights the County has already violated…[The] Thomas[‘s], Rhonda Olson, and Cyro Glad seek the same relief for themselves and members of the proposed Class in the form of declaratory and injunctive relief…[and] nominal damages.”
This basically means the cannabis abatement program would no longer be able to use unconstitutional tactics against landowners moving forward if the Institute for Justice wins.
Declaratory relief basically is, “Stating the rights of parties without ordering any specific action or listing awards for damages,” according to Cornell Law School, and, “Injunctive relief, also known as an injunction, is a remedy which restrains a party from doing certain acts or requires a party to act in a certain way.”
On Denson’s “The Rights Organization” show McClain spoke about the people who have already been injured by the program but who are not a part of the class. He said, “Unfortunately our lawsuit is not going to be able to help a lot of the people who were hurt over the years and it’s terrible.”
McClain explained there are limitations with how the law works to address matters like these on a case by case basis, saying, “The best way that we could help the most people was to try to seek retrospective relief and to stop the county from continuing to harm its constituents. When you are looking for retrospective relief for over a 1000 people, you get stuck having to bring all of those claims individually, you’re helping one person at a time.”
The Institute for Justice is a non-profit law firm that does not charge their clients any money.
McClain detailed their aim is to help as many people as possible moving forward, adding,
We are doing this because we think what the county is doing is wrong and we want to help as many people as possible. So our capacity is to seek prospective relief … and to take these unconstitutional tools and tactics away from the county. You are right [ED] there are going to be hundreds of people in Humboldt who settled claims that were brought without probable cause and paid the county money for things they never did wrong because they felt they had no choice.”
However, McClain said that even if you are not a part of this class action, you can still seek recourse individually. Property owners who paid a fine and/or signed settlement agreements, are encouraged to seek advice from an attorney and time is of the essence as the statute of limitations could expire.
McClain said, “Our lawsuit is not going to fix every problem the county’s unconstitutional program has caused over five years…[But,] there are certainly political processes in place, and there are State court proceedings that people can bring.”
If the Institute for Justice succeeds in the class action, those who are not apart of the class do still win, McClain explained, saying,
“Part of the cost of people trying to seek relief against the county is proving some of these complicated constitutional issues. So hopefully, if we are able to come in and get a judgment from the Federal Court on what the US Constitution requires of Humboldt County, and a ruling that what they are doing is unconstitutional all this time, it will pave the way and make things easier for people seeking relief in state court.”
Jared McClain explained the implications of a possible win, and described what the abatement program would look like moving forward. He said,
If we are able to take away their reliance on satellite imaging and this dragnet approach …we think it will be impactful from the start. Right now it’s so low cost for the county to issue these fines, they can just sit at their desk and churn them out without any effort or investigation, and they shift that cost to individual property owners who have to pay through the ears to prove their innocence.”
Without the use of satellites, McClain said it would “force the county to focus its efforts on people who are actually causing some sort of harm to the community, which is what it should be doing in the first place.”
Additionally, the Institute for Justice hopes to ensure there is a fair process in place for an appeal, that doesn’t require one “to choose between betting your property and your life savings or defending yourself,” McClain stated, adding, “If you can just get a timely hearing you can afford, there will be fewer people forced into these settlement agreements.”
The county will still have code enforcement and be able to abate actual nuisances that cause harm, McClain explained, but they will need to “limit the fines to a reasonable amount that reflects the actual harm that person is causing to the community, and not these numbers that are basically make believe.”
According to McClain, the next step is to await the County’s response, which will happen by March 6. McClain shared the two basic paths forward
- The Institute for Justice can go to discovery and then trial, or,
- The County can file another motion to dismiss
If the County files another motion to dismiss, then the Institute for Justice files documents with the court and tells the Judge why the case should go forward. In that situation, they work on discovery and towards trial, and the county has ten days to file a reply brief thereafter.
McClain concluded, “We are looking at…75 days or so before all this would be briefed and the court can decide what it wants to do with the case.”
We reached out to the County’s law firm who did not respond in time for publishing.
Full Eugene “ED” Denson’s TRO KMUD radio show here, featuring Attorney Jared McClain
The Institute for Justice’s Amended Complaint Filed January 20 – Case No. 1:22-cv-5725-RMI here.
If you value Nichole Norris’s investigative journalism, please donate at her Gofundme.
In addition, please donate to Redheaded Blackbelt to keep this work going.
- Punished for Another’s Crimes: Humboldt County Demands New Owners Destroy Any Unpermitted Building Used for Cannabis Cultivation
- ‘Buildings for Rich People’: Part Two of Punished for Another’s Crimes, a Look at the Ramifications of the Abatement Process
- Humboldt County Files a Motion to Dismiss the Institute for Justice’s Federal Class Action Lawsuit Against Its Cannabis Abatement Program
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The Institute for Justice says:
“The County designed this code-enforcement policy to maximize its proceeds from legalized commercial marijuana growth.”
But isn’t the opposite true? Aren’t the abatement notices targeted at properties where it’s suspected that illegal cultivation was taking place?
Yes, in a few cases there are new owners who can say they had no knowledge but isn’t there still a public value in requiring them to clean up the crummy greenhouses and hoop houses left behind by previous owners? Also, the seller or their agent had a duty to disclose any building code violations or illegal cannabis cultivation. They should be suing the previous property owner, not the County.
Why are u defending the violent aggressors?
Shouldn’t the same be true for the infinitely greater damage cuse by the logging practices of the pat? A family member owns property in Rancho Sequoia, has not been on the property in more than 23 years and was abated for a “grading violation”. Have you ever been to Rancho? The entire subdivision is a grading violation. Some Bulgarion neighbor apparently had a hoop house on the property in a tresspass grow but no grading was done IN THIS CENTURY.
I think that what IJ is alleging in that statement is that the abatement program was designed to maximize legal cannabis proceeds by pressuring and intimidating anyone who may have been associated with unlicensed cannabis production, instead of using the abatement program to target genuine nuisance properties that pose the greatest risk to public health and safety.
Some people tried to make it through the permitting process and couldn’t afford to do it, mostly because the county drug the process out. Then the second those people pulled out of legalization simply because the county kept asking for more money and was not moving the process forward, the county was somehow able to get there shit together and have the sheriffs hit the place, without a warrant mind you, within 48 hours and an abatement show up 24 hours after that. If that doesn’t illustrate damages perfectly I don’t know what does.
Oh it wasn’t a mega grow, it was 2000 square feet.
Buyers due diligence! Real estate 101
The point was these buyers were served abatements well after
Purchase. If you think there are any pieces of
Land in Humboldt County that have maps, LSAA’s, Grading plans for every turn and culvert, permits for every chicken coop and shed, you sir, are definitely
Not from around here, at least pre Greenrush.
If you watch IJ’s youtube video on this lawsuit (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BdX697HtZM) you will hear the plaintiffs did their due diligence.
In the video Corrine Thomas explains how she worked in real estate and was a paralegal, she knew what she was doing. That’s the point, even if you do your due diligence and are innocent, you can get hit with life-altering penalties and costs for someone else wrongdoings, once upon a time, and regardless of the impact on the public’s health and safety in the present.
Do you think it is reasonable to expect out of town property buyers to know that they could get a cannabis abatement for someone else’s past crimes of cultivating (or drying in a structure), and subsequently, in the Thomases case, having to pay $180,000 to remove a structure they just purchased (necessitating the removal of seventy trees in the forest, some old growth), and paying $11,000 in daily fines for ninety days, for something they didnt do that was not listed on the title by the agency imposing these fines?
Let’s compare this to other serious violent crimes for example to get a grip on what this means for innocent property buyers in particular.
In this hypothetical scenario code enforcement is evenly applied to all crimes and structures. So imagine you just purchased a home where a child was abused in the past, you did not know this because it wasnt posted on the title. You also didnt know if was you responsibility to ensure no child abuse or other serious crimes took place in your home or outbuildings. A few days after escrow closes you get a red tag your new home because a crime was committed there in the past. You are now faced with a hold on development, renting, selling, while faced with tens of thousands in costs, expert fees, ontop of sometimes millions in fines and fees.
Would that be fair?
These fines are so unheard of, “make believe” as Jared says, I think its unconscionable to demand, out of towners in particular, to know this is a possibility. Look at the comments in the video, no one from outside of cannabis land has ever heard of such excessive fines.
Every case has its own set of facts. And no, I don’t expect the new owners to know everything about the property. That’s why there are real estate disclosure laws. The previous owner and/or their agent can be held liable if they failed to disclose past cannabis activity and non-code construction. However, for the buyer, due diligence would include verifying that the very substantial and carefully concealed “shop” building was built with permits and included on the tax rolls. Maybe the couple in this case are totally legit. But it’s equally possible they thought they were buying a ready to go set up that could supplement their income with the unpermitted and untaxed nature of the structure being an added bonus.
The previous owner in the Thomases case is an LCC that skipped the country after being busted twice in 2019. What do you suggest the Thomases do about that?
Again, the agent handling the sale, as well as the seller, had a duty of disclosure, as did the buyer’s agent. Did the agents skip the country also? And the buyers could easily have determined if the grandiose shop building was permitted or not.
Yes. All shops and hoop houses are intrinsically evil and must be eradicated/punished. Obviously. Thank you humboldt county for doing your due diligence so I don’t end up buying a rural property with those evil shops and hoop houses on it. I couldn’t even imagine having a “grandiose” shop in a rural setting.
Unpermitted shop? Are you from Humboldt? Most structures are not permitted in rural Humboldt. It was never an issue until the legalization of cannabis and that’s one of the main points in the suit. The Thomases knew the previous owner was busted years before they bought the land. Most people would think, ok great so that’s over and done with, the county knows it was that guy growing, not us.
If everyone is held liable for past owner’s actions in structures, if they must be torn down because someone at some point grew Cannabis in it, then that would mean most houses and/or garages in arcata would need to be demolished. Again please explain how this makes any sense.
The truth comes out! The sympathetic couple chosen to front the lawsuit knew they were buying an unpermitted building suitable for cultivation. They’ve been ordered to tear the building down because it’s unpermitted – not because it was used for cannabis.
And building code violations do go with the land. Which is why full disclosure by agents and sellers and due diligence by buyers is so important.
The fact HumCo looked the other way for decades did not somehow legalize buildings that were unpermitted from the day they were built.
There are a lot of unpermitted buildings in the rural areas and the county taxes most of them. Therefore, the county knows about them and tacitly, at least, approves of them.
Yes, but we’re talking different departments with different functions. It’s up to Building and Planning to issue permits and it’s up to the Assessor to get buildings on the tax rolls, permitted or not. But paying taxes doesn’t cure the need to get a building permit. It sucks the county looked the other way for decades and now they’re not, but it’s not illegal or unconstitutional. The only hope for the lawsuit is on procedural due process, not the abatements themselves.
I believe excessive fines and delayed fair hearings are the angle that is likely to be successful.
I agree the lawsuit hinges on the gargantuan fines compounding daily while hearings are endlessly delayed. But even with that I wouldn’t say the odds of success are “likely” – the courts have a history of being very deferential to local government, especially in the alleged exercise of their police powers for enforcement of the public health, safety and welfare, which is what the Supervisors say they are doing. As long as the local officials can state a plausible rational for their actions the courts will usually go along with them.
Seems likely to me. I think this provincial little county gathers it’s legal advisors from in front of liquor stores.. It won’t stay in the county.
That’s why it is so exciting to have IJ on this case. What you are saying is correct of course, suing the government is not easy and it unlikely you’ll win, EXCEPT when you are speaking about a law firm of this caliber who sues governments for a living.
Look at IJs past cases, including their unanimous win at the Supreme Court- timbs v Indiana regarding the eighth amendment, and excessive forfeitures. It was because of IJ that the eight amendment was incorporated etc.
Who knows maybe Humboldt county will make it to the Supreme Court as well? Either way, I don’t think it’s fair to assume IJ will loose at something they specialize in, particularly given the facts in this case.
I believe the foundation was permitted…
So a good faith effort to permit the building was attempted.
Trying to kill you with time is not just something that the county has done with the abatement appeal hearings.
That’s how they treat every constituent, when it comes to building permits, especially AOB…
And if I remember the story correctly,
The county raided the place, and found one marijuana leaf…
And that’s why they are insisting the building must be torn down, not because it was unpermitted.
Unpermitted buildings can be retroactively permitted, but that will not be allowed if the property was abated, and the building was allegedly previously used in the process of cannabis cultivation.
Kym indicates the County’s tacit approval of unpermitted buildings by way of the County’s taxation upon them…
I would take that a step further and allege that by taxing, and in many cases, overtaxing, for many decades, folks that the county knew were growers, it not only shows tacit approval, it positively reeks of complicity.
The County Government has knowingly reaped a rich reward from cannabis cultivation, willingly taking their “percentage”, and increasing assessments unreasonably along the way, knowing people would have no choice but to pay…
They have been “on the take”, for decades, and as if that wasn’t ever enough, now they want to squeeze everyone even harder, and even shake everyone down, regardless of whether or not they are growing illegally, or ever did.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg…
You are exactly right guest. In the selinos case featured in “punished for another’s crimes” a couple dried cannabis leafs (from their permitted farm elsewhere) were discovered in a large shop that was going to be donated or leased to the salmon creek volunteer fire dept. I heard about this on our community fb page when they asked for volunteers to help them demolish the structure. It was very upsetting because we need all the space we can get for the rural volunteer fire dept.
The county also found unused drying lines in an empty secondary home there in laws intended to fix up, but they were forced to tear down due to the drying lines from the previous owner. I sadly did not know about this until it was too late.
This is not a secret, read my past articles on the Thomases, all of these facts are clearly listed. Also read the lawsuit, they are listed there as well. The previous owner was busted twice in 2019, years before the purchase. They never got an abatement the new owners did years later. The Thomases have never seen a cannabis plant . their only aim for the purchase was to retire in the forest and take care of their disabled son.
You are incorrect the structure was abated because of its relation to cannabis cultivation by the previous owners only. Kym is absolutely right, all structures featured in the article “punished for another’s crimes” had taxes paid on them sometimes for decades, like in rhonda Olson’s case.
I know a seller would probably consider you a pain in the ass if you decided to see if the chicken coop and shed were permitted and would probably just sell to somebody easier, especially considering there are more people looking to buy homes than people looking to sell them.
You probably don’t own property though.
How can an agent disclose something not listed on the title? Code enforcement was granted the right to post abatements on title years ago but they didn’t on many cases. Lots of property was sold in this time since legislization because of the economic collapse. Our community would be better served of more folks like the Thomases moved in. They are wonderful people. I have been to their property several times and their storage shed is being used to store supplies for their house remodel. It’s totally empty besides a few tools and supplies and the power was cut by police in 2019 and hasn’t been on since because they would never dream to grow cannabis. They are retired. Doug worked in Hollywood as a set designer for decades, Corrinne ran autism charities and worked as a paralegal and more, they do not grow weed.
What a perfect metaphor. Land owners are charged for past crimes committed on their newly purchased land, and their land is held Ransome by the Corrupt Predator County of Humboldt or Mendocino by ILLEGAL UNAFFORDABLE FINES.. why ? Why was cannabis cultivation; which sustained the local area for 50 years; treated as such a serious offense with such steep fines? The real goal seems to force people out of the hills, the people making the rules are older and elderly minded, they would prefer a county full of retirees… after all who else can sustain themselves without a local job (there are none) and if they have to drive an hour each way to a a town like Garberville which has no jobs?
They don’t wnt young alternative or progressive people or people who live alternative lives to live in these hills, for the biggest reason; many of them are 9-5 government job parasites they despise the freedom that the self sufficiency of cannabis brought to our communities.
They were jealous! They wanted to steal our land, to knock us off our foundations, They wanted to harm and destroy our local families, they wanted to steal the land and steal the cannabis money many people didn’t even have. These folks listed in the lawsuit are collateral damage, caught in the War on Reefer which has gone on and on and on, with children and women and elderly harmed in the paramilitary attacks on our villages and small dirt road communities,they came from Eureka and other cities and drove out our roads where they did not belong and stole from our people…. for 50 years… then to pass aquasi legal o”legalization” where these small farmers livelihoods were given away to corporations and even bigger corporate tie wearing fish. The county wanted to force people off the land for decades since the first hippies arrived in the late 1960s it’s been a cultural war by the county. These were ranches and Timber lands which were bought by entrepreneurs and subdivided by nice folks like Mckee who gave people credit with small down payments and handshake deals .The County hated it, they wanted Timber and beef and sheep…. they tried and tried to force people outta the hills now it’s by using illegal high priced fines that any of our common peasant farmers could not afford as a way of stealing the land from the rightful owners. This is absolutely beyond disgusting and illegal.. and yet they did this electronically with printouts from computer software, I doubt they even stuffed the envelopes or locked the stamps. All Electronic without any real legal evidence which would be admissable for a search warrant. This program was designed to cause injury, pain stress and suffering to our neighbors and friends. This was done with purpose and intent, to cause pain and suffering and with intent to harm and cause emotional and psychological stress and harm. They need to pay punitive damages as well in my opinion. We need to put these decision makers on the stand and grill them andake them pay for what they have done to our community, each and every one of them should be held criminally and financially liable. They should be mocked and ridiculed when they are in public spaces, the community should swarm their council chambers and hold them accountable. Hold these puppets in suits and ties responsible. They are weak and our numbers are strong when united. They are nerdy little government pinions who deserve no mercy and no respect just like they treat us and our friends community and neighbors. They are the Scum of Humboldt and Mendocino county and deserve no honor and no respect.
This is a cultural war. Stand up and fight back
Hmm I don’t see it that way. Think about the situation now- No law enforcement = no cannabis ‘culture’. It was an outlaw culture. It was all part of the game we played, the big dance between risk and reward. Now, you can go out and grow your plants in your yard; go for it. It’s just not worth anything because of legalization, and the resulting loss of revenue makes the ‘culture’ go away. Not much of a culture, just a boom and bust economy. It was a good time though.
If you read the entire amended complaint (and past articles I’ve done, particularly the second article on this website- just click on my name), you will see that in several cases people are encouraged into getting permits after abatements.
An innocent property owner I covered got an abatement with no cannabis, lost hundreds of thousands resolving the abatement and then was pressured into getting a permit because she had “already done all the work.” She is now at risk of loosing her land and her permit is fallow. This is not an anomaly, there are several stories like this connected to the lawsuit.
It’s not just people buying property, my friends who live a salmon creek got a abatement letter but the police were actually there that time they were literally hitting up everyone. They were able to speak to them apparently they had a green house by their pond based on satellite pictures they had the officers come and look it was the kids big trampoline. They still had to pay $400 just because the police had already given them an abatement letter
The situation is, land owners should have the chance to appeal the violation, and the county needs actual proof that a violation is occurring. Otherwise it is unconstitutional
Then the property owner can be forced to clean up the property or face fines.
No disagreement here – HumCos Achilles heel is likely to be the alleged lack of timely access to appeal hearings. But the real heartache for most of the abatees is they’ve been doing whatever they wanted for so long they convinced themselves they were above the law and beyond it’s reach.
The funny part is, it’s actually Humboldt county that thinks it is above the law when handling these abatements, just because someone is doing something illegal doesn’t exempt them from the constitution.
Most people growing cannabis do not think they are above the law, but the heartache comes from getting screwed over by the government.
For the amount of money paid in abatement fees, in any other industry all of those people would’ve been a legal business.
The truth told is that Humboldt and Mendocino Counties waged a 50 year cultural genocide against the back to the lmd movement and cannabis cultivators exclusively. How many crying babies were ripped from their mothers arms, how many children were stolen away from their parents and placed in the local pedophile foster cares programs by social services just because their parents grew a little cannabis. How many people had their doors busted down by paramilitary predators who would point guns at children and families and our local elderly. How many peoples constitutional rights were violated by these same paramilitary forces who would break down our doors and steal our money and valuables, rob us of our safe’s, cut up our water lines and drain our water tanks in the middle of a drought. How many times their helicopters scared and spooked our livestock, scared our children and left our hearts racing. They are predators. They are violent aggressors. They are child abusers and abusers of elderly and animals. They have no morals, scruples or real community values. They do not care about our community, their only goal was to rob and steal and fill their pockets with our hard earned money which they would steal from our houses during their raids. How many people had the aggressors drain their diesel tanks on the ground contaminating the soil and streams then they were charged with environmental crimes, and these aggressors will lie in reports, lie to the judge for search warrants, and lie in court under oath. The politicians who deep deep down hates cannabis and hated cannabis culture and hated the back to the landers all had their hand in this aggression. They gave the men with guns badges, they gave these low life thieves badges to protect them while they stole and looted from our families and destroyed our local economy. They ended the war on cannabis? No, they just found administrative means to harm the community more and extract every last dollar they could out of the people they persecuted for 50 years. The Humboldt County Government and the Mendocino County government are pure evil and purely out to rob our local cannabis farmers and cannabis community. They don’t give a damn about us, and even more they hate us and want to destroy our culture economy and to force us out of the hills from the subdivisions in the mountains they never wanted us to live in to begin with. The Supervisors are the worst kind of cruel, now they are doing the same thing to our areas poor and financially disadvantaged, look at that shit show at Creekside Cabins north of Willits, they County chose the most expensive way with no heart or love to handle an emergency situation, then they are now going after the natural disaster victims property.
These Supervisors are scum and there I a special place in hell for people like them.
Cultural genocide? You mean the culture where ex-cons, meth addicts and wannabe marijuana millionaires flocked to the E.T. to grow as much weed as they could while trashing the environment? Or the culture where wage theft, sex trafficking and murder were all ignored or covered up? The original back to the landers had an environmental and community ethic that was often not shared by succeeding generations and newcomers.
The farmers and ranchers who flocked to the county before did a much better job of preserving the environment?
An old hippie who has been here since the 70’s once told me something funny. He said that as a weed grower, you will always encounter haters, even if you’re the nicest most giving person in the world. Do you know why? Because they hate our lifestyle. They hate our freedom. They are jealous wether they know it or not. Once you have your own land, you grow your own food, provide your own living, and do what you want when you want, then you are free. They are stuck in their 9-5 as a cog in society and despise our freedom. So be careful who you tell things to, you don’t know when a hater will drop a dime.
His property is the most beautiful, wildlife abundant piece of land I’ve seen in all my years working in the hills. Hes the only one who didn’t get abated on his road.
Yes and how many people were growing for 20+ years and didn’t pay one cent for income tax. Back to the landers need to get back into reality
I disagree that people didn’t pay their fair share. The original back to the landers often had businesses and jobs, and they gave extra to their communities to build non profits, radio stations, community centers, schools fire depts etc. they volunteered for decades to make rural Humboldt what it was pre legalization. The evidence is in the total collapse of the rural economies post prop 64.
Sonoma and Mendocino county building and planning.
Dead horse, too little to late.
Depends on the horse you are referring to. This case can influence people across the country.
👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼
Great lawsuit, here’s why. Profitable pot is over, period. South Humboldt needs to rebuild its economic basis, which will take a decade at least. Sorry, tourism is no magic bullet. Lots of land will become available as farms go under. Investors, the future, read about these incredibly unfair fines being placed on new owners. No one is going to buy up the distressed properties with that risk hanging over them. Land prices collapse over the next few years. Farmers seeking a fresh start elsewhere lose their start-over money. County planners should see profitable pot is over and back off on supercharging the economic contraction with peevish fines.
Right, Ariolimax, and the next coup de grace is HRC or SPI swoop in and buy it at bargain price and log the crap out of it. Hmm. The smell of money other than skunk marijuana.
Are you still hanging on to the timber wars? I work in timber and these companies provide great jobs for young ppl that turn into careers. What, you don’t use forest products? Whats your house made out of and what do you wipe with? One year we spent $8 million on roads. That was the peak but the point is a lot of resources go into BMPs.
Perhaps Save the Redwoods could gather up bankrupt farms and create a preserve
We got an abatement order in 2018, and had our names put in the legal notices twice (that was what they did). I called the county and was told the two greenhouses on our property had to come down. I said there are no greenhouses, they’re on the next door neighbor’s house. We learned they use the satellite images and overlay them with parcel boundaries. The freaking parcel boundaries (see Humboldt’s GIS) are 80 feet off on our property, and likely everyone else’s property not in town. They called me back after “looking into it” and said they had “good news” and bad news. The good news was I owned 80 more feet of land than I thought, the bad news was I had to take down the greenhouses
I said a recent survey was done and I can prove they are dead wrong. They gave me an extension because I said I have a surveyor to prove it. It cost us $500 for the surveyor to rip the county to shreds in a very formal letter, along with maps. They rescinded the abatement and reimbursed me for $585 I requested. However, to us, the damage to our reputation was done. Ironically, they didn’t serve an abatement on the neighbor for three more years. The surveyor told the county it was illegal to have non-licensed surveyors make the determination of where property boundaries are located. Humboldt was over zealous on all fronts. They killed the golden goose and ruined their reputation in the process, along with serious collateral damage caused to landowners.
On the county GIS website, our N S property lines are 120+ feet north of where the lines actually are. The E W lines are shown about 5 feet west of actual. Planning Department is aware of this. CDFW is calling my neighbor a liar and accusing him of moving the markers to avoid their BS extortion. We are still in the middle of it waiting to hear from CDFW. When the time is right, I’m going to tell them that they need to apologize to my neighbor and I will call him over so they can do so.
How the hell did they get their jobs? Cheated on a test?
Please contact me.
Please contact me at [email protected]
The lesson here is to have the property surveyed, by a licensed surveyor, before buying the property.
Legalese: “The Complaint should be entirely dismissed because it does not establish standing as to any Plaintiff. It does not plead injury in fact traceable to the challenged action or that any injury can be redressed here.“
Vernacular: Just because I loomed over you clenching a baseball bat screaming ‘I’m gonna cave your fk’n head in!!’ doesn’t mean I was gonna cave your fk’n head in.
“regulation for profit”…kinda says it all. Incredible, you can’t make this stuff up.
The county supervisors in Mendocino and Humboldt are all scumbags and bloodsucking parasites.
Please remember this when. these people are up for re-election. If they are running unopposed write in “None of the above”
Seeing the county is is so keen with regards to ordinances and compliance, perhaps the county could implement a program to require real estate agents and property sellers to have the property for sale certified by the county as free of all code issues. The county is good at finding issues. Do it before the sales listing and give the buyer the confidence of not stepping into a mess. The country is already doing the finding code issues and charging a new fee could off set the money losses from the decline of the marijuana production.
I enjoyed knowing Cyro Glad at Heartwood institute in the mid nineties. Humboldt county should help him clean up any past violations rather than drag him down with their twisted enforcement of codes and regulations.
It appears that somehow country justice has been institutionalized but still remains non profit.
Steve Santos, the architect of the abatement program and the manager of the cannabis permitting program, is responsible for this mess and should be named on the suit. He was salivating in 2016 all the money he was going to rake in from the cannabis growers. Dude has a serious hard on violating rights and using the power he has to run applicants ragged. Steve Santos needs to go!
Will families be able to receive restitution for their loved ones, who have taken their own lives, after dealing with the county?
I really think they should be able to. If this is a personal story of yours I am so sorry for your loss! If you want to share your story I would be honored to hear it ([email protected]).
I’ve sadly known too many who took their own lives right after an abatement. This was a primary motivator for my reporting, and in their honor. I kept telling the supervisors in board meetings about suicides and ill health being directly related to the abatement program and more often they (especially Bass and Fennel) just rolled their eyes like I was making it up. I have a video of my doing this in 2019 with my newborn rooting me on in the audience. I so wish they believed me and no one lost their life needlessly.
Please get an attorney for cases like this folks. The larger IJ suit will only help the cause, but individual suits have to take place for damages, before the statute of limitations expires. it’s different for each case. Time is of the essence.
Off the cuff response, typical Bohn. Fines and penalties are just off the charts, can they reverse all the monetary damage, probably not. But it’s a start in the right direction. Good luck, government is alway quick with taking the money but slug slow when giving back
These fines are insane and the Board of Supervisors has to be held responsible. Democrats are the masters of collective action. Humboldt is a Democrat County. Why don’t Democrats organize some collective action that all of us can participate in to force Humboldt Board of Supervisors to do the right thing?
By the way, tearing down useful buildings because they are unpermitted doesn’t make sense unless they are so ramshackle they need to be torn down because they are physically dangerous. First it has to be determined if they can be permitted and what work is required to get them permitted. Give the new owners a chance to get them permitted. It should not matter at all what crimes were previously committed in those buildings.
The question is simple: what is the county trying to accomplish? If it’s to clean up the land, then the actual price of clean up is so high that the county should minimize or alter the nature of the incentives so that the land gets cleaned up. As it stands, the county makes it impossible for most to accomplish clean up. Clean up, as many do regularly without threat of fines, takes decades, not days. Further, even if you had the money to hire contractors, there aren’t enough of them to do all the work–again decades of work per parcel.
Then, there is the question of private property rights. And the question of our collective survival. Greenhouses, water tanks and roads are essential for growing food, fighting fires, and so much more. Do they harm the land? Sometimes. Do they harm the land more than logging has? Mostly, not even close and in fact, many of the unpermitted roads were created by past logging companies.
So what’s the point? If having new owners or old, clean things up in an unfunded mandate, then there ought to be grants and adequate time and a helpful agency to assist. But as almost literally every single landowner, including the supervisors and county code enforcers have violations, the county can lead by example and abate its own violations first and go after the truly harmful problems first.
It occurs to me that the 2nd amendment movement wants guns without permits. Fine. Then why not owner building without permits. There is zero difference. And that’s ok. Perhaps the slogan should be the only way they’ll take my house is from my cold, dead fingers.