Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner Tom Allman is nothing if not sincere and committed to doing his job to the best of his ability.
Sheriff Allman said the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department budget is holding steady at around $23.5 million per year. Indications are that sales tax and bed tax revenues are up about two percent from the previous year, indicating a slow economic recovery.
He said he didn’t want to spend all his time taking about marijuana during his presentation to the Garberville Rotary Club last Tuesday. But, everything he did talk about seemed to take him right back to the same place - growing marijuana and what it is doing to our environment. The eradication and rehabilitation of the mega-grows that are destroying our forests and public lands are currently part of the Mendocino County business plan.
Allman said, “We can’t continue to allow people to abuse our land. We need to be caretakers. We’re not going to focus on small grows of 15-20 plants when there are grows next door with hundreds and even thousands of plants.”
Every marijuana crop that was rehabilitated on public land during Operation Full Court Press in 2011 cost $35,000 per acre. Allman said they have been spending more on rehabilitation than eradication. Over 632,000 plants were removed during this program along with 40 miles of black plastic pipe, and tons of poisons, waste and trash. Fortunately 100% of almost everything that was removed was recycled.
Plus, the amount of water removed from our rivers and streams by big grow operations is virtually unknown.
What happens to the marijuana that is confiscated? Gone are the days when it was piled up and burned. Now, it is buried. Once marijuana is buried, it molds and rots almost immediately.
There are 12 county sheriffs in California who have taken a public stand against the federal government’s views on marijuana cultivation. These sheriffs are now meeting monthly to openly discuss the problems they are facing.
If you would like more information on this program search the web for Support Rural America.
Allman said, “We welcome the feds to come and meet with us one on one.”
Washington D.C. representatives from the Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and National Parks have been invited to visit these counties. Allman said it is more likely they will want them to come to Washington, but it will be much more effective for them to come out here and see what we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.
He asked the question, “Who owns federal land?
His answer was, “Nobody holds the title to this land. The feds have the obligation to take care of the land or turn it over to the counties. They have been putting up locked gates on federal roads locking out its citizens and this is unacceptable.”
Mendocino County depends on tourist dollars as do other counties including Humboldt and Del Norte. Allman said when you have the federal government locking gates and prohibiting people from using national forests for hiking, snowmobiling, hunting, etc., this causes public outcry. He also said it becomes a problem when emergency personnel needs to access these federal lands.
Allman said, “Believe me, if there is an emergency and we find a locked gate, we will find a way to go through it if necessary. Increasing access to public lands is our mission and removing large grows is essential. We are taking this very seriously.”
Another reason to protect public and private lands from the destruction caused by these large, commercial grows is timber production. Mendocino County is fourth in the state for timber revenues. It’s important to preserve these lands for future generations.
Allman talked about the new bill that gives law enforcement the right to stop vehicles loaded with irrigation and fertilizer supplies seen on public lands. He explained that this would give law enforcement a starting point for future prosecutions.
If someone is stopped with a truck full of grow equipment on federal or state land they will be documented and asked where they are going with it. If at a later time, a large grow is discovered and this person is found to be connected with the site in question it could help convict the perpetrators. There is also hope that these people if found guilty will have to start paying restitution for the large costs incurred to rehabilitate these lands.
As expected, this new law is causing huge civil repercussions in the local communities.
Allman responded to that by saying, “A sheriff enforces the law and protects the citizens. The role of a sheriff is a Constitutional position. We have to answer to the attorney general and the public who elects us.”
When asked about the income-producing zip-tie program in Mendocino County, Allman said in 2011 we made $200,000 in zip-tie fees compared to $150,000-$175,000 in 2012 when it was deemed illegal by the government.
Allman said Mendocino County still offers a $625 permit fee to grow medical marijuana. This tells law enforcement whose grows are registered and whose aren’t.
In 2010 President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, an important step to help the federal government better address the unique public safety challenges that confront tribal communities. A two-day training session is planned in Mendocino County to help local law enforcement work more closely with the 11 Rancherias and seven tribes in the county.
Two of the best programs in the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department are the bakery and vegetable gardens. He said the jail is currently producing about 70 pounds of vegetables a day and the bakery is proving to be equally successful. This gives inmates something to be proud of and teaches them useful and rewarding skills they can use later on in public life.
The other program Allman is extremely proud of is the Face-to-Face Methamphetamine Program. He said it is working well and you can now use an I-Pad, which produces a photo in 30 seconds. The application shows the before photo of a 16-year-old teenager and then what they would look like after three years of meth use. He hopes to expand this program even more to reach more teens and adults alike.
If you would like more information about any of these programs, or would like to talk to Sheriff Allman, contact the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department online or call (707) 463-4411.
REDWOOD TIMES PHOTO BY SUSAN GARDNER
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman talks about protecting our public lands during the Garberville Rotary Club meeting.