This Halloween, McDonald Avenue won't so closely resemble a late-night scene from Disneyland.

"It's definitely going to be low-key," said Cappie Garrett, one of the neighbors on Santa Rosa's grandest old residential street who has loved doing it up for Halloween but agrees that last year things got out of hand.

Elaborate and spooky decorations on the stately homes have for years drawn legions of trick-or-treaters. But on Halloween 2011, something of a perfect storm visited McDonald Avenue.

IT WAS BALMY, for one thing. A lovely night.

And John and Jennifer Webley celebrated the gorgeous restoration of the street's centerpiece home — Mableton, the McDonald Mansion — by transforming its front yard into Jack the Ripper's London. The PD mentioned that attraction twice just before Halloween.

Aficionados of steam punk contraptions brought several on the big night. Musicians performed in the street, and throngs of older kids and adults lingered for hours after the little ones went home.

"It got a little crazy," said resident Michael Ellis, who freely admits he contributed to the 2011 excess by doling candy and keeping his Halloween scene's music cranked up into the night.

"We're tamping it down this year," Ellis said. "I think our decorations are going to be somewhat more modest."

Neighbors have agreed to cease handing out candy between 8 and 9 p.m. And this year, nobody will borrow steel barricades from City Hall and block off several blocks to car traffic.

To do so has become too complex for residents, who resist having the city view Halloween on McDonald as an organized event like a street fair or a block party. It isn't that.

Each year, each family on the street decides if it will or will not dress up the house and yard and buy the 3,000 or more pieces of candy they might need to meet demand.

THOUGH HALLOWEEN has never been an organized public event on McDonald Avenue, some of the city officials who met with residents following the Disney-esque scene of 2011 suggested they consider applying for an event permit, taking out insurance, renting portable toilets and/or paying to have police present.

The very thought of elevating Halloween to an organized street event makes residents' heads swim.

"We don't want to be responsible for the liability that comes with being an event," Wally Wallace said. He or Garrett had borrowed barricades in the past, but both said the situation's now too complicated for them to obtain barricades any longer.

So kids and adults planning to go to McDonald Avenue Wednesday night need to be aware that though the street's been car-free for several Halloweens, that won't be the case this year.

Garrett said the dialing back of trick-or-treat night on McDonald "is not a &‘Bah, humbug!' thing. It's just time to tone it down and let it be another normal neighborhood Halloween thing again."

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and

California pot: Smoke it (or eat it) if you can get it

OAKLAND — It wasn’t exactly reefer madness Monday as California launched the first legal sales of recreational marijuana, but those who could find the drug celebrated the historic day, lining up early for ribbon cuttings, freebies and offerings ranging from cookies to gummy bears to weed with names like heaven mountain.

Jeff Deakin, 66, his wife Mary and their dog waited in the cold all night to be first in a line of 100 people when Harborside dispensary, a longtime medical pot shop in Oakland, opened at 6 a.m. and offered early customers joints for a penny and free T-shirts that read “Flower to the People — Cannabis for All.”

“It’s been so long since others and myself could walk into a place where you could feel safe and secure and be able to get something that was good without having to go to the back alley,” Deakin said. “This is kind of a big deal for everybody.”

Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo used a giant pair of scissors to cut a green ribbon, declaring, “With these scissors I dub thee free,” before ringing up the first customer at a cash register.

Sales were brisk in the shops lucky to score one of the roughly 100 state licenses issued so far, but customers in some of the state’s largest cities were out of luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco hadn’t authorized shops in time to get state licenses and other cities, such as Riverside and Fresno, blocked sales altogether.

Licensed shops are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, around Palm Springs, San Jose and Santa Cruz, where the KindPeoples shop tacked up a banner Monday declaring, “Prohibition is Over!”

The state banned what it called “loco-weed” in 1913, though it has eased criminal penalties for use of the drug since the 1970s and was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996.

California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn’t legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.

The nation’s most populous state now joins a growing list of states, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.

The signs that California was tripping toward legal pot sales were evident well before the stroke of midnight. California highways flashed signs before New Year’s Eve that said “Drive high, Get a DUI,” reflecting law enforcement concerns about stoned drivers. Weedmaps, the phone app that allows customers to rate shops, delivery services and shows their locations, ran a full-page ad Sunday in the Los Angeles Times that said, “Smile California. It’s Legal.”

Travis Lund, 34, said he’d been looking forward while working the graveyard shift to buy weed legally for the first time since he began smoking pot as a teen.

“I’m just stoked that it’s finally legal,” he said after purchasing an eighth of an ounce of “Mount Zion” and another type of loose leaf marijuana at Northstar Holistic Collective in Sacramento, where the fragrance of pot was strong. “I’m going to go home and get high — and enjoy it.”

—Associated Press


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