At some point on the night of Sept. 5, Enosh Baker’s medical marijuana garden was cut down.
It wasn’t one of the several volunteers he had working for him on his farm in the Yuba County foothills. He doesn’t think it was the county or sheriff’s department, that have been actively monitoring pot grows throughout the area for violations of the current cultivation ordinance.
“We don’t know for sure who it was, but we have our suspicions,” said Baker, owner of Mighty Lichen Farm in the Brownsville area. “It wasn’t the county or the Yuba County Sheriff. The county and law enforcement go about their business methodically and safely. If they want to come in and cut down a grow, they put a notice on the gate, say they are coming in tomorrow in broad daylight and ask you to cut down the plants first.”[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section” curated_ids=””]Yuba County Sheriff’s Lt. Wendell Anderson, who is also in charge of the department’s marijuana enforcement team, said they have no record of Baker or his farm.
“As a department, we would go through the proper channels and serve a search warrant before taking any action,” Anderson said.
Baker, 32, believes it was a group of “neoconservatives” and “vigilantes” in the county that have been actively doxing cannabis farmers like himself.
“They are taking a social libertarian stance in that they just discovered the use of Google Maps and feel it’s in their right to dox people,” Baker said. “I don’t think there is any ill will against me as a person, they have no idea who I am other than the fact that I’m contributing to industry in this ghost town.”
Buck Weckman, who started Yuba County Families Against Cannabis Trafficking (FACT) and the political action committee Stop Commercial Pot, has been a leading advocate in trying to eliminate the spread and growth of the marijuana industry throughout the Yuba-Sutter area.
Weckman published an opinion piece regarding the need for Yuba County to declare a state of emergency due to the significant amount of illegal marijuana grows throughout the area — what he estimates to be more than 1,000. Included in the article was an aerial photograph of Baker’s farm.
“I don’t believe that any law-abiding citizen took any part in the action you are talking about,” Weckman said. “I think it was one illegal marijuana grower taking from another marijuana person. This is how it goes on all the time; this is why marijuana growers are so heavily armed. It’s just another example of the low caliber type of person the marijuana grower is.”
Weckman said he got a call about a week ago from an individual accusing him of somehow being involved in cutting down the plants at Mighty Lichen Farm, which he said is not true.
“If they have a complaint with me, I’d be happy to meet them in front of the sheriff’s office and we can go in together and file a complaint,” he said.
Anderson said his department has not received any reports of a group of people going around and cutting cannabis farmers’ plants.
“The likely scenario we tend to see would be a theft,” Anderson said. “That’s not uncommon. It’s a valuable commodity often stolen, but we have no knowledge of any vigilante groups.”
Either way, Baker said someone snuck onto his property from a nearby creek in the middle of the night, pried his fence open and crawled on the ground, to cut each plant at the base, all while two of his workers were sleeping on an outside deck within 20 feet of the garden.
Baker doesn’t only grow cannabis on his 80 acres in the foothills. The marijuana he grew was only a fraction of his farm, he said, that has everything from apples, pears and plums to figs, olives and grapes, among other things. But because cannabis is such a lucrative plant, it basically was paying to keep the farm running and the upfront costs for the other crops.
Now, Baker is in jeopardy of losing his farm because he has nothing to harvest this year, in terms of his main moneymaker, and is facing a mortgage payment and property taxes that are beyond his means to pay.
The problem for him is that he lives and operates his business in a county and region that is opposed to outdoor cultivation and has reduced the amount of plants that can be grown in recent years. Although recreational marijuana was legalized by California voters in 2016 and will be sold commercially in licensed stores Jan. 1, Baker’s farm is in violation of Yuba County’s current ordinance, meaning his options are limited.
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“There is no recourse for someone doing what I do. There is no farm insurance for people that farm cannabis. There is no law enforcement that is going to care, though I wish they did,” Baker said. “I’ve talked to the sheriff in the past, who seems like a nice guy, but he isn’t going to destroy his career in a conservative county and go after a bunch of thieves that cut down a cannabis grow.”
Yuba County Supervisor Andy Vasquez said the issues with illegal marijuana grows in the county, as well as throughout the state, are only beginning, and will get worse before becoming better.
“He got his crop stolen, and that’s going to continue to happen and create problems for the law-abiding citizens of our community,” Vasquez said. “That’s what (these kind of operations) are bringing into the community: cartels and guns. We’ve had two deputies shot, there have been people killed. The fact that it’s getting bigger and bigger, I’m not really fond of the press ignoring the facts. You cannot ignore the violent aspects of illegal grows and ignore the fact they are using deadly chemicals in the field that is polluting the watershed.”
Last year, the majority of Yuba County voters defeated three different marijuana-related measures: increasing the number of medical marijuana plants that could be cultivated; guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries; allowing commercial cannabis activity within the county.
Despite his cannabis garden being cut down and the amended cultivation ordinance, Baker said he is going to continue growing food on his farm and will try to be creative in finding funds to keep his dream alive.
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“We are going to keep going until we cannot. This place is gorgeous so we are going to try and rent it out as a ‘Bud and Breakfast’ and try to make enough that way to pay back the mortgage payments and property taxes. If we are unable to do that, then I’ll probably find other ways to economically recover, but there is not much you can do when your back is against the wall and you owe money to the bank,” Baker said.
He said he is thinking about requesting a reassessment of his property because of the local stance on marijuana and the banning of outdoor grows. He said he believes the assessed value of the property is roughly eight times too high.
Baker acknowledged that the Aug. 1 incident in Oregon House, in which two Yuba County Sheriff’s deputies were injured in a shootout with a man who was at an illegal marijuana cultivation site, doesn’t help his argument that cannabis farmers do not pose a risk to the general public.
Still, he said the stereotypes some people have regarding marijuana farmers need to change because they do not accurately reflect many of the individuals working in the industry today.
“I wish some people wouldn’t paint cannabis farmers with such a broad brush,” Baker said. “My question is, have they not considered there could be an example of a good cannabis cultivator? That’s not a difficult leap to make. If they gave someone the opportunity to do that, I’m sure they would step up to the plate and all those fears of pit bulls and automatic weapons would be put by the wayside.”
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