Archives May 2008
A highly entertaining article appeared in The Willits News yesterday and quickly moved to the top of their "most viewed" story list.
The article, written by Linda Williams, takes a stab at explaining typical marijuana plant yields and growing techniques, but unfortunately leaves out a lot of information. Also, we were greatly disappointed that no photo of any kind was included with the online version of this story.
Williams writes about the differences between indoor and outdoor growing, stating that outdoor plants have higher individual yields than typical indoor plants, which is generally true. She says that in recent years outdoor growers have been moving their gardens out into the open more frequently to take advantage of full sunlight conditions. This used to be a big no-no, because it was common practice to attempt to hide outdoor gardens from the DEA and CAMP helicopters, but once everyone realized that these agencies are using infrared signatures and other high-tech tools to identify marijuana plants from the air, it made little sense to continue planting crops inside manzanita bushes and underneath cammo netting.
So it's out in the open these days, with some growers clearing entire mountaintops and cultivating hundreds of gigantic pot plants without any concealment. They figure that with so many thousands of outdoor growers in the state, CAMP can only bust a small percentage of them each year, so it's safety in numbers all the way. One Willits career grower who has been operating a large outdoor garden for nearly 30 years was raided by CAMP in 2005, but the end result was little more than the loss of his crop. No arrest, no search warrant, no follow-up of any kind, and the very next year he simply tried again and succeeded. It seems that, while CAMP and the DEA seem to be aware of nearly every outdoor garden in the state, they pick and choose which to raid, and rarely raid the same garden twice.
Anyway, back to Linda's Willits News story. She explains that, in Humboldt County, growers with Prop 215 recommendations are legally entitled to 100 square feet of canopy, but no more than 99 total plants. And here's the news to us: No more than 1500 watts of light! Does anyone in this county actually garden under less than 4000 watts of HID lighting? Maybe now that 600W digital ballast technology is stable, some growers may garden with just 2400 total watts, but seriously, most 215 patients are unable to grow enough medicine under 1500 watts to actually support their needs. Especially when the cost of electricity, garden supplies, and especially rent forces most growers to sell at least part of their harvest to cover the extreme expense of growing marijuana in Humboldt County.
And let's talk about electricity costs for a moment. PG&E charges residential customers depending on their home's "baseline" usage. This means that they use square footage, number of appliances, and perhaps some other criteria to determine how much electricity a given residence should be using. Once the customer burns through that baseline quantity, the rates start to increase dramatically. Once you burn up 3 times your allotted baseline amount, the price per kilowatthour more than triples to 37 cents in the Eureka/Arcata area. If you own a personal computer, you probably exceed the baseline quantity each month. If you have a 2400 watt marijuana garden in your spare bedroom, your energy costs per month are over $500, sometimes double that depending on how efficient your garden schedule is and your non-garden energy usage.
Why does PG&E triple the price of electricity for high-use customers? And why is the baseline allotment so low that running a personal computer bumps us over the limit? Because they know they can get away with it. Growers aren't going to say anything, and every last one of them pays the high prices without complaint, because they don't want to bring attention to their gardens. It's a big time grow tax, and PG&E is cleaning up with it. Unfortunately this forces medical growers to sell major portions of their harvests to cover the high electricity costs, which means growing more, which means buying more electricity, which quickly turns into a vicious cycle.
Just another aspect of the marijuana economy here. We sure hope that PG&E is doing something for the community with that triple-cost power money. At least there haven't been as many massive blackouts in Humboldt since the typhoon of 2006.
Anyway, back to pot plant yields. Yes, some people get a pound or more per plant growing outdoors, but indoor is a much different story. Indoor growers are forever chasing the "pound-per-light" goal, that is, trying to get 1 pound for every 1000W lamp per grow cycle. Some growers pull it off, but in general this yield is not realized in normal gardens. Instead, smart growers try to speed up their grow cycle times to get more harvests in shorter periods, thereby gaining higher overall yields from their gardens by doing more turnovers per year. Typical yields per 1000 watts? Half to three-quarters of a pound is probably normal for the average indoor grower. Those who do actually get one pound per light are likely operating their gardens on 3-month cycles, which means they are only realizing four grows per year. Shorten the length of the cycle and you can get higher annual production despite lower individual cycle yields.
A fresh press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office describes a wild domestic disturbance in Trinidad last night that ended with multiple hospital visits and numerous criminal charges.
It seems that a man named Lorenzo Jay Erickson got into a heated argument with his girlfriend and her brother. This soon escalated into a full-on knock-down drag-out brawl during which Erickson beat his girlfriend first with some rocks, then with a t-shirt full of rocks. He also beat his girlfriend's brother with a large rock.
That is apparently when Lorenzo's girlfriend grabbed a knife from her kitchen and attacked him, cutting his face and arm. This reportedly sent Erickson into a wild rage which caused him to smash every window on the property, including those of the the girlfriend's car out front.
Lorenzo bailed fast when he heard the cops approaching, and officers from multiple jurisdictions were unable to find him until 2:45 a.m. when he returned to the scene and was eventually found hiding in the bushes nearby.
Erickson was booked for the following crimes: assault with a deadly weapon, threatening a crime with the intent to terrorize, domestic violence, and vandalism, and parole violation. He should be arraigned on Thursday, and he won't be eligible for bail. Lock 'em up!
There's nothing too special about yesterday's press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. Another day, another marijuana grow house busted.
This one is only slightly different from the norm in that it's a rental unit that was converted entirely into a giant garden. Every room, the HVAC system, the electrical system, the whole place was remodeled to accommodate a massive pot grow.
Yeah yeah, who cares, right? Well, first off, we care, because this is just one more example of local law enforcement using their resources to go after marijuana farmers instead of real criminals. Sure, it's not very cool to ruin someone's rental property just to grow your pot. The way the press release reads, it seems like these growers could afford to just buy their own house and convert it into a massive garden. But then, no arrests have been made yet, so who's to say these guys don't have another 5 houses full of pot plants in the area?
Which leads to another topic: Maybe it is worthwhile to have the Sheriff going after "big-time" pot growers, guys who have multiple houses and are making so much damn money off black market pot deals that is really is conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. We're fine with small timers growing their 215 medicine, but it does get out of hand when you have people running gigantic million dollar pot operations out of rental homes.
Opinions? Can we get some comments from real growers on this topic?
Record high temperatures in coastal Humboldt County have indoor marijuana farmers seeking cooling solutions to curb the heat wave and protect their cash crops.
The unusually hot weather is a welcome change in Eureka and Arcata for most, but pot growers are worried about the effects on their gardens.
"Cannabis doesn't do well once the temperature goes over about 90 degrees" inside the grow room, says one anonymous local grower. "When you have eight thousand watts of light in an eight by twelve foot enclosed space, it can get very warm when that outside temperature gets to 85."
One of the best things about the Eureka area for indoor pot gardeners is the consistently cool coastal weather, usually around or under 60 degrees ferenheight. Most growers simply blow outside air into their gardens and vent the heated air out the other side, and that is enough to keep the grow room temperature below the recommended 80F that pot plants thrive in.
"Sure, the plants don't die when it's 95 degrees in the [grow] room, but they certainly require more work like extra watering and raising the lights," another grower said. In order to help control the temperature, she said, many indoor pot growers have taken to shutting off half or more of their grow lamps during the daylight hours.
The implications of this are actually pretty funny. In an area where almost no one has air conditioning, when pot growers start shutting down half their grow lights due to the heat, we're guessing local electricity consumption tapers off during a heat wave. In most cities, heat waves are notorious for stressing the power grid due to overuse of air conditioners in peak daytime hours. Here in Humboldt County, our power usage likely decreases with the heat as thousands of cannabis growers shut off their high wattage light systems to reduce heat output in their gardens.
Pretty neat, huh?
Diesel spill incidents caused by irresponsible marijuana growers in both Fortuna and Salmon Creek are in the headlines today.
The Fortuna incident actually occurred late last year, and Lucas Hall, a Fortuna marijuana farmer, has been cited for multiple environmental violations after his improperly buried diesel fuel tanks leaked enough of the fuel into a nearby creek to warrant a fines totaling $156,446.00.
The other incident is more recent and involves yet another marijuana growing operation running on diesel generators in Salmon Creek. Environmental authorities figure at least 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel have already leaked into Hacker Creek and the surrounding area, and the damage covers at least a few hundred meters between the fuel tanks and into the creek.
Residents near Hacker Creek actually pump water from the stream into their homes, and the area is remote enough that some neighbors don't even have phone lines. This makes it difficult to warn those people that their drinking water has been contaminated by a careless pot farmer.
It is truly sad that this is the way things sometimes go down around here. We can't help thinking that if the county showed more official support for marijuana growing then maybe fewer residents would try to hide their operations by burying illegal diesel generators and fuel tanks. There must be a half dozen cannabis related diesel spills each year, and that's only what we know about!
Is there any solution to this problem? Obviously the hillfolk will continue to grow pot no matter what, so maybe we need our environmental officials to publicly announce that they will offer help and support to remote growers in an effort to protect the environment from noxious chemical spills.
In a rare change of pace for local law enforcement, two men were arrested Monday morning in connection with that terrifying home invasion robbery incident on Little Fairfield in which a weed growing couple from Virgina were bound and beaten before having their grow operation burglarized.
Of course, this investigative success had almost nothing to do with the Eureka Police Department, which is currently so screwed up that one of its own officers is anonymously authoring an exposé style blog bringing light to the department's internal management issues. From what we can tell, EPD does not frequently make follow-up arrests in many of their (possibly) thousands of open cases within the city.
Indeed, it was Humboldt County Sheriff's Detectives that pulled off enough sleuthing to lead them to the apartment of Melvin Matthews on the 100 block of Del Norte St. Matthews is a 25 year old parolee who apparently burglarizes and terrorizes local residents for a living.
Further investigation led the team, which consisted of US Marshals, State Parole Agents, and local Sheriff's Deputies, to Ray "Rafey" James of Willow Creek. They didn't have to look far to find James, because he was already booked by the Eureka Police Department two days earlier for auto theft. Wait, does that mean we have to take back what we said a minute ago about the EPD's inability to make follow up arrests?
In any case, major props to local law enforcement for pulling these violent criminals off the streets and making it just a wee bit safer for honest Humboldt citizens!
That's right, Tom Green, the Canadian comedian who was briefly popular in the late 90's, was in Humboldt County filming clips for his current road-trip style project, Tom Green The Channel.
But, as the headline suggests, nobody gives a crap. The video below contains the only known Humboldt residents who noticed his visit, and they live in Rio Dell, and they all made asses of themselves. See for yourself:
Oh wait, Ernie's mom in Garberville sold Tom a straw hat during his Humboldt visit. So I guess at least one respectable resident was interested.
For a guy who is known to enjoy good marijuana, we're a little shocked that Green didn't bring any attention to the cash crop that Humboldt County is so famous for. It seems that the most interesting thing he did while in the Redwood Nation was stop in Rio Dell and talk to a bunch of dorky teenagers and whatever transients were wandering by at the moment. Man, he didn't even film anything at the Arcata Plaza! What a waste of time, Tom! If you wanted some good Humboldt footage, you definitely should have talked to some of the weirdos in Arcata.
Anyway, nobody cares. We're betting that if we didn't post this article, you would have gone the rest of your life never once thinking about Tom Green again. Wasn't he the guy who's career ended when he was filmed sucking milk from the teat of a cow?
Astute Eureka resident Robert Barker has a fantastic opinion piece in the Eureka Reporter today. He says our community is under attack by tweekers and methamphetamines, not marijuana growers, and he wonders why our local law enforcement agencies are allowed to bust so many pot growers while meth busts seem to happen only when a CHP gets lucky enough to find some tweek during a routine traffic stop.
"Why would any law enforcement organization spend time on pot when it has this real enemy of mankind staring it directly in the face? I say we need stiffer penalties for dealers and more education and awareness of the effects of this evil substance. Intervention and education are the only bulwarks that have some chance of positive results.
This community is under attack not by marijuana, but by the demon of speed. We see the vast differences in the faces of the tweekers compared to pot smokers, and it is like night and day. People who smoke pot exclusively and do not partake in the harder substances are usually decent citizens who work and contribute to the community, not strip it bare as tweekers do."
And he couldn't be more correct. Sure, some pot growers are greedy jerks who evade taxes and do nothing for the community, but at least they aren't committing crimes to support their habit or trashing our parks and alleys. And don't forget that there are still many, many responsible marijuana gardeners who work day jobs, pay taxes, and act responsibly in the community.
Think about it. If Humboldt County didn't have marijuana, it would be a freaking ghost town! There is no question that pot supports our meager economy, and without the cash jobs that the marijuana industry provides to our community there is no way we could support the number of people who are currently living in this beautiful Redwood Nation. Come on, we have a decaying infrastructure and a serious lack of real industry. Except for marijuana, which employs thousands of locals year-round and makes it possible for them to pay the incredibly high prices for necessities like gasoline and food.
Let's wage war on meth, not pot.
The 2008 outdoor marijuana growing season has officially started. To confirm, watch closely for sunburned dreadlock hippies roaming town, extra dirty pickup trucks loaded with gardening gear, and long lines at Pierson's and Target's garden center.
Outdoor pot growers generally start planting their crops in May and sometimes as late as June, but there will always be a handful or more who plant as early as April. As a result of this, rooted plant cuttings become a hot commodity in the springtime, with most outdoor growers getting theirs from indoor growing friends and neighbors.
Popular strains this outdoor season? Whatever growers can get their hands on, as usual. Trainwreck and Diesel will always be popular, and Master Kush seems to be making a comeback this year. We remember a few years back some amazing outdoor strains like Soul Train, Romulan, and Mango, but we're not sure if those are still around.
If this year is anything like the seasons past, Humboldt County residents can expect yet another massive increase in the number of pot growers occupying the hills, the number of CAMP choppers flying overhead, and yet another massive increase in the amount of seized bud come summertime through harvest.
Last year the Humboldt Sheriff's Drug Enforcement Unit nabbed over 355,000 outdoor plants, 37,419 indoor plants, and about 900 pounds of processed bud in their eradication efforts. It was the biggest year ever, but it's always the biggest year ever because there are always more and more growers planting bigger and bigger crops.
In comparison, authorities only seized about 100,000 plants in 2006. Yeah, that's a beefy increase in only one year. The 2007 total was estimated to be worth $1 billion had it made it to the streets. Does that mean they removed $1 billion from Humboldt County's economy?
It was an unfortunate event on the 4300 block of Little Fairfield early Wednesday morning when three armed men broke down the back door at the home of Daniel Jarrette and tied the residents up before making off with about 6 pounds of marijuana and 65 live plants.
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office reported that deputies arrived at the home at approximately 1:45 a.m. and took down the details of the burglary. According to the press release, the armed men broke down the back door of the house and forced the occupants to the floor with handguns. The occupants were beaten and tied up in the bathroom while the burglars tossed the house and took what they wanted.
What they wanted, of course, was pot, and they found plenty of it, but that didn't stop them from also stealing a shotgun and "miscellaneous electronic equipment".
Unfortunately for Mr. Jarrette, the deputies who responded had to arrest him for his outstanding warrants in Virginia for conspiracy to sell marijuana, larceny, and money laundering. Oops! So it's true, you're not supposed to call the cops when you're actually a criminal yourself. And yet he thought, like so many others, that he could run away to Humboldt and grow his problems away. Guess not.
We still maintain, however, that most pot growers aren't criminals, per se, but the pot growing industry here definitely attracts the kind of criminals who prey on the growers. Which is why we should probably just embrace the whole marijuana thing once and for all, tax that stuff, and use the money to pay for better law enforcement to protect the tax paying pot growers! Is that just too idealistic?