After California wildfire burned 71,000 acres in Amador and Calaveras counties in 2015, county supervisors legalized cannabis as one way to generate revenue to help the areas recover. Inexpensive land, and marijauna-friendly laws brought in legal pot farmers, and Calaveras collected $3.7 million in $5,000 registration fees, earning $10 million from the growers since 2016. Now, newly-elected anti-pot supervisors have ordered the farmers to stop operating by June.
One couple who will lose out if the ban goes forward is medical marijauna cultivators Jeremy and Michelle Maddux, who paid nearly six figures in taxes since 2016, and another six figures for permits and bringing things up to code.
“Maddux, 44, and his wife Michelle, have worked hard to dispel the idea that all pot farmers are criminal cartel members looking to skirt the law,” Sarah Parvini of the LA Times reported. “Maddux insists he and others who applied for permits want regulations and will gladly pay taxes to fund law enforcement’s fight against illegal marijuana operations.”
The community is divided on whether pot growing should be allowed, legal or not. According to one woman, gang members nearby were growing marijuana and storing drugs and guns, making the area feel unsafe. Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio estimated 1,000 illicit grows in the county.
“With only a handful of deputies, it’s a constant struggle to stay on top of them,” DiBasilio said.
Pesticides used to maintain the farms are also a concern, because they can flow from grow sites into the watershed, potentially contaminating the region’s water supply.
“The county’s stance has some growers feeling betrayed,” Parvini said. “Cultivators say they started businesses here with good intentions and want to provide tax revenue to the government. Now, they feel officials have stabbed them in the back — after taking their money.”
According to Prapanna Smith, who runs an indoor growing operation, Calaveras is a poor county sitting on a new kind of gold mine. “And that means cultivators won’t go down without a fight.”