This photo ran on the front page of the Lassen County Times in 2006.

You can’t sneak sunrise past a rooster

Let me say, the local debate over the devil’s weed has bitterly raged across Lassen County for decades. And let me say, the community’s opinion hasn’t been just an easy, friendly, thanks but no thanks, pard. Rather, it’s always been more like an almost insulted, little bit angry, freakin’ no way.

Do you remember when the marijuana industry finally got medical marijuana approved in California in 1996 (touted at the time as just another step toward legalization, don’t ya know) and a few years later  the legislature got involved and it morphed into a situation where the very prospect of medical marijuana users right here in good old Lassen County having a state issued medical marijuana card based on a doctor’s “recommendation” and administered by the county’s health department that allowed them to possess a legal stash was so outrageous and despicable Lassen County thought it could just ignore the whole thing and it would go away. You know. It can’t happen here. I think Frank Zappa said that. Act like nothin’s wrong. Will Kimbrough said that.

Ah, but those pesky blue meanies in Sacramento wouldn’t let it go. They said, nah, it’s state law. Lassen County has to issue our card under our rules whether it wants to or not.

Lassen County said OK. OK. We’ll just put a sticker on that baby’s backside that reads: Not legal under federal law. But Sacramento quickly put the boot to that solution, too, and reminded Lassen County it was a state-issued card that had nothing to do with federal law and besides in each and every case Lassen County lacked any standing whatsoever regarding its issuance despite the county’s and the community’s apparent vehement disapproval.

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A while later I wrote a front-page story for the Lassen County Times about a local pot farmer who had actually managed to legally plant a garden and open a perfectly legal medical marijuana dispensary in the former California Highway Patrol building down by the radio station before the city leaders had even considered the possibility of that eventuality. They then desperately passed an ordinance banning grows and dispensaries in their greatest haste.

Yep. There he was on the front page of the paper — the proprietor — standing in the harsh glare of a high-powered lights, looking most longingly toward rows of weed growing in buckets.

OMG. After the paper hit the driveways, the phone at the newspaper office rang. Actually, it rang and rang. And then it rang some more. How could the newspaper do such a thing? What kind of dummy do you have to be to call dope medicine? How could we put a story about dope on the front page?  In color even? How could we do this to the community? What if a kid saw the paper? Why, all the advertisers should pull their ads. We should all boycott the paper. Freakin’ no way, know what I mean?

And then that afternoon three members of the Lassen County Narcotics Task Force clad in black body armor and high-laced boots stormed the office and asked to speak with moi about my story on the front page. I led them back to the breakroom and told them this wasn’t my first rodeo with law enforcement as a reporter and as a journalist I’d have to respectfully invoke the California Shield Law. But on the other hand, as a citizen, I support law enforcement. So, I said let’s talk. And we did. Unfortunately, I couldn’t answer any of their questions because I was busy doing an interview — I wasn’t really paying any attention to anything else going on in the building. I didn’t know anything about anything they wanted to know about.

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So, yesterday it finally came to a vote. The city’s commercial cannabis issue, Measure R, quickly forced on the ballot by a group of city residents — the first time that’s ever happened reportedly — collected only 424 yes votes against 720 nay votes. It failed. And the county’s commercial cannabis issue, Measure S, collected 1,267 yes votes against 2,470 nay votes. It failed by an even larger percentage.

Let’s all be real for a moment. The marijuana avalanche is way, way down the mountain. It can’t be stopped. We all should accept that once and for all. What is is, as they say in EST. Those who dreamed of Susanville and Lassen County as the hub of some massive, marijuana economic development scheme couldn’t get their idea past the will of the people of Lassen County, the very same stubborn and unrelenting will they’ve expressed over and over for years and years. Now somebody tell me. Whodathunkit?