Smoking the Sheriff

Smoking the Sheriff  021311

Many years ago I worked as a government drone; we would take our break at the vending machines, which sold everything from ageless sandwiches to hotdogs, all in little clear plastic bins in the machines.  One day a friend of mine purchased a can of hot crème of chicken soup, and when he touched ring to open it the can exploded with flying chicken and gray matter.  The bio-shrapnel was followed at once by toxic gas, a stench you can only get by keeping chicken and starch modestly warm in a can for weeks and weeks.  My friend wiped at the goo with napkins which were never intended for the task, and the effort spread the chicken substance and worked it into the fabric.  The remainder of the day my friend worked alone, as the rest of us crammed into the opposite side of the room.

I imagine that’s probably about how John Evans felt when the infamous “IRS grant” hit the Board of Supervisors.

The grant was supposed to be a no-brainer.  It was completed by the drug interdiction officer and handed to the Sheriff, who sent it to the Board on the consent agenda.

However, Sierra County is blessed with an active and busy press.  Don Russell of the Mountain Messenger actually read the grant and realized it contained an element requiring the local sheriff to begin working for the IRS.  
I intended to have the item discussed just so the local politicos would have to admit they support keeping the cost of pot high.  
Both editors requested the item to be pulled and discussed.  We even filled out a little blue slip requesting to speak.

In the real world, federal grants are often like money a young gal might get from her boyfriend.  No one wants to say why she’s getting the money, so they call it love, but if she stopped doing what she does, the money would stop and everybody knows it.
Same with grants like the $11,000 bucks from the feds.  It comes with strings, and we can call those strings patriotism if we want to, but if the cops stop doing what they do, the money stops.

In the instance of this particular grant, what the Feds are doing is paying our local sheriff to betray local growers, in particular, medical cannabis growers.  The feds are frustrated that California has held off their assaults on medical cannabis, and are probably concerned that the entire justification for federal laws against cannabis, (it might be sold across state lines) will disintegrate into the pressed cow fiber that it is.  

Everybody should know this about the grant: it is an attempt to get the sheriff to make medical marijuana illegal by sending it into the federal system.   

California law prevents the sheriff from turning medical grows over to federal drug enforcement, but I don’t think it’s clear that it includes the IRS.  It should be clear that the spirit of the law intends that the local sheriff doesn’t involve the feds at all.

In practice, the department gets the grant, spends the money mostly on the purposes of the grant and uses the rest to boost the department in some way, and sends the feds what they want: statistics.  The process is not complicated, and the feds almost never take any money back.

If things had gone normally, the department would have gotten the money, the assigned drug cop would have gotten to fly all around the county looking for scary Mexican Drug Lords (see article HERE  for an example of how MDL are necessary for politicians to bullshit us about cannabis) feeling just like the boys in the bigger counties, and nothing much would have happened.  If they’d actually busted a big grow, most likely they could report the grow but since they almost never catch anyone, it would be a dry hole.

But, nope, thanks to your local press, people found out and got pissed.  
No one wants an airplane flying over their homestead for any reason.  We pay the cost to live in the sticks, we want the primary benefit, which is privacy.
The dozens of legal medical marijuana growers and users in the county don’t want the local Good Ol’ Boys (GOBs) prying into their lives, and under the law, they don’t have to.
A lot of people are just getting tired of the whole drug war thing, it clearly isn’t working and it just continues to make sure drugs are profitable.  
Finally, many of the people who have had enough of this are citizens of the 21st century, and have computers, and know how to talk to attorneys.  

Enough people were upset that the Messenger and the Prospect heard from people on it.  The Messenger did a second article clarifying how John Evans let us down.

Not to be outdone at this game, John worked hard to let us down himself.  He put out press releases which landed in what I suspect is the middle of John’s field of vision on this subject.
Like a lot of cops, his field of vision runs from locking up every long haired anti-American dope smoker to a point where, OK, under the law sick people can grow a little pot, if they think it helps.  In other words, from the far right to the middle right.

No where in John’s lexicon, at least not in his press release, is there a place where John can say to himself “maybe its time to stop doing the things that make the problem worse.”  No where does he voice the idea that law enforcement is what keeps the price of weed high, nor does he voice an understanding that it is money, not marijuana, that sends people to the hills to grow.

Instead, the press release voiced again his lack of knowledge of California law, or the understanding that his view is becoming passe.  He shows that he doesn’t understand that violence begets violence.

Still, I hesitate to make John look as bad as he makes possible.  It’s for a very good reason.

On the ground, John has mostly shown good judgement.  The Sheriff has slowly changed his view; can we ask him to abandon decades of anti-cannabis cop propaganda?  

If we don’t want the SCSO to take part in the eradication of large grows, what do we want them to do when the Forest Service or a harassed hunter make a report?
Anyway, the nice part of the fly-over is it gives the grunts on the ground a head’s up, and they have time to beat it before the cops come.  

Eventually, as a society, we need to resolve to face facts on drugs.  Efforts like this only serve to keep the prices high.  Medical marijuana, through prop 215, has lowered the price on cannabis to the point it’s no longer profitable for some.  That’s how cannabis regulation should proceed.  

There’s no saving John, though, on the issue of medical marijuana.  It is confused in his thoughts as it is in his press release; he still can’t completely accept that there is a market in legal medical cannabis.  People who grow for themselves and others can also sell their surplus on the legal medical cannabis market.  They aren’t allowed to profit too much, but they can charge a reasonable price for their effort.  This is how a lot of medical patients pay their bills, and it is completely legal.

John has another opportunity to show what he does, or does not know.  A businessman from out of the area is considering the county for a medical marijuana dispensary.  The county is located in the center of a large un-served area.  The dispensary would create a few jobs, and would pay taxes as a non-profit on goods sold.  The dispensary is a way to take cannabis sales out of the criminal world and bring them into the world of legitimate business.  That is how we reduce the profit, and so the criminal motive, for cannabis.

It would also dramatically increase the access to medical cannabis for our literally hundreds of citizens with 215 letters.

Ironically, our “leaders” actually seldom lead, instead, social opinion changes and they slowly change to keep up.  During the Board of Supervisors meeting where the grant was discussed, our local politicos showed how provincial and anti logical they can be.  Lee Adams wants medical growers to pay income tax like he does, even though to do so is an admission of guilt in a federal crime, while no feds sniff at Lee’s retirement.  Let’s not see a repeat of such bigoted remarks.
Currently, the dispensary needs no county permission to open.  However, if the county attempts to block the dispensary, perhaps by proposing an ordinance to ban dispensaries, then a lawsuit on behalf of county medical users is assured.

Instead, the Prospect encourages, again, that the county create zoning appropriate for medical marijuana dispensaries and applies a modest local tax.  Most medcan dispensaries are happy to ante up to be part of the legitimate business world.  

The Supervisors have done brilliant work on some very scary issues recently, including water, the political time bomb of the 21st century.  It’s time they started acting like adults on cannabis.

Personally, I don’t want more cops in the sky.  If the pot is on FS land let their cops take care of it; if it’s on SPI land have them pile and burn it if they like.  If you’re hunting and you come on some wide eyed boys with guns, go hunt somewhere else.  All that pot isn’t being smoked here, it isn’t up to us to solve the problem.  Let them work it out.

Instead, I’d like the sheriff to spend cop time on things we really care about: burglaries and drunk driving.
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