Farmer Tom O’Gorman, a self-described “old hippie” who took part in the 1970s back-to-land movement, admits he matches the profile of a cannabis grower, right down to his large greenhouse in rural Willow Creek, along with the notice he received earlier this month to shut down his illegal marijuana operation.
Just one issue with that picture: O’Gorman says that while he fully supports cannabis legalization, he’s never grown the plant himself. The Trinity River Farm he owns harvests fruits and vegetables as well as local jams, jellies and sauces.
But O’Gorman’s greenhouse is large enough to have been flagged on Humboldt County’s satellite mapping system, the same one that helped the county increase its cannabis code enforcement by 700% in 2018.
It’s all turned out fine for O’Gorman, who received a retraction from county officials about a week after the mishap. But the day he received his abatement notice was quite a bit more stressful.
“I asked the gentleman who served me the papers how he was doing,” O’Gorman said. “He said, ‘I’m fine, but you might not be as well as you think you are.’ Then he handed me an abatement notice.”
Over the next week, O’Gorman heard from friends that he was mentioned in the classified pages of the Times-Standard, where the county publishes each abatement notice twice over. It was an embarrassing moment in an overall “unfortunate” process, O’Gorman said.
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Eugene Denson, a Southern Humboldt County-based attorney representing small-farm cannabis growers, said he has assisted farmers in similar positions to clear their status with the county. The county’s abatement system, he says, demands money first and asks questions later.
“You get a piece of paper saying, ‘We’re going to fine you thousands and thousands of dollars a day,’” Denson said. “That’s stressful and scary.”
A simple solution Denson proposes is to give the abatement messenger — like the man who served O’Gorman his papers — more authority to square away mistakes as soon as they arrive.
Verifying with a human eye that a satellite-flagged greenhouse isn’t a pot farm would save belabored farmers a great deal of hassle, he said.
|Me, Georgia and Alex, 2004.|
Georgia's sister Mary has one of her two houses in Mad River, in heart of this country, where she and John taught school until their retirement. In the bad old days, before quasi-legalization, the illegal pot farms were a definite threat, including booby traps, and a bit of violence.
Now that the state of California has abandoned the criminal enforcement, and gone with the notion of trying to extract as much income as possible via taxes, it's more peaceful, but not without some issues.