The Mythical End of the Outlaw Pot Farmer

By John Geluardi

3_History_Lessons_of_Medical_CannabisWhen California voters approved the legalization of marijuana last year, they did so, in part, because of a promise. A promise made by advocates of Proposition 64 who claimed black market weed farming would come to an end, the environment would be protected, weed would be wholesomely grown, and all harvests would be tested to assure the safest possible product is sold in a new and thriving marketplace.

That promise was present in the text of Prop. 64: “By legalizing marijuana, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act will incapacitate the black market and move marijuana purchases into a legal structure.” But the ballot measure failed to mention exactly how the black market would be “incapacitated.” Nonetheless, many supporters chose to believe that legalization would shutter dangerous illegal indoor grows in residential neighborhoods and sprawling warehouses and outdoor grows in scenic parklands.

Voters also wanted to think the organized crime operatives who watch over those massive outdoor grows would take their automatic weapons, banned pesticides, and poor hygiene to other environs in other states.  And there’s a lot at stake. Control of the darker forces of black-market farming practices is critical to protecting parks, water resources, and aquatic life. The National Forest Foundation estimates that each year huge amounts of harmful chemicals are dumped in state forests, including 9,000 pounds of rodenticide, 70,200 pounds of fertilizer, 4,800 gallons of insecticide, and 300 tons of assorted garbage.

But since voters approved Prop. 64 a year ago, state bureaucrats, eagerly anticipating high tax revenue from the estimated $13 billion industry, have been softening their position on the black market, perhaps in an effort to dial back expectations. “It’s going to take some time,” admitted Lori Ajax, chief of the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, told the Los Angeles Times. “While it’s unlikely that everyone will come into the regulated market on Day One, we plan to continue working with stakeholders as we move forward to increase participation over time.”

But how realistic is it that state and local government agencies will bring illegal pot farms into the regulated market? Legalization becomes the law of the land in January, but it’s already clear that the onerous criteria for state and local compliance and the punishing fees for applications, inspections, and property upgrades are serving as a huge obstacle for farmers who want to abandon the black market and trade in the regulated one. And state officials have yet to figure out how to effectively lock California black-market pot farmers out of the new legal marketplace.

In fact, there’s little doubt that California’s illegal pot growers will continue to thrive09-med-marijuana-history within the state even if they are locked out of the new, regulated marketplace. There are already well-established trading routes to other states and countries. California growers harvest 13.5 million pounds annually (a low estimate), but the state only consumes roughly 2.5 million pounds, according to the state Department of Food and Agriculture. That means cannabis farmers ship roughly 11 million pounds out of state every year. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control is still in the process of fashioning new regulations that will undoubtedly prohibit the transportation of weed across state lines, but it’s unclear if the bureau’s inspectors will be able to crimp the flow of black market pot that has been crossing state borders for decades.

In the 44 years since the Drug Enforcement Administration was formed, well-funded government agencies, often working in tandem with U.S. military forces, barely put a dent in California’s illegal pot farming industry. According to the DEA, an intense effort of combined local, state, and federal forces was only able to eradicate 2.6 million pounds in 2015. Creating a new layer of confusion, California’s local governments are now creating a crazy quilt of opposing regulations.

In San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond, pot farming mostly takes place indoors. Thousands of homes and warehouses have been converted into discrete farming operations, many with jury-rigged electrical systems that are prone to fires related to overloaded circuits. In Richmond, which has regulations in place for permitting indoor legal pot cultivation, there hasn’t been a strong-armed effort to shutdown illegal grows. In one case, an indoor pot farmer was growing in a 70,000-square-foot warehouse, and instead of shutting down the grow and ripping out the plants, the city decided to help the owner make the operation a revenue generating business. “The owner of the operation didn’t have a criminal record and was willing to work with the city,” said Planning Director Richard Mitchell. “He paid all the application fees, and he’s now making needed upgrades to the building to comply with city cannabis and zoning ordinances.”

This tactic is also being used in Humboldt County, where there is a serious problem with pot-farm-related environmental damage to soil, waterways, and aquatic life. The county planning department has sent out letters to known outdoor pot farmers telling them to get on the waiting list for county permits and cease environmentally damaging practices. If growers honor those requests, they can continue to operate on a temporary permit. If they don’t, they will face a $10,000 fine for each day they continue to grow weed. “People who are in the permit process are not targets,” said county Planning Director John Ford, adding that the county’s primary goal is to put a halt to illegal farms that are causing environmental damage. “My primary hope is that we get sites into compliance.”

hippiesHezekiah Allen, director of the California Growers Association, said Humboldt County’s approach will likely become a model for counties that want to responsibly regulate cannabis cultivation. “It’s a popular model with the California Association of Counties growers in Humboldt who are telling me that it’s workable,” Allen said. “It’s a shift to tax liens and civil actions and away from uniformed officers breaking down doors and chopping down plants.”

California’s new marijuana market is full of promise. It will create thousands of jobs and as much as $1 billion will flow annually to state coffers. But despite the best efforts of bureaucrats and law enforcement, it doesn’t appear that the outlaw pot farmer will be riding off into any sunsets.


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Growing Clean Weed to Meet State Regs

By John Geluardi 

Grower Joseph Snow practices clean growing method based on the philosophy of rebel Japanese farmer  

Joseph Pic

As California’s newly legalized cannabis market gears up for its January launch, pot farmers are looking for ways to meet new safety standards for their harvests. And in the rush to employ safe farming practices that result in high-quality yields, one California grower has adapted the farming philosophy of Masanobu Fukuoka, an iconoclastic Japanese farmer who bucked the chemical-based farming practices of the early 20th century, and has been producing top-quality cannabis that requires no pesticides, fungicides, or chemical fertilizers and naturally repels molds and insects.

Joseph Snow, who grows at an undisclosed Bay Area location, is still in the experimental phase but has nonetheless been growing small, indoor crops of cannabis that have been passing laboratory tests with no sign of pesticides and impressively low levels of molds and fungi. Moreover, Snow’s grows have been producing average-size yields of highly potent cannabis.

During a chat last week, the 28-year-old Snow folded his 6-foot-5-inch frame into a chair at Au Coquelet Cafe & Restaurant in Berkeley. He was born in New York but was mostly raised and educated in Israel. And when he talks about the principles of growing cannabis, he becomes quite passionate. “I’m not in this for a hippie-dippy notion of growing organic plants,” said Snow. “That is the goal, of course, but I’m really in it for the science.”

Earlier this month, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control released a nearly 500-page tome of proposed regulations that will set standards for everything from licensing for growers and dispensaries to acceptable noise levels for outdoor growing activities. Under this extensive oversight, each individual cannabis plant will be “tracked and traced” from “seed to sale” with particular attention paid to the presence of contamination levels on plants bound for the marketplace. Using sophisticated testing methods, state-certified laboratories will test cannabis products to ensure they meet minimum levels of pesticides, solvents, fungus, and mold.

This testing took on some urgency recently after Anresco Laboratories conducted tests on all of the cannabis featured at the HempCon Festival held in San Francisco in August. The San Francisco-based laboratory discovered that 80 percent of the cannabis at the festival was contaminated with unhealthy levels of solvents, pesticides, molds, fungus, or various bacteria.

In addition, research data compiled by Integral Ecology Research Center show that Humboldt, Mendocino, and Kern counties have elevated levels of chemicals often used in banned pesticides. Chemicals such as carbofuran, diazinon, and zinc phosphide, all of which are dangerous to human health, have been found in creeks and rivers that feed into sources of drinking water. Perhaps most alarming, earlier this year a California man undergoing cancer treatment at UC Davis died from a lung infection that doctors believe was caused my ingesting marijuana tainted with fungus.

Kyle Borland, a cannabis spokesperson with Anresco Laboratories, said they applied the state of Oregon’s official standards when testing the HempCon cannabis. “Admittedly, the man who died had a weak immune system from his cancer treatment, but we took a strict approach to testing the HempCon cannabis, because we want to be assured that medically compromised users will not be at risk,” Borland said. “We ran tests on the HempCon cannabis twice, and the vast majority of it would not have been allowed into the Oregon marketplace.”

Snow is one of many California growers who is applying reliable methods to grow top-quality cannabis that’s safe for the newly legal marketplace. But Snow’s methodology is largely unknown in the state. And despite facing a host of doubters, he’s had a great deal of success and has a stack of test results from Pure Analytics Laboratory in Santa Rosa that shows he’s on the right track. Snow said his techniques can be easily adopted by growers who want to produce cannabis that is essentially organic: free from chemical contaminants. “That’s really the goal,” Snow said. “Growing outdoors will produce even better and safer product.”

Snow based his growing theory on Masanobu’s book, One-Straw Revolution, which has inspired a natural-farming philosophy internationally. Masanobu’s theories have been successfully applied to growing fruits and vegetables, but they have not been widely applied to cannabis cultivation. “There is very little information about Masanobu’s theories in relation to cannabis growth,” Snow said. “That’s why this method is so revolutionary.”

The principles are basic: a good environment in terms of healthy, chemical-free soil is required, good lighting (outdoors is best), moderate temperature control, and lots of worms. “A good combination of red worms and European night crawlers in the mulch seems to work best,” said Snow, adding that his mulch is simple as well: rice straw and untreated plant material from previous grows.

“Hard work and careful attention to the plants is mandatory, but if those simple things are provided for the plant, it will naturally produce healthy amounts of resin and terpenes, which effectively protect the plant from mold and fungi,” Snow said. “It’s the growers who neglect their plants that find themselves in trouble that have to spray their crops with dangerous amounts of chemical herbicides and pesticides.

Snow’s methodology sounds very similar to biodynamics, an organic method that dates back to the 1920s. Snow said his theory, which he calls “Natural Farming,” is within the rubric of biodynamics, except his practices are greatly simplified. For example, Snow does not compost his soil or use any nutrients as some biodynamic methods call for. And Snow avoids any practices that call for celestial calendars or moon charts, which are common in biodynamics. “I pare down everything to its most simple,” Snow said. “I want to remove anything that is unnecessary and still grow top-quality crops.”

Reggi Gaudino, vice president of scientific operations at Steep Hill Labs in Berkeley, said good test results for chemicals and mold are not unusual with small grows, but with larger grows, it’s much tougher to achieve good outcomes. “Once you scale up, it becomes harder to avoid microbe contamination,” Gaudino said.

Snow agreed that larger grows require more work but said it is possible to grow high-quality plants with virtually no pesticides or other chemicals provided the grower does not get greedy and hires the people needed to properly care for the plants and their environment.

“There have been a lot of people who doubt the methodology I’m using, but they produce excellent results, and I’m happy to show it to anyone whose interested,” Snow said.

Snow said he is unsure when he will move his farm outdoors, though he’s looking forward to growing with sunlight. “It will take longer to harvest, but the best place to grow is the most natural place and that means outside.”


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The Deafening Silence of Nicole Brown Simpson’s Akita

By John Geluardi

akitaI was pleased Sunday night when “O. J. Made in America” won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. It is by far one of the most thorough documentaries I’ve seen and it recasts the killings of Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman and the subsequent murder trial into a powerful context for those who watched the documentary’s five remarkable episodes.

While watching the documentary, I was struck by a scene that occurs about half way through episode 3 when Al Cowlings, at the end of the infamous low-speed chase, pulls the white Bronco into the driveway of Simpson’s Rockingham estate. In the vehicle’s backseat, the fallen sports hero and suspected murderer is supposedly suicidal and resting his chin on the barrel of a handgun while clutching family photographs.

During the scene, taken from helicopter-shot news footage, Cowlings gets out of the Bronco and a standoff between Simpson and the Los Angeles police begins. The scene is tense. Everybody is wondering if the police will shoot Simpson who is emotional and armed. Simpson’s family, the crowds who had poured into Brentwood to be part of celebrity history, the helicopter pilots hovering just overhead and the millions of Americans who watched the scene unfold on live television, all are holding their breath

But it wasn’t the noisy drama of the scene’s central focus that fascinated me. I was drawn to a very short, but compelling scene within the scene. About 10 feet in front of the Bronco, Nicole’s white and brown Akita, Kato, stands looking directly at the Bronco’s wretched occupant. The dog’s presence stuck me because the Akita — who by coincidence had the same name as the quirky human houseboy Kato Kaelin — was the only witness to the brutal murders of Nicole and Goldman.

On that June night in 1994, it was Kato who began to bark and wail “plaintively” at 10:15 p.m., which set the condemning murder timeline that showed Simpson had time to butcher his ex-wife and Goldman and still make it back to the Rockingham estate in time meet limo driver Allan Park who drove Simpson to the airport for an 11:45 flight to Chicago. It was also the Akita who went to the street, his paws soaked in Nicole’s blood, to alert neighbors that two bodies were lying on the walkway of Nicole’s home at 325 Gretna Green Way.

While there are no known human witnesses to the deadly attack, the Akita saw who killed his beloved owner and the young waiter whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The dog was never interviewed by police nor did he give testimony at trial, but five days after the killings, Kato was there waiting when Simpson pulled into his driveway with a dozen police cars in tow. Like Dr. T.J. Eckleberg overlooking the Valley of Ashes, Kato stood in front of the Bronco silently looking at Simpson while chaos surrounded man and dog.

Bred in Japan’s remote northern mountains, the Akita is the most ancient of Japanese dogs. We can only guess what Simpson experienced when afixed by the dog’s primordial eyes set deep in the dog’s bear-like head. Kato was the one being who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt of Simpson’s terrible transgression. I like to think the sports hero and pitchman was at that moment inescapably confronted with his abhorrent crime and, for at least a moment, slipped deeper into a morass of oppressive guilt. I also like to think that Kato’s knowing gaze leveled at him all those years ago still occasionally wakes Simpson from fitful sleep in his high desert prison cell at the Lovelock Correctional Facility

Like many involved in the trial, Kato became a minor celebrity. He even had his own spoof autobiography:“O.J.’s Dog Daze,” which was published in 2001 and came with a paw print autograph.

Fortunately Kato landed well. Once the trial was over and the media frenzy died down, Kato ended up in the beach town of Dana Point where he was cared for by Nicole’s parents, Judi and Louis Brown. After a long life, Kato died in October, 2004. The Browns are said to keep his ashes under the family piano, which was Kato’s favorite spot to curl up and watch over family activities with those deep-set, Akita eyes.

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Democrats Choose Another Dead End Road

By John Geluardi
Hillary Clinton, Tom PerezThe Democratic National Committee has decided to stay on a lost road risking more failure, loss and corruption. By electing former Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, the party has signaled that its traditional base will continue to be strip teased while in the backroom, corporate interests are fully serviced.

Perez won the election on Saturday by beating progressive favorite Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison by a second-round vote of 235-200. Unfortunately, Perez is a symbol of how Democrats have abandoned their base. As President Barack Obama’s labor secretary, Perez was a supporter of the Trans Pacific Partnership despite the strong opposition of nearly every major U.S. union. As a Clinton campaign adviser, Perez sewed division among Dem voters by arguing for whitewashing Bernie Sanders’ campaign with false claims that Sanders’ support was driven by whites.

Perez’s victory will assure the corrupt and  failed wing of the Democratic Party will stay in power, if that’s a term that can any longer be affixed to the weakened political faction symbolized by a jackass and characterized by rent seeking. Under Obama’s two pro-corporate terms in the White House, the party suffered unprecedented losses. Democrats list of losses is long and depressing. It includes the White House, the Senate, Congress and more than 1,000 seats in state legislatures and a dozen governors’ mansions.

Now, more than ever, it’s critical Democrats revitalize the party. President Donald Trump is poised to roll back nearly all the hard fought advances in environmental policy, race relations, Wall Street regulations (such as they are) and what little political influence labor unions have been able to grasp onto.

bern-crowdAnd there’s no disagreement over which party has the energy to revitalize the Democratic Party. The primary campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders made it clear through the large rallies, individual donations and resonating message, that Democrats realize they’ve been abandoned by the party’s establishment. And the DNC has as much as admitted the party establishment is uninspired, outdated and corrupt by working to undermine the party’s own voters by attempting to suppress Sander’s surging popularity through Deborah Wasserman and John Podesta’s dirty tricks.

With the election of Perez, Democratic voters can only hope that fear and hatred of President Donald Trump will be enough for the Party to start winning elections again. Otherwise, short of finding another charismatic Barack Obama, the party establishment is embarrassingly lacking in inspiring candidates. Nowhere is this more problematic than the Rust Belt. Democrats need to bring Ohio, Pennsylvania and Minnesota back into the fold, and unless Perez can break free from the Clinton-designed Democratic establishment, the Party will continue to flounder on a road to nowhere.


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Bernie’s Bird Auguries vs Hillary’s


 By John Geluardi

Bernie’s Augury


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July 27, 2016 · 6:58 pm

Conflict Breeds Corruption



By John Geluardi

819cab198a0b83ce288b2cdd6afe483f_400x400Public corruption is a negative force that has an impact far beyond any single act of paying for favors and privilege. Public corruption cost taxpayer millions of dollars annually and casts a shadow over government ability to make sound policies, assert the rule of law and the citizen’s ability to pursue economic prosperity.

It’s for that reason the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement agencies, makes it a priority to investigate allegations of public officials who use their positions to enrich themselves. But suppressing corruption once it has occurred is expensive and not effective. It is also important for government officials to be  proactive by not enacting policies that foster corruption, rent seeking and extortion. That’s why it is critically important that the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws are resolved as soon as possible.

In those states that have legalized the sale of medical and recreation cannabis, the industry is flourishing. State and local laws have done great work in creating policies and laws that give such businesses a sense of stability that allows them to make business decisions with some confidence. But federal laws still regard cannabis as a schedule 1 narcotic and have not only closed access to reliable banking, the U.S. Postal Service and fair tax laws, but there is also the constant threat of law enforcement raids, lengthy and expensive court battles and prison.

Even in the states that have legalized cannabis, federal law has created a climate of fear and uncertainty among cannabis entrepreneurs and some politicians and law enforcement officers are exploiting that fear to enrich themselves. There are numerous examples of this type of corruption. In fact, The Daily Chronic, an online news source that covers the cannabis community, has a pages-long section devoted to cannabis related police corruption nationwide.

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A Multibillion Dollar Industry Without a Bank



By John Geluardi

As the California campaign for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act gains momentum and state economists forecast an industry that could grow to $15 billion annually by 2020, creating thousands of jobs and generating millions in tax revenue, there’s a dark cloud hanging over potential victory celebrations on Nov. 8:  The multibillion dollar industry will have no legal banking options.

If approved by voters, new cannabis businesses in California will have to overcome an obstacle that has dogged the industry in 25 medical marijuana states and four recreational-use states — Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. There simply is no safe, efficient, and legal banking. The Attorney General’s Office made that very clear with the now infamous 2011 “Cole Memo,” which warned bankers not to open cannabis-related accounts or they could face money-laundering charges or possibly lose their FDIC insurance, which would be ruinous.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said the current cannabis banking laws are not only outdated, but they also inhibit reliable tax collection and create a business environment prone to crime and violence. Oregon’s estimated legal cannabis market is expected to bring in a half-billion dollars during its first 14 months, and Merkley said he is worried about the negative impact that poorly thought out federal banking regulations will have on cannabis employees and the community in general. “The federal government should not be forcing Oregon’s legal marijuana businesses to carry gym bags full of cash to pay their taxes, employees and bills,” Merkley says. “This is an invitation to robberies, money laundering, and organized crime.”

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