By Sharon Letts
This past week many were shaken of news that a highly respected and prominent member of the Humboldt community was taken into custody by the Humboldt County Drug Task Force for cultivation of cannabis, with child endangerment charges added, due to an indoor grow in a garage.
Seeing the sad faces in mug shots of those taken down for something voted on and legal in our county and state is always disturbing. When it's the teary-eyed face of a dear friend, it's devastating, and gives more questions than answers.
How could this wonderful person of such high standing be in this kind of trouble?
Humboldt: Land of Opportunity
With Northern California's lumber and fishing industries' heyday a distant memory, it's no wonder cannabis stepped up to provide.
According to U.S. Census data, Humboldt County ranks midway in Median Individual Worker Income at number 52, with an average income of $22,148 posted - barely reaching the federal poverty level of $23,050.
When I arrived in Humboldt County six years ago I had only an inkling of the county's interest in its largest cash crop. With a background in television production I was hired to produce a daily news broadcast by The Eureka Reporter, a now defunct conservative rag.
At the time of hire I honestly didn't even ask what the wage was, knowing full well it could never match my average $900 plus a week earned from television. Nevertheless, at $13 an hour I was the envy of those who had been there much longer, making less.
Paying The Bills
It didn't take long to realize that it was the covert world of cannabis a majority of co-workers lived in -- above and below the administrative line.
Whether it was a small grow at home or added income garnered with trim jobs, most had to have some kind of work affiliated with the grow world to subsidize the meager wages earned.
"You have to be stupid not to make money in Humboldt County."
The above statement was shared with me by a longtime Humboldtian with a family heritage of cannabis. The information was meant to enlighten, but I suppose I am stupid, and have never grown or relied on trimming to make ends meet - to my downfall, I might add.
By the time I was lead Feature Writer at the Times-Standard, my salary dipped to $12.50 an hour. Still the envy of those working for less much longer, my financial life suffered. The summer gas prices rocketed to five bucks a gallon, I was choosing whether to fill the tank for work, or make a car payment.
One sunny afternoon my car was repossessed from the parking lot while I worked on yet another weekly feature.
It's Medicine, Stupid
My bottom line; cannabis cured my cancer. As detailed in an essay published on Toke of the Town just a short while ago, I was faced with Lobular Carcinoma just a few months ago - meaning I was faced with surgery, radiation, hair loss and misery, but cannabis saved me from all of that.
And while our government does not yet fully acknowledge its benefits, on October 7, 2003, represented by the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Patent No. 6630507 was granted, pertaining to any and all uses and applications of: cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.
Humboldt's own District Attorney Paul Gallegos has stated cannabis is not an issue of crime, but of education and health.
Recently, a cartoon on Facebook was circulated depicting a family of four with the caption, "Talk to your kids about Marijuana." The next frame had the father telling his children all about the benefits as medicine, hemp and how this simple plant can save the planet. That's the real story.
Keep Kids Out of the Drug War
The most frightening part of a family home being raided for cannabis is what typically happens to the children. One family in Butte County was raided this year with all three of the children being put into temporary foster care - including a nursing baby.
When double-mastectomy survivor, Dr. Mollie Fry's home was raided outside of Sacramento, her 12-year-old grandson was handcuffed and held on the floor at gunpoint. The raid took hours and no one was allowed to comfort her screaming baby granddaughter, or change its diapers.
What's wrong with this picture?
Child endangerment laws are illusive in an indoor grow situation. The very fact that cannabis is not recognized under federal law is enough for charges to be pressed and children to be taken away, no matter what city, county or state laws provide.
Add the fact that residential structures are not meant to be indoor greenhouses, with power sources upped and grounded to the main feed, the entire set-up is considered "tampered with," regardless if a certified electrician was brought in or not. In the case of the recent arrest, it has been confirmed an electrician was indeed contracted for the work.
I have never discussed setting up a room with anyone who wasn't hiring an electrician for the hardwiring of the main power source. And electricians who will do the work are plentiful, no questions asked. After all, no one wants a fire in their home, and no one purposefully endangers their family.
So, what to do when supply and demand is high, the people are healing, the State says A-OK, but the Feds say no-go?
The concept of jurors judging the law, as well as the facts, is called "Jury Nullification, and is an important part of American jurisprudence and its history.
The best example of occurred during the time of slavery, when those who aided in escape were tried under Federal Law for violation of the "Fugitive Slave Act." But when Northern jurors opposed to the law sat in judgment of these "criminals," they would often acquit, even when defendants admitted guilt. Legal historians credit these cases with advancing the cause of abolition of slavery.
One recent example of Jury Nullification took place recently in Orange County, a conservative patch of red in Southern California, when the Executive Director of a collective was pulled over after selling legal overages to another collective. Juror No. 110 was the only juror to disagree with the punishment for the crime - a mandatory five years for 100 plants by Federal Law - and cast a "not guilty" vote, rendering the jury hung with an acquittal.
There are bad apples in the barrel of growers that make up the Humboldt grow scene, but the arrest that took place recently is a slap in the face to good medicine and good people.
Do your homework, learn about the benefits of Cannabis and Hemp as a sustainable material, and nullify the negativity.