In a budget presentation to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, June 9, District Attorney David Eyster described a 10% increase in violent crime from 2019 to 2020. 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak said asked if this increase was related to the cannabis industry, legal or illegal, and DA Eyster responded,
DA Eyster then recounted two specific crimes from the past year that he said were emblematic of the violence associated with the black market cannabis industry.
First, DA Eyster described the recent double murder that occurred in a Willits cannabis crop. Christopher Wayne Gamble is charged with the murder of two men, Ulises Andrade Ayala and Anwar Ayala, in a crime that Eyster called “heinous”. According to a criminal complaint filed by Mendocino County DA, Gamble is also charged with animal abuse involving injury or death of chickens.
The second crime DA Eyster referred to was when three outside men, equipped with tactical gear and military-style weapons, attempted to “impersonate police officers and rip off people who brought in money here to buy marijuana, whether it’s legal or illegal.
DA Eyster suggested that not all of the 10% increase can be attributed to the black market in cannabis, but said “much of it is tied to the illegal black market.”
Sheriff Matt Kendall echoed many of DA Eyster’s sentiments in a statement issued in late September to residents of Mendocino County, where he said the violence associated with the black market cannabis industry “has become too much to deal with. wear for our county. Now is the time to stop pretending that the illegal marijuana trade is a good thing.
In his statement, Sheriff Matt Kendall also described the September robbery and kidnapping by the three outside men equipped with “
quality weapons and bulletproof vests.
Sheriff Kendall, in that statement, also cited reports of illegal cannabis growers intimidating firefighters during the compound fires in August of last year as a cause for concern. Firefighters reported that essential water pumps were stolen and lasers were aimed at them as they worked to put out the large-scale blaze last year.
Michael Katz, Executive Director of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, said, “We appreciate and share the DA’s concern for the egregious environmental and criminal activity happening in our county around unlicensed cannabis. “
Katz explained that the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance “has always advocated for more resources for the Sheriff’s Office, PBS [Planning and Building Services], and the Cannabis Program to support their important efforts.
Katz does not view these enforcement efforts as antagonistic to legal cannabis growers. He said: “The sheriff has said on several occasions that the issues he sees in regards to dangerous and illegal behavior are not from the licensed cannabis operators in the county.”
Katz added, “We don’t want those licensed operators who have done their best to stay compliant in an ever-changing regulatory system to be falsely demonized because of the bad actions of other people who don’t intend to operate in a compliant manner.
Addressing some of the details of prosecuting cannabis-related crimes, DA Eyster cited water theft as an example of weak laws deterring his office from prosecuting culprits. In the past, DA Eyster has explained, “We have tried to take criminal action against water theft” but “the criminal penalties at the state level are so weak that there is literally no value for money. -price”. He suggested the county “join a lobby effort in Sacramento” to “seek heavier punishment for people who steal water.”
DA Eyster explained that despite efforts to move cannabis growers to the legal market, “the black market is still strong and vibrant in Mendocino County.” He described the review of five search warrants recently associated with “major marijuana operations that were not authorized by the county or state.” He called the cannabis cultivation “big enough that you just don’t understand how someone can set them up and think it would be good.” “
Speaking on how the county can step up efforts to fight cannabis, DA Eyster pleaded for additional funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife because “they don’t have enough people to cover all the canyons and waterways ”. He also supported additional funding for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office in their enforcement efforts.