Jeremy Gardea of Santa Rosa says he has nothing against people who use marijuana for medical reasons.
But after another fall harvest season in which his neighbor's marijuana plants grew well above the 8-foot fence that separates their Hull Street homes, the plumber and father of three's compassion finally went up in smoke.
More than a feud between two neighbors, the conflict represents a dramatic showdown over the right of one homeowner under California law to grow marijuana versus the rights of other residents to not have their quality of life or safety threatened by that activity.
Gardea and about 30 neighbors who echo his complaints say Alan MacFarlane's annual marijuana crop creates an unholy stench in the neighborhood off West Third Street near Dutton Avenue, causes noise disturbances related to motion alarms and raises the risk of criminal activity.
That risk is underscored by the number of home-invasion robberies tied to marijuana gardens, including one this month in which three robbers wearing clothing to impersonate law enforcement officials burst into a Todd Road home, handcuffed two residents and fled with 30 marijuana plants.
Gardea said reading about that case was one reason he decided to erect a sign outside his home stating, "Please don't pull a home invasion here. Indoor buds are next door at #116. See Alan."
"When your kids are getting a contact high and you read about home invasions in the city," Gardea said, "hell yeah, I'll put that sign up if it's going to protect my kids."
Another sign, posted on 10-foot poles, pleads with MacFarlane to "stop destroying the integrity of our neighborhood and our children's safety. No more weed." Still another sign refers to MacFarlane as a "pot dealer."
Standing on a front porch enclosed by lattice work and a sign warning about the watchdog, MacFarlane said this week that he merely grows "medicine" for his private use and several "patients," and that Gardea has a vendetta against him.
"He's concerned about an invasion and crime? He's inviting it. Does he care about his neighbors? I don't think so," MacFarlane said as the smell of marijuana smoke wafted from his open front door.
Some neighbors agree with him.
"I have nothing against Alan. He's helpful and respectful," said Sarah Desmond, whose home of 18 years is across the street from MacFarlane's. "I'm really angry about those signs that went up. They're jeopardizing the whole neighborhood."
MacFarlane, a former combat law enforcement specialist in the Air Force, is a known figure locally, having been acquitted in Sonoma County's first medical marijuana case to go to a jury in 2001. He said he has physician approval to use marijuana to deal with chronic pain related to the removal of his cancerous thyroid 25 years ago.
The 2001 case exposed the confusion related to Prop. 215, the landmark 1996 California legislation that allows marijuana use for medical reasons. Jurors ultimately decided that the approximately 100 plants seized by drug agents at MacFarlane's home were not in violation of that law.
Since then, the county Board of Supervisors and Sonoma County Police Chiefs Association have amended the rules to allow those with a physician's recommendation to possess up to 30 plants and 3 pounds of marijuana. That's still well over state regulations, which allow for 12 plants and 8 ounces.