This past week Humboldt County Sheriff Billy Honsal Jr. announced that the California National Guard will be assisting the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in serving search warrants at suspected illicit marijuana grow sites across the county. Said Honsal, “We are working together to try and bring the illicit cannabis industry into compliance with the state law.”

It’s about damn time! I love it that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has stated one of his goals was to get the illegal cannabis industry into state compliance and offered the National Guard to assist local law enforcement with this task.

You can choose to be a cannabis cultivator or a drug dealer. A cannabis cultivator is a legal farmer who went through the process, got the appropriate permits and pays taxes. The drug dealer grades their land without permits, dropping slit into our rivers and streams. They use pesticides and then claim they are “organic.” They use guns and threaten violence to get their way. They sell their products out of state for cash (interstate transportation of narcotics) and pay zero taxes. It’s tragic that over 90% of our Humboldt growers are still illegal drug dealers and refuse to comply with the law.

You give people a choice: You can have the carrot or you can have the stick. When the majority of the cannabis community refuses the carrot, then hit them with the stick. Hard! Between the county using real-time satellite imaging and sending out notifications that “it appears you have an unpermitted cannabis grow on your property” with threats of $10,000 per days fines and now having helicopters flying over properties to identify illegal cannabis grows, hopefully we can start to eliminate 10-20 of the “bad players” every day from Humboldt County, seven days a week, 52 weeks per year. That will make a dent clearing out the drug dealers.

If it were me, I’d use drones (more cost effective than helicopters) to identify illegal grows off 101 in SoHum and off Highways 36 and 299. No permits on file? Then roll up with the wood chipper. Confiscate any cash lying around and use the asset forfeiture to hire additional compliance officers. Now remind them we’ll be back in 60 days to re-inspect your property again for non-compliance and every 60 days thereafter.

I’m getting tired of hearing, “We can’t afford permits.” Pretend you want to open up any other legitimate business in the city or county. Any idea how many different governmental agencies will be inspecting your business before issuing a permit? No permit, no business. That’s how the real world works. Besides, you’ve been making cash tax-free for how many years now? It’s not my fault you didn’t save any money the past 20 years. You didn’t have to spend three to six months in Costa Rica or Mexico blowing your profits and then buying a new growdozer ($75,000 tricked-out pick-up truck) every year. Try running a real business. Deal with Human Resource issues. Payroll taxes. Workers comp disability claims. Health insurance for your employees. Not getting much sympathy from me or 99% of the taxpaying citizens out there.

To make matters worse, some growers have been complaining to major media outlets (New Yorker Magazine, Politico) of how tough the new regulations are. Yet when I reach out to them to sit and meet with them and ask additional questions, they lose my number quick. I ain’t no East Coast writer who has zero idea of the cannabis world and takes their word for everything. I would ask follow-up questions. If you’re part of the 1,000-pound club (major cannabis grower) don’t go crying that you can’t make any money with today’s regulatory environment.

The majority of the cannabis community has been stalling for years to avoid dealing with rules, regulations and taxes. It’s time for them to either come into compliance or go back to where ever they came from.

Matthew Owen resides in Eureka.


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