Pubdate: Mon, 26 Apr 2010
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2010 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson
Cited: KMUD
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Eclectic music, quirky talk shows and announcements about lost dogs 
and loose cattle are common fare on rural public radio stations.

But in southern Humboldt County, Garberville's KMUD provides one more 
public service -- announcements about law enforcement officials on 
their way to drug busts, like this recent but undated report.

"Around 9:40 a.m. this morning, a large gray helicopter was seen 
taking off from the Garberville airport, apparently heading toward 
Reed Mountain. The occupants were fully dressed in combat gear, and 
the convoy of cars they arrived in were unmarked."

The message went out to 20,000 listeners tuned to 91.1FM, 88.3FM and 
90.3FM in Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties, which together 
make up Northern California's notorious marijuana-producing Emerald Triangle.

KMUD's unusual reports date back to 1983, when an all-out land and 
air siege on pot-growing hippies was launched in southern Humboldt 
County. State, federal and local agents waging the Campaign Against 
Marijuana Planting, as it was called, were joined in 1990 by military 
troops enlisted for the Bush-era "Operation Green Sweep."

Radio host Anna Hamilton remembers helicopters flying so low that 
people on the ground could see the occupants' faces and guns. 
Livestock and horses were literally frightened to death, and dogs 
were shot, said Hamilton, a long-time Garberville resident and musician.

It was "an apocalypse-style invasion," said Charley Custer, a 
freelance magazine writer from Chicago who came to Garberville in 
1983 to write about the "hippie Arcadia" and never left.

Terrorized residents who felt their civil rights had been trampled 
during the operations mobilized to fight back. They formed the Civil 
Liberties Monitoring Project, which initiated the broadcasts and sued 
to force aircraft to obey federal aviation regulations.

Over the years, pot enforcement has mellowed as law enforcers turned 
their focus away from hippies and toward large-scale growers on 
public lands. By doing so, they increased their statewide seizures 
from 64,579 plants in 1983 to 4.4 million in 2009, 75 percent of them 
on public land.

In Northern California, more marijuana is now seized in Lake County 
than Humboldt County, but KMUD's law enforcement sighting reports 
continue. Spokesmen say they now function more as traffic warnings 
than drug alerts.

Law officials have known about and grudgingly accepted the reports for years.

"I've heard it my entire life. I know it's part of the community," 
said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman, who grew up in Garberville, 
population 2,600.

But now he would like it to stop. Busting large-scale growers has 
become more dangerous in recent years, and he worries KMUD's tip-offs 
will result in armed confrontations.

"We're seeing more influence of Mexican growers than we've ever seen 
before," Allman said. "Those guys have guns. Last year, we had one of 
our agents shot at."

So far KMUD representatives have been cordial but unconvinced.

Their official response? Those convoys represent potential road 
hazards as they plow down narrow, winding roads.

"The roads, once you go east or west off Highway 101, are pretty 
gnarly," said Marianne Knorzer, who moved to Humboldt County three 
years ago to become KMUD's program director. Law enforcement 
sightings are reported along with other road hazards, fires and 
floods, she said.

And because they don't pinpoint locations, "No one has ever gotten 
hurt by any of this activity," said station manager Brenda Starr.

Knorzer also questioned whether marijuana eradication has become any 
more dangerous than it previously was.

Humboldt County Sheriff's spokeswoman Brenda Godsey doesn't have 
statistics indicating an increase, but she said "the danger is 
present. It's real."

State officials say 89 weapons were seized last year during marijuana 
garden raids, and those figures don't include weapons confiscated by 
local law enforcement officers.

"They've gotten more violent in that they take a more aggressive 
stance," said Michelle Gregory, a spokeswoman for the Campaign 
Against Marijuana Planting. "Before, they'd run off and try to escape."

Allman said he'll keep trying to convince KMUD that its broadcasts 
actually endanger the public. But he has no plans to force the issue.

"My intent is to figure out a solution," Allman said.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake