by Lou Binninger
A turkey hunter chasing a wounded bird was confronted by men with long guns and informed that if he crossed onto their property again he would not fare well. The property is at 10874 Marysville Road, Dobbins and owned by BBNR LLC, Lance Bates, Adam Bates, Mary Bates and Scott Bates.
What would cause someone to be so inhospitable to a hunter just trying to retrieve his game? They were protecting a major marijuana growing operation on 429 acres once known as the Middlebrook Ranch. (See Google photo here) Confirmation that the plants were marijuana was made by conversations with those who had access to the property.
Since 1996 and the passage of Proposition 215, The Compassionate Use Act, allowing the use of medical cannabis, counties and cities have wrestled with ordinances to comply with the new law. Yuba County has tried a couple different approaches. The latest forbids any outdoor growing.
However, hundreds and possibly thousands of marijuana entrepreneurs are ignoring the ordinance, permits, fees, and their neighbors in Yuba Co. In fact, Buck Weckman, who founded Yuba County FACT (Families against Cannabis Trafficking) 5 years ago, says the problem of illegal pot growing has increased and become even more dangerous particularly for hill residents.
The shooting of two Yuba County sheriff deputies, Phillip Bronson and Andrew Everhart last week by an armed felon with warrants employed by the Rastafarian Church may have been a tipping point for many hill citizens. ‘Church’ leaders Heidi Grossman and Eddy Lepp have been in an ongoing legal scrap with the county over their illegal pot operation in Oregon House.
In spite of Grossman’s history of crass and profanity laced threats posted on the Internet against the sheriff’s department, on August 1st she called for help protecting her illegal marijuana from an irate employee. Deputies were fired upon after entering a home where the resident denied the presence of the perpetrator.
The irony of law enforcement put in harms way by a hateful lawless citizen to protect her illegal operation and then deputies being deceived and led into a death trap by a second citizen is disgusting in its lack of respect for authority and for fellow human beings.
Yuba County hill residents are angry and fearful at what they perceive as the inability of the government to protect life and property. The founding fathers believed the role of government was to protect from foreign invaders and from those in our midst who would infringe upon our liberty.
Government has taken on many roles like handing out condoms, welfare, cautioning about hot weather, taxing everything and restricting what we eat and drink, none of which are in the constitution. If the county cannot protect the life and property of Yuba Co residents it has lost its mandate to govern.
Yuba County is using 4-code enforcement officers to respond to all kinds of complaints. There currently are 700 open cases 10% of which are marijuana complaints. Kevin Mallen, Director of Community Services, was surprised at how few calls they get for marijuana grow issues, but citizens say that many people now are afraid to complain or don’t see any results.
Mallen said that normally 2 of the 4 code enforcers are assigned to the marijuana complaints but lately all four have been focused mainly on the homeless problem. Even though marijuana farms are protected with armed security people, code enforcement officers go out with only body armor and a pen and paper. Many residents believe the marijuana grows are a law enforcement problem and we need to declare a state of emergency and ask for federal intervention.
Mallen said grows on private property are more cumbersome to address versus grows on public property like the recent Bullard Bar Dam eradication of 3,500 plant and 500 lbs. of refuse. The private property dilemma seems to be whether the illegal grows are going to be considered a matter for criminal versus code enforcement. It is complicated, cumbersome and ineffective.
People violating codes and/or laws are afforded due process. However, the neighbors of these marijuana businesses want law-breakers cleared out and the problem solved. Good people are growing weary and may choose to relocate rather than wait for government to do its job.