Thanks to last year's redistricting, California now has a new Second Congressional District that some call the "Emerald Triangle District"—running from the Golden Gate to the Oregon border, through the cannabis counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity. The primary is in five days, and under California's new open-primary system, the two leading vote-getters will move on to the November general election, regardless of party. In the field of 12, the most outspoken herbal advocate is Garberville's veteran Earth First! tree-hugger Andy Caffrey.
Caffrey pledges that if he wins, he will smoke a joint on the steps of Capitol Hill. His website shows him sparking a medicinal doob at Occupy Mendocino. "I'm willing to get arrested to fight for our rights, to defend our rights as Californians to consume medicine," Democrat Caffrey said in an interview.
Writes Joe Garofoli for the San Francisco Chronicle: "Being pro-legalization in the Second District is not a hippie position. It's rooted in worrying about increasing violence connected with illegal grow operations, concerns about the environmental impact of pot farms and, most of all, the economy... With an estimated $1 billion worth of marijuana grown in the district, pot is a major industry, helping to prop up poorer communities in the northern end, where the median income is half of what it is in wealthy Marin County in the south."
Garofoli writes that lifting the legal pressure on cannabis is seen as a common-sense solution. Candidate Susan Adams, a Democratic Marin County supervisor, notes: "Nobody is shooting each other in public lands over illegal vineyards. Maybe it is time for us to take a look at a different strategy." Even San Rafael's Stacey Lawson, a wealthy business executive least favored among progressives, comes out on the pro-legalization side.
Another pro-legalization candidate is Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), who chairs the Assembly's Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. He sees daylighting the cannabis industry as necessary to address its environmental impacts. "If you talk to environmental groups, they're not complaining about the timber industry anymore. It's the pot growers who are the main threat to the coho [salmon] streams," he told the Chronicle.
Two more pro-cannabis candidates round out the field. Marin's Norman Solomon, formerly of lefty media-watchdog Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), has a website pledging: "A new kind of politics. From the grassroots." He also has the endorsement of Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Dr. William Courtney of Mendocino calls himself a "cannabis physician," with a website full of claims about the health benefits of "raw cannabis" (as well as 9-11 conspiranoia).
Hippies, rednecks, Indians and the feds...
But in addition to the district's north-south income divide there is an west-east cultural divide between the Triangle's hippie coast and the redneck interior. In inland Trinity County, Sheriff Bruce Haney has joined with his counterparts from neighboring counties to form a "Constitutional Sheriffs" group, in an implicit challenge to federal control over the region's rugged and resource-rich public lands. At a May 19 meeting in Trinity, Haney hosted the sheriffs of Mendocino, Del Norte, Siskiyou, Tehama and Modoc counties. The Trinity Journal writes that the meet took place at a Defend Rural America conference in the old Gold Rush outpost of Weaverville.
Issues discussed included National Forest Service management plans, possible expansion of spotted owl habitat, and the planned removal of dams on the Klamath River. Global Ganja Report sources in the Emerald Triangle say the increasing presence in the forests of Mexican and Russian cannabis grow ops linked to criminal mafias was also a top concern.
Opposition to removal of the Klamath River dams—owned by Warren Buffet's PacifiCorp—will pit the "Constitutional Sheriffs" against local enviros. It will also meet opposition in the Hoopa Indians, who have a reservation in north Humboldt. While hard hit by the meth plague (as New America Media informs us), the Hoopa see restoration of the Klamath's salmon as key to their cultural survival and recovery. KlamBlog reports that on May 25, the Hoopa Valley Tribe filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) calling for decommissioning of PacifiCorp's Klamath Hydroelectric Project.
Forests are also at issue for Indians as well as the Sheriffs' constituency. The Winnemem Wintu, with a reservation at Tuiimyali outside Redding, in May held a "War Dance" of civil disobedience, blocking off a 400-yard stretch of their sacred lands along the McCloud River in the Shasta National Forest, to protest the Forest Service's refusal to enforce closures of these areas during traditional ceremonies. At one coming-of-age ceremony held at the site, teenage Wintu girls were heckled and abused by boating tourists. (See the video on the spirituality blog Patheos and check out the pic of the river blockade on Indian Country Today.) The Wintu also oppose the federal Bureau of Reclamation's plans to raise the Shasta Dam, which would flood their sacred lands.
For over a century, there have been split-the-state plans in California, although little consensus on where to draw the line. (The Lost States website notes the first such plan in 1859.) The inclusion of Trinity in the otherwise liberal and Democrat-leaning Second District will place whoever wins in an interesting position, straddling the "two" Californias. Lets hope he or she will have the vision to look to grassroots dialogue for solutions. The one thing that could unite the hippies, rednecks and Indians alike is opposition to federal overreach in the war on cannabis...
Graphic by Global Ganja Report