Sunday, October 9, 2016

Calaveras County -- Don't Move Here

In my last post titled Let's Talk About Calaveras County, I tried to highlight some of our history before saying how I would not recommend anyone moving to this county -- at least not right now or in the near future. 

A number of my readers have written to say that "Calaveras County sounds like a great place, so why not move there"?

A few readers wanted to know if I was trying to stop overcrowding because that's usually what takes place when people find out about a great place to live? One reader asked me if I was afraid that tiny Glencoe would actually hit the 200 mark as for as population of my "town" goes? A few of you asked if I was concerned about the traffic?

All are great reasons to limit growth here in Calaveras County and speicifically Glencoe. As for the woman who asked if I was concerned about traffic, well that is a real concern lately. We have had a number of people relocate to these hills and drive like they're still in the city -- in a rush and not giving a damn about on-coming traffic when they inevitably pass, even though it is a no passing area. And while these jerks are part of the reason that I say "stay away", they are not the main reason that I'm recommending people not move here.

One reader wrote to ask if, for some reason, I was worried about the safety of those moving here? Well, BINGO!

My reader from Montana suspected that I'm concerned for the safety of others moving here. And yes, she is absolutely correct. That in itself is the number one reason why I'm now telling friends who are thinking of relocating to Calaveras County, "Don't do it!"

Why do I feel this county is no longer safe? Well, there are approximately 1,000 Marijuana Growers in Calaveras County! 

On September 28th, the Calaveras County Planning Department released a list of nearly 1,000 Commercial Marijuana Growers in Calaveras County. Yes, nearly 1,000 pot growers now surround us here.

The Calaveras Enterprise published the list on September 30th. The Calaveras Enterprise filed a Public Records Act request for the information in June.

County representatives said they would release the requested material once they completed a database with the information. While the list of pot growers is available at the County Planning Department, the complete list of applicants is also available on The Calaveras Enterprise website at

In the published article in the Enterprise, they state, "the commercial farm registrants include the names of a number of prominent county residents. A cursory review of the records found that the registrants include former county Supervisor Tom Tryon of Angels Camp, Calaveras County Water District Board Chairman Terrance Strange, wealth management business owner Cory Burnell of Valley Springs, West Point News Publisher Richard Torgerson, rancher Tammy Ham of San Andreas and commercial real estate owners Jake and Donna Koplen of San Andreas."

Let's make something real clear. I don't give a damn if someone smokes weed or not for whatever reason. I don't, but I also don't look down my nose at those who do. But while saying that, I feel the problems that commercial marijuana growers are bringing to our county is immense and dangerous.

Unlike in years gone by with a much smaller number of pot growers, the magnitude of the problems that we have now is something our Sheriff's department is just not equipped to handle. They do not have the manpower or the funding allocated to them to handle what is taking place.

As for the the information released by Calaveras County? Well, now the public knows all sorts of information about every commercial marijuana grower in our area. And yes, with all sorts of details. In fact, the Calaveras County Planning Department has now provided names of the commercial pot growers, the names of their "farms" or business, whether a business is conducted as an indoor operation or is mixed-light or outdoor, the addresses, county parcel numbers, zoning designation, and even the number of plants they're growing.

Information for all personal and most "caregiver" growers, who are not commercial operations, is limited to zoning, city, zip code, light source and canopy size. The Planning Department did list names and addresses for some caregivers, but did not indicate why it listed some caregivers but not the vast majority.

Yes, imagine that, on the list are names, addresses, businesses, and even the number of marijuana plants they are growing. Yes, it can all be found on the marijuana registration list available to the public.

So now, whether a grower's application to grow marijuana was certified, or denied or pending approval, their information is out there for the public to see first hand. Yes, that means for anyone.

The concern for the growers is not Calaveras County. After all, by voting to make this happen the county supervisors have shown that they are all for growing marijuana. Of course the big lie being told is that the nearly 1,000 growers are all growing pot for the purpose of "medical" marijuana. The county knows better, but right now all the county can see is the millions of dollars the county is racking in through permits and other fees.

But, as stated in The Calaveras Enterprise, "It's information, some on the list were hoping to keep private."

"We just don't want to be out on front street, and that's basically what it is," said Mountain Ranch resident Misty McCourt. "We don't want to be seen, we want to be left alone."

McCourt's name isn't on the list, but her address is. She lives in a trailer on a property in Mountain Ranch. She says another man on the property applied for a permit to grow marijuana. Now that her address is out there, McCourt fears she could become the victim of a robbery, or worse.

"They are actually putting us in a direct path of harms way," said McCourt.

The Calaveras County Planning Department told FOX40 News that they debated the release of the 23-page list, but after getting multiple public records requests they had no choice.

Now with the information available on the county website, McCourt said she doesn't know what she'll do if people come after the grow on her property.

"How are we supposed to protect ourselves," McCourt asked.

Killings, Human Trafficking, Threatened Neighbors, Robberies Up, Clear Cutting Forests, Toxic Waste Dumps, And Destroying The Environment. 

All growers should be concerned about the list because their locations are now public. Commercial growers should fear the people coming in from all over the nation to grow marijuana here. They should fear the Mexican drug Cartels which are now in our county and sponsoring some of these pot farms. They should fear organized crime which is now here, as evident by some of those being busted for illegal grows. And yes, they should fear the possibility of home invasions and armed robberies and more killings. Yes, killings.

If you think the killings have not started, take a look at what took place in Railroad Flat last year. And yes, Railroad Flat is just 7 minutes South of my home here in Glencoe.

On October 21, 2015, a grower was arrested after gunning down three trespassers discovered in his grow. The three men were shot dead after being confronted for trespassing. Sheriff’s deputies discovered the bodies after they were called to the property near the town of Railroad Flat by someone reporting the triple shooting.

The grower, who actually owns the property and not just leases it as many are doing, found at least three men trespassing on the land early that morning. They were thought to be stealing marijuana. 

He called his brother, and told him to come to the property. The grower fetched a gun and allegedly fired several shots at the trespassers, and supposedly scaring them off. When his brother arrived, he confronted the trespassers running on a road near his brother's pot farm and "allegedly" blasted them with a shotgun.

The owner's brother was arrested on suspicion of murder and conspiracy. He was being held on $2.5 million bail. His brother who owns the property was arrested on suspicion of being an accessory and conspiracy, and was held on $30,000 bail.

And friends, list or no list, I don't blame my neighbors for being worried. We all know that pot was here before the county opened the doors to commercial marijuana. But frankly, this is a county wide epidemic that needs to stop.

As of the publication of the list on September 28th, we now find out that of the nearly 1,000 pot growers in Calaveras County, only two commercial growers have been certified and subsequently are legally registered to operate. But as we all know, that's doesn't mean a thing to pot growers. Legal or not, they are working their "pot farms" which now some folks are calling "cannabis plantations".

Up in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, what has historically been California's Marijuana Capital, it isn't strange for people to disappear and reappear after the pot harvests. There are all sorts of stories about men and women ending up missing persons, only to resurface to tell their story of being held against their will on some pot farm.

Many report being drugged, beaten, and even sexually abused. The Sheriff’s Offices up in that area have a term for those people. They label them the "voluntary missing adults."

The reason they are such a low priority is that there are those people who go to that area each year to work the harvests on the pot farms. That has been going on for years. They show up to work the harvest and trim. Of course they are in for more than they bargain for. 

As for the growers needing people to work their farms, the growers are hiring. But what happens when these growers can't find cheap labor willing to get paid under the table, or the wannabe hippie wanting to get back to nature and will work for room and board, and drugs? 

Some bring in Illegal Aliens, as was the case when a bust was made recently. The Sheriff's Department found Hmong workers brought in from the San Francisco Bay Area. 

And of course there has been at least one grower who did more than hire, that grower kidnapped laborers and kept them working by threat of death! 

Yes, it's true! On September 19th, just last month, The Calaveras Enterprise reported that four brothers, some of who said they actually fled Mexico in order to escape violence there, found themselves also victims of violence in Calaveras County.

Those Illegal Aliens were said to have been beaten and forced at gunpoint to work on a marijuana farm near the town of West Point, which is just 10 minutes East of my home in Glencoe.

The four men escaped and ran to a neighbor's house to plea for help on July 27th. Their escape launched a chain of events that lead to the eradication of 23,245 marijuana plants on private and BLM (Bureu of Land Management) lands.

While the law came down on them like a hammer, everyone at the pot farm had already fled and no arrests were made that day.

The owners of the pot farm had addresses in Modesto, about 2 hours away, and were arrested on September 14th for human trafficking, kidnapping, battery with serious bodily injury, making terrorist threats, cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale. 

The four men, all brothers and all are farm workers, do not speak English. Investigators said they conducted interviews in Spanish or with the help of Spanish translators. They stated that two of the brothers met the female pot farm owner at a doughnut shop in Modesto. The woman hired them before luring them to her pot farm near West Point. 

Once there, armed men appeared and used threats and violence to force the two to work. The pot farm owner then went to where their relatives live in Modesto and took the other two brothers as well. She allegedly threatened the rest of the family and ordered them not to report the situation to police or she would report them to immigration.

When they escaped, the four men all had injuries including black eyes and bruises. They were taken to Mark Twain Medical Center for treatment before being released to a crisis shelter service and taken to a secret location. One of the men had such severe facial damage that he was sent to a hospital elsewhere for reconstructive surgery.

The men said that during one of the beatings, the captors kicked one of the brothers in the head repeatedly, knocking him out and then kicking him again when he regained consciousness. The men said that they were allowed to have some telephone contact with family members. One of the most severe beatings came after the grower found out that they told family members that they were being kept by force.

They testified that one of the male captors asked the owner if he could just "kill them now" and was told to wait because harvest wasn’t over. According to police reports, the brothers decided to escape after they heard they were going to be killed after harvest season was over.

If you think that those are just two isolated incidents taking place in this county these days, think again. Many of those working for growers are not from here and see their "neighbors" as inconveniences and worse -- their enemy.

From growers dumping their toxic chemical wastewater onto their properties and that of their neighbor's properties, shanty towns, and toxic waste dumps, clear cutting the forest wherever they want, the residents living next door to these commercial growers are now facing all sorts of problems. Yes, including armed threats.

Three commercial marijuana growers setup a roadblock on a public road.
In April of this year, it was reported that three commercial marijuana growers actually had the nerve to setup a roadblock on a public road to trap and threaten their neighbor. Yes, this was caught on film. 

They cursed at the neighbor. And before letting the neighbor pass through their roadblock, they yelled through the passenger window, "If you ever come down here again we'll take care of you!" 

I've had a number of people tell me that these growers intimidate and harass residents all of time. And I ask about notifying the sheriff's department? They, like numbers of other people, are either scared of armed retribution and don't want to make complaints because they don't want their names out there -- or they know our Sheriff's Department doesn't have the manpower to help them. That is a sorry state to live in. 

I've talked to friends who are now thinking a leaving Calaveras County simply because they are worried for their family's security and safety. And rightfully so, since it is just getting worse.

While Calaveras County Sheriff's Department has a great policy concerning Concealed Carry permits, more and more people that I meet, through my position with the local America Legion, are all telling me that they are going to put in for a Concealed Carry (CCW) permit because of what's going on around us these days.

To add fuel to this are reports of things taking place here that only go on in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, or some other big city. There was a recent incident involving armed intruders who attempted to rob a marijuana farm in Wilseyville near West Point. They hit the wrong house. The people there did not have anything to do with marijuana, but the assailants still terrorized that family.

So now, is there any questions why I say, don't move here, don't move to Calaveras County -- at least not until we fix this huge problem. It's just not a safe place to live with all of these commercial marijuana growers. And friends, the incidents that I've mentioned are really just a very small sample of what's going on. And frankly, I'm not degrading anyone other than criminals who are breaking the law, clear cutting the forests, turning areas into toxic dump sites, and are a threat to my neighbors. My concern is for the safety of people here in our county.

My wife and I attended a meeting on Thursday night by a group trying to stop the spread of these problems. I was amazed at how many Liberals, those new to the county who are for commercial marijuana growing, were attending the meeting.

And after the meeting, I walked away thinking how this article understates the severity of the problems facing Calaveras County. Yes, it is apparent that things will get worse before they get better.

And while, that's just the way I see things, there's more to come on this.

Tom Correa