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Humboldt County town pushes back against big pot growers

  • Arcata, Calif., City Councillor Shane Brinton discusses Measure I, a proposed tax on excessive electricity use designed to drive illegal pot growers out of town, at a coffee shop Oct. 25, 2012 in Arcata, Calif. Though Brinton and other city leaders support the legalization of marijuana, they are fed up with growers taking over houses in residential neighborhoods and turning them into indistrial operations. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)

ARCATA — Happily isolated on California's remote Humboldt County coast, Arcata has long made room in its heart for marijuana, whether grown illegally in the back woods by refugees of the Summer of Love, or legally in the back rooms of homes by medical pot patients.

But the mellow days are coming to an end. Even Arcata residents who support legalization of marijuana have become fed up with high-volume indoor growing operations that take over much-needed housing and take advantage of the state's loosely written medical marijuana law.

The neighbors of these clandestine pot farms — operated behind curtains, shutters and alarm systems — complain of the skunk-like stink of cannabis, fire hazards, rising rents, vicious guard dogs, caches of guns, illegal pesticides, roadside dumping of unwanted growing gear, and late-night visits from shady characters.

Rather than throw more cops at the problem, the City Council is fighting back in a way befitting this liberal outpost that would rather be known for its pioneering community forest and sewage treatment marsh than marijuana.

Measure I on next week's ballot would impose a 45 percent electricity tax on households — with medical and other exceptions — that use three times the amount of power a typical family home does. The measure takes aim at commercial growers who maximize production by packing homes full of high intensity lights and irrigation systems that gobble electricity and sometimes cause fires from overloaded circuits.


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