Posts Tagged With: safety


After three killings in Calaveras County this year over protecting marijuana patches, the county began to wrestle with the subject of legalizing cannabis. Commercial Growers and individual users who grow their own plants, if my assessment is correct, are following state laws, that conflict somewhat with Federal law. Something clearly needed to be fixed.

I’ve been waylaid on this subject for eight days as my hard drive in my computer began to gasp and die. I attended a meeting July 12th hosted by the Calaveras County Democrats Club. They invited speakers Merita Callaway, Bill McManus and Bob Bowerman to explain the benefits, the inherent problems, and possible solutions involved with legalizing marijuana/or banning it outright.

Former supervisor, Merita Callaway spoke for the Callaway-Stevenot initiative.  The initiative has qualified for the November ballot as Measure D and only deals with growing.

LAND USE:  A grower must have a minimum size of 2 acres. Set back from property lines  is 75 feet. Growing is not permitted in Residential-1 zones. Cultivation cannot exceed 15% of the growing  area. One/half  acre of total canopy is permitted.  Growers can use green house culture or outdoor plantings.

SECURITY: Grow must be secured by a 6 foot fence screening plants from the public. They must submit a security plan. Growers must allow reasonable on-sight inspections; Grower must be fingerprinted and submit to criminal background check. Generators must be operated from an insulated shed for noise compliance.

ENVIRONMENT: Growers using natural waterways must be Permitted by Fish & Wildlife. They must submit a water use plan. Well users will need a well permit and be metered for use. Outdoor light must be shielded by canopy to prevent light pollution and glare. Canopy cover must also shield plants from public view as they rise above fence height, in areas where the public is legally allowed to be. Growers must comply with regulations for use of fertilizers and pesticides and must get a permit through Environmental Health. Growers must comply with storage rules for hazardous materials. The grow site must be inhabited by a permanent resident of the county in a dwelling. (The grower is given a year to provide a permanent dwelling.)

The initiative is carefully constructed, looking to cover any loopholes of definition, plant type, and anything that will affect the quality of life of others.  The initiative also deals with caregiver and personal cultivation uses. It has an appeals process if needed. It discusses fees and enforcement. I am impressed by the 32 page document and the work it represents. I am also concerned with what I see as weak areas.

Number 1: The potential for noise other than a generator is also an issue. Gunfire, barking dogs, and increased traffic on rural roads. Our county Noise Ordinance is very weak and non specific, and in my opinion useless. They do not enforce it unless an inspector, a cop or someone official is there to hear it. They will not accept a tape unless it records noise levels in decibels, and the source is provable.

Number 2: Reasonable inspections does not do it for me. What constitutes reasonable?  More a concern for dispensaries than a grow, but certainly a surprise element, so no cover-up occurs. All inspectors should have access to grower gates for emergency services, like fire.  It should be available for inspection on demand at any time to effectively monitor regulations. I didn’t see, but may have missed whether dogs are used as warning security. It becomes an issue for neighbors. I saw nothing addressing dust. Where cultivation occurs, ATV’s can create enormous amounts of dust that affect neighboring properties and air quality. In general, the document is stricter than state requirements, and I believe that to be a plus. I commend Callaway and Stevenot for their efforts. Changes after the fact are always hard to make.

Speaker Bill McManus is a passionate proponent of banning marijuana grows, and thus, dispensaries,  in the county. His group of locals supporters got enough signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot as well.

McManus maintains that regulations do not work. They’ve been tried and they’ve failed. They are unenforceable. He sites Yuba County allowed legal cannabis, then banned legal outdoor growing after two shootings. Growers tend to protect their crops with deadly force. He says the industry always touts the jobs and money created by cannabis grows. But, the statistics don’t show an increase in taxable income. He also sited a legal grow in the county where a neighbor is afraid to let her children outside. The growers warn the children away asking them not to look in that direction nor go anywhere near the property. She owns the burned out property and can’t afford to move anywhere else. She is scared in her own house.

One question from a ban supporter, a nurse, cited a 17% increase in vehicular accidents since marijuana has been legalized. She also points out there is a test for alcohol, but not for cannabis impairment. A very valid point. She posits that a test can be developed but it won’t cut down on the impaired drivers. They will only increase with legalization. A given and a worry.

Another negative about cannabis use as compared to alcohol. You have too many drinks and from three to  seven hours later, you are sober. With Cannabis a user can remain impaired  for 24 hours.

I spoke with one person who cited the difficulty in Mendocino County. The growers often use Mexican labor, legal or not. They pay in cash or buds. Another huge problem that did not come up at the meeting is that Federal law prevents cannabis growers from having a bank account for their money.The law was made to prevent money laundering for illegal substances.  Growers have gobs of cash. They are vulnerable to criminals and violence. A grow and a dispensary can be a dangerous business in any neighborhood. A partial solution is to form a Union for cannabis employees, with benefits. It would benefit the county and provide a measure of safety.

Bob Bowerman is a member of NORML, which stands for the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Law. He has visited legal marijuana grows all over the state and in Washington and Colorado. He claims, “I’m a realist. Marijuana is here and it is not going anywhere. I’m for regulating it and getting the illegal growers out.”

We’ve had illegal grows on Public Lands, and in hidden canyons on private lands where an owner may be unaware his land is being used. I remember trying to do the census some years back and the growers command some of the back roads and don’t allow anyone to trespass. It was scary to meet a man with a rifle who ordered me to turn around.

They use booby traps and guns and dogs to protect their grows.  They sell to the drug cartels. The drug cartels very professionally target college campuses and our young adults. Statistics show that 20% of the population uses cannabis.

The state, and other states are legalizing cannabis and it won’t be long before recreational cannabis is legal as well. The push for growing is for  medical benefits, but everyone knows, it is easy to get a medical card and do what you want.

When the county decided to accept grower applications at $5,000 each for a permit, they had no idea they would get, from last count, over 900 applications. They have yet to be sorted. Criminal  background checks have to be done. And, thus far, the $5,000 from applications is slated for enforcement.

One guy in the audience griped, “They want to fingerprint and background check every employee?  That is ridiculous.”

More tomorrow.



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There was a time when no one read labels or worried about what was in their food. Food went directly from the garden, or farm, to our tables-locally.  Ogden Nash wrote the Clean Platter from which I’ve stolen some entertaining lines:

“Some singers sing of ladies’ eyes, and some of ladies ‘ lips. Refined ones praise the ladylike ways, and coarse ones hymn their hips. The Oxford Book of English Verse, is lush with lyrics tender; A poet, I guess, is more or less, preoccupied with gender.

Yet I, though custom call me crude, prefer to sing in praise of food. Food, yes food. I brood on food.”

But a clean platter today is difficult. Big industrial farms provide millions of Americans with affordable food and they still make a profit. Commendable as long as it is healthy food, and for the most part it is. But we too must brood on food.

Loop holes in regulations and competitiveness, the rock of capitalism, has changed the state of our plate.  Eating  healthfully shouldn’t be a battle.  Inaccurate labeling; hiding the sugar content by listing it under 16 different names;  labels that don’t tell you where your food comes from. Your label may read processed in the United States, but that doesn’t mean it was grown or raised here. Monsanto spends billions to make GMO products free from labeling. Genetically modified foods have been with us for a century, but not with pesticides built into the seeds. Round-up laden seeds, have, as a by-product,  produced super weeds, resistant to Round-up and other herbicides.

Cooperation between sustainable, small-scale, community based, organic and humane,  food for all has been quietly taking over, spurred by activists in the Good Food Uprising, the fastest growing segment of our food economy. That’s the good news.

But, it depends on what state you live in.  Consider the Thanksgiving turkey and the Christmas ham. Industrial geneticists designed a turkey with such massive breasts, they couldn’t stand up on their own feet or even reproduce. Held in a sprawling concrete and steel animal factories. But here, I can drive across the river to Tuolumne County and buy my turkey from a ranch where turkeys run free and gobble at you from behind their fenced enclosure. And, they sell them all plastic wrapped like any other turkey in our local grocery stores. Tough on young families because they cost more.

Hogs are smart and social. They feel stress and pain. But the agri-giants callously raised sows in confined cages where they could not even turn around. Forced to be perpetual birthing machines, immobilized where they forlornly wave their heads back and forth and chew on their cages. Moved to a birthing crate, then stripped of their babies and re-impregnated for another round of enforced gestation.  Investigative reporters, worker whistle blowers, the Humane Society  and outraged consumers of every stripe have turned around many of these atrocities. Millions of hogs have been set free. (Unfortunately, not in the Carolinas.) That’s why I want a label that tells me where my meat comes from.

What’s nice is that restaurants like Chipolte Grill, Burger King, Whole Foods, Costco, Oscar Mayer and even Wal-Mart has responded by refusing to use or sell factory raised meat.

But, fish is another matter. Wal-Mart clearly labels their shrimp from Vietnam, Indonesia, India, and other Asian countries so you know it comes from polluted waters. It is cheap. If you like shrimp, the U.S. is a huge producer of wild, healthy shrimp. You might rethink cheap because some countries keep peelers in slave-like conditions to peel those shrimp for export. It has become a scandal in Vietnam. And imported shrimp has a higher bacteria rate than home-grown.    Some stores repackage their shrimp and label it “Processed in the U.S.”  Don’t buy into that deception.

Oil interests have found a new use for their witches brew of 750 toxic chemicals in fracking water, selling it to agribusiness to water their crops instead of power blasting it into the ground water. Nice. Let’s have a bit of poison on our salad. California Assemblyman, Frank Gato produced legislation requiring warning labels on all state vegetables irrigated with fracking water.  Yay!  The downside is you have to ask your produce person, or store manager because the label is so small you can’t read it. (Well, I can’t read it.)

I don’t want to fight for bees suffering from Colony Collapse from Neurotoxins such as sulfoxaflor, to keep them safe to pollinate food crops we depend on;  or fight for fair labeling. Why must we put up with plastic packaging that can make us sick. (Do not warm foods in the microwave in plastic and steer clear of BPA leaching plastics numbered 3 or 7.)  We can’t trust our own FDA because they’ve sold out to special interests approving untested chemicals that affect our food and water.

And countries are supposed to report their emissions as we begin to broadside climate change. I read constant condemning reports of coal-burning plants in China. But, the U.S., through some marvelous congressional loophole, does not report emissions from the meat industry.  Congress attached a provision to the EPA’s budget. It prohibited the agency from spending money to collect emission reports on livestock producers—specifically the greenhouse gases emitted from some of the 335 million tons of manure produced each year.  Livestock producers, which include meat and dairy farming, account for about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions around the world. That’s more than all the world’s exhaust-belching cars, buses, boats and trains combined.

A team of researchers from Harvard University, Stanford University, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and elsewhere worked together to collect air samples and analyze actual emissions near large livestock operations such as cattle feeding lots in California, Nebraska, and Iowa. They found that greenhouse gas emissions from livestock were twice as bad as what the EPA estimated. The United States is under-reporting its total greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations by about 4 percent per year as a result of bad livestock data—nearly equivalent to the entire emissions of Spain. Thanks Congress.

During our water crisis, here in the West, the biggest wasters are agri-giants. Scientists at the Pacific Institute and National Geographic calculated how much water is being pumped into today’s industrialized food system:

One little almond: 1 gallon; a head of lettuce: 12 gallons; an egg: 53 gallons; a gallon of milk: 880 gallons; a single walnut; 5 gallons; a cluster of grapes: 24 gallons; a pound of chicken; 468 gallons; a pound of beef: 1,800 gallons.  I don’t want to hear nor believe this. I don’t want to feel guilty for every handful of almonds I eat every morning. How can this be? It is unsustainable to allow profitable factory-farms to waste a public resource as important as water. I have walnut and almond trees in my orchard and I know it doesn’t take that much water to grow them if you aren’t wasting it.

For me, I’m giving up most canned foods and cardboard packaged foods. I’m using up what I have and investing in a plastic vacuum sealer that keeps frozen food fresh, fresh, fresh. The plastic is safe and the food doesn’t develop a taste from keeping your summer applesauce and plum sauce for as long as it lasts. Some years I have a heavy apple crop and some years I don’t.  I can buy blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, frozen, or fresh in season. Fresh frozen organic vegetables are readily available. I’m working to keep my platter healthy, so I don’t have to interpret labels and worry about my food anymore.  I never donate to congress, try these groups, where I got my information,  if you want change:,, www.,,,,

Mother Jones magazine, Jim Hightower’s Lowdown Newsletter.


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