Monthly Archives: June 2010

Another great shoot

By Mikal Jakubal


Spent the morning at a somewhat typical homestead down a typical dirt road in SoHum, filming three generations of women and girls in the garden planting out the pot plants and tending the vegetable garden. Recorded stories of how they got here, some wild tales in the early days and what things are like now. A new addition was being added to the house, so there was frequently a compressor and other construction noise in the background. It could have been a nightmare, but I went in and filmed some of the work in order to have a reference for the noise. It hardly fits the picture of the idyllic, quiet country life without that explanatory shot.

This was the first shoot at the home of this participant. I had other things scheduled this morning as well, so I thought this would be a short intro shoot. But, she and her family were so photogenic and so full of the greatest stories, that the shoot went for hours. Now spending the afternoon offloading the footage and charging the batteries for another shoot this evening and still another one early tomorrow morning. Once I get everything processed, I’ll retell a few of the best stories here, so stay tuned.

“Bad Luck, Weed Truck, Oh F**K!”

Transcribed and edited by Mikal Jakubal


When California’s Compassionate Use Act—Proposition 215—passed in 1996, legalizing marijuana use for patients who had a doctor’s recommendation, people were finally able to grow weed in the open in their gardens. For a decade and a half before that, law-enforcement helicopters forced most growing under the cover of light forest canopy. Finding just the right forest type and doing selective pruning of the trees to let enough light in but still hide the plants from prying eyes was an art in itself.

Nowadays, with most growing taking place in full sun, plants can yield two pounds of dried “bud” easily and much more than that at the hands of a competent and attentive grower. In the shade gardens of yore, plant yield was measured in mere ounces. To make up for this shortfall, everyone grew more plants. 100-plant gardens were common, with plants grown in large plastic grow-bags. The bags were usually covered in mulch or spray painted camouflage colors. Rows and rows of shiny black plastic bags on the forest floor presented a more identifiable pattern for the helicopter spotters than the plants themselves.

Water to these gardens was often a confusing mayhem of pipes, tanks and pumps, expanded over time as new gardens were added. In the garden I’ll tell you about shortly, it worked like this: there was a small, gasoline-powered pump one thousand feet down the other side of the ridge hidden under a camo tarp. It was only fired up on weekends or at night during CAMP (the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) season so as not to draw attention. Water was pumped up the ridge through buried one-inch-diameter plastic poly pipe. At the ridge-top, the pipe had been buried under the dirt road years ago. It then went down into a large south-facing, lightly-forested “bowl” where there was a 500-gallon black poly tank hidden under camo netting in the forest. Pipes ran down from there to the gardens, controlled by a series of valves.

Now, one of CAMP’s favorite things to do was find tanks or water lines and follow them (often intentionally hacking them up with their machetes) to the pot gardens. Sometimes, whole networks of gardens across an entire hillside would be busted just by following the network of water lines. Once at a tank, lines were easily pulled up from the shallow trenches they were buried in, leading the machete-wielding officers to the gardens. Digging them in deep enough to thwart the cops was too difficult in the rocky, root-filled soil, so some clever strategies were employed. My favorite one I learned from one of the original growers here.

He would intentionally run lines toward a large downed log. In the winter, when the ground was soft and there would be plenty of time for nature to heal over the signs of soil disruption, he would dig out under the log and put in a “T” connector, branching another line off and burying the junction deep under the log. He’d leave a tiny bit of pipe showing on the other side. That way, if CAMP followed the line, they’d step over the log, dig around and continue following the original line, but missing the line to the other gardens…hopefully.

As if cops weren’t enough to worry about, the deer get quite hungry around here by mid-summer and will eat sticky pot plants down to the stems if you let them. All these gardens had to be fenced, usually with six-foot-tall chicken wire tacked to trees or posts. Once a bit rusted, it was nearly invisible from a distance in the dappled forest light. While more expensive, heavier and harder to work with than the poly mesh fencing, chicken wire is much less prone to entangling snakes and birds. Leaving the gate open in September might mean a $5,000-a-plate marijuana dinner for some marauding deer. I always wondered how they could walk, or even stand, after chowing down that much weed.

Then there were wood rats. These cute little darlings love to harvest pungent plants to line their nest, probably to hide their scent from predators or ward off fleas. All my grower friends still had hippie values, so would scour the area and bust up the large, distinctive stick-pile nests to deter them from living near the gardens, then use traps in the gardens to stop any rats intent on poaching the weed. The less scrupulous used rat poison. Both traps and poison regularly killed other small animals, one of the dark sides of growing in the woods.

All this materiel, including soil in bags, had to be hauled in to the woods, preferably by hand so as not to leave trails for CAMP or ripoffs to follow. Some was carried in by hand or backpack, sometimes using an army-surplus two-person stretcher. If done early enough in the season, a four-wheeler ATV could be brought near the garden and then the trail left to grow over, becoming unused-looking by the time CAMP season started August 1st. Hauling all this in and setting up these gardens was a major source of early-season employment for thousands of SoHum residents and itinerant hippie kids looking to make some cash while playing outlaw in the hills.

Hopefully by now you get some picture of what growing weed was like for many homesteaders back before Prop. 215 opened things up a bit. For the record, many people also grew in greenhouses and others hid small pot plants among their tomatoes while others grew out in remote meadows in the sun and hoped the cops never saw the plants.

This story starts in about March of 1996 when a mutual friend gave another friend and I an unused shade garden on his back-forty in the hills above Briceland, the one with the water source in the drainage 1,000 feet over the other side of the ridge. We were both very involved in the Headwaters Forest protests at that time, but needed extra money to help fund our activism since we still had to pay our bills and land payments while we were organizing at base camp and chaining ourselves to trees and logging road gates. The cool thing was that, since we were using the money for a good cause, he let us use the space for free. Normally, he would have taken fifty percent of the harvest. I’m sure that if any loggers or (former) Pacific Lumber PR people read this, they’ll feel vindicated. “See! We told you so! They didn’t have jobs. They were all just weed-growing hippies!”

Well, at least we weren’t on welfare like they also claimed.

We started our seeds in a greenhouse, culled out the weak plants and males (only the female plants are grown) and had about 80 plants in one-gallon pots, enough to fill all the existing grow-bags. We planted them out in late May or early June, figuring we’d get a little over an ounce per plant (it was a very shady garden), for a total yield of six pounds. Three pounds apiece, at $4,000 per pound that we were getting back then was a lot of money for us.

Let’s skip forward to late September, just weeks before harvest and a whole season’s work about to pay off. It was the last day of CAMP for that year. Once their funds ran out, it was like a cease-fire was declared in the hills and harvest was mostly allowed to proceed without much further harassment. Everyone breathed a great sigh of relief when the end of CAMP season was announced. There were often parties to celebrate another good year.

Protest season was in full swing against clearcut logging of the ancient redwoods in an area that is now protected as the Headwaters Forest Preserve. We had a rotating population of twenty to sixty people at action base camp up Highway 30 near Carlotta. I was alternating between the pot garden, my paying work and basecamp, where I was helping with action planning and logistics. I think I only got busted twice that fall. The charges were eventually dropped.

Late one afternoon I was headed from basecamp up to the action media office in Eureka to drop off some film from the day’s protest. Turning north on Highway 101 at Alton, I was shortly passed by a couple of Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department 4WD vehicles going well over the speed limit. Then another one and another and finally, a large pickup truck that I’d seen before that they use to transport seized pot plants. Heaped up over the top of the cab were hundreds and hundreds of marijuana plants. Though the stems were strapped down, leaves and buds were flying off willy-nilly as they raced up the highway. Curious as to where they could be going at such speed at that late hour (it was almost dark), I stepped on it and followed them to Eureka, trying to avoid being detected as a tail. After a circuitous route through town, they arrived at what I would later learn was their equipment and evidence storage area and disappeared behind large chainlink gates.

I arrived at the media office and before even being able to hand over the film was asked by friends who also had interests in that watershed if I had heard about CAMP that day. “They busted the whole bowl!” All of it. Every single garden, every single plant, including ours. People had seen the convoy leaving the hill with the plants about an hour before they passed me on the 101. My heart sank and I blurted out something like, “Oh fuck! That was my weed!” and related the story of the buds—MY BUDS! My carefully-cultivated, babied, fertilized, doted-over buds—blowing down the highway like burger wrappers thrown out a window. What can you do but laugh?

It was eerie going back to the garden the next morning, knowing that a whole team of cops had been there so recently. At least we could be pretty sure that they weren’t staking it out. That wasn’t CAMP’s usual m.o. All they wanted was to keep their plant count up so they could justify next year’s budget. Busting people required too much work. Still, we approached cautiously at first. Inside the open gate, the one that we had so dutifully closed and tied shut against deer for months, nothing remained but a few wispy lower branches. We dutifully harvested them, mostly for their sentimental value. We’d have at least one smoke for our efforts. At least CAMP didn’t chop up the water lines.

That’s just how it went sometimes. Some years you got mold or rats or someone left a gate open and the deer ate one third of your crop. Some years your dealer got busted. Some years you got CAMPed. And some years—most years, for most people—you got away with it. It was all part of the little game we all played and still play. No matter how bad it might get in any given year, when averaged over a whole lifestyle, the cost/benefit picture looked and still looks pretty damn good.

Me, I’m glad to be out of it. This is not a good time to be dependent on an economy that might be on the verge of evaporating. Very few who depend on the black market for their livelihood are willing to face the changes head-on, preferring denial or fear at a time when creativity, resourcefulness and a bull-by-the-horns attitude are all that will save us from the change no one ever thought would come. No matter what happens in the next couple years, it will be interesting.

“Changing World Of Cannabis” radio documentary on KMUD tonight

Today at 5pm PST, the first of a 3-part radio documentary by Liz Davidson on the changing world of cannabis will be aired on KMUD radio. Click here to download the program any time from the archives. I’d especially recommend this as a good intro to the issues faced by those in my documentary and the community at large.

This first installment looks at the initiative, views on it from CaNORML director Dale Gieringer and medical activist Frank Lucido, a look at the legal medical industry, tax money, the industry in Oakland, the impact on the black market and what things might mean to Humboldt.

The next two parts will look at medical cannabis, cannabusiness and questions of ‘inside or outside’.

[Director’s disclaimer: I encourage people to listen to programs like this for their informational and educational value. While I will probably agree personally with many of the views and opinions expressed on the show, this should not be taken as representative of the viewpoint that will be expressed in the documentary. It will be left up to the film’s participants to articulate their views and for viewers to make their own decisions and opinions.]

Undercover cop: “Where can I buy an ounce?”

By Mikal Jakubal


Besides trying to make a film, I run a small plant nursery Plants For The People that is right on the county road. I have a big “open” sign out, trying to draw people in from the road to look at my plants. (I also run a portable sawmill and backhoe.) I’m the only road-front business in this area, so it is common for people to stop in and ask directions, ask to buy a gallon of gas, ask where the nearest payphone is…and ask where they can buy weed.


It happens half a dozen times each year. This time of the year, they usually ask if I sell pot plants. Once when I said no, the guy replied sarcastically, “well, aren’t you a nursery?” Well, yes. A nursery, not a pot dispensary. If you want pot plants, there are some pot collectives in Oakland that will hook you up. I’ve been asked where to get pounds of weed, pounds of bud trim, if I’m buying weed, where to get trimming work and about everything else. Other times, people casually ask very unusual and pointed questions about my finances or they make a few too many innuendos for me to believe they are on the level. Most people in business around here have had this same experience.

Just an hour ago, a guy pulled up and asked me where he could buy an ounce of weed. Claimed he  was from Georgia and was just in Honeydew (a little town a couple ridges over) where someone gave him a bud that was the best he’d ever had. Said he wanted to get an ounce to mail home to Georgia and explained his crafty scheme to hide it in a can of coffee and ship it Fedex.

I can never tell whether people like this are cops trying to entrap me or are sincere but painfully naive individuals. Or both. It doesn’t really matter because I’m not dealing weed and don’t have any to sell them. Now, from a legal standpoint, I should answer such questions with an abrupt “no” and send them on their way. But, I’m always interested in people and always looking for stories, so I can’t help but engage a bit. I realize that if Georgia-dude was in fact an undercover cop wearing a wire, anything I say might lead them to think I was hiding something or was actually considering making a deal. Remember that people asking strangers where to buy weed are as nervous and suspicious as the stranger being asked, though this guy was so casual and talkative that it smelled a bit “off.”

While talking to these people entails that risk, it also has interesting side benefits. Immediately after he left, I tweeted about the encounter. KHUM radio picked it up and put me live on the air for a couple minutes to talk about the film. That resulted in a bunch of new Twitter followers and likely quite a few visits to this site. I’ve also received access to some interesting interview tapes someone made and a reporter recontacted me about doing a story on the film.

So, Georgia-dude, good luck in your quest for weed and, if you are from law enforcement, keep up the good work! I’ll be able to build a very exciting publicity campaign around your visits.

Officer, can I get my bird please?

(originally published as “Fragile Things” in Grow Magazine. Reprinted here courtesy of the author.)

By Kym Kemp


Temporarily, they halted our demolition of a building–two fledglings huddled in a nest of mud and grass. We hoped that the mother would return. But, when she hadn’t by the next day and the babies were peeping furiously, I was elected to raise them. Actually, elected is the wrong term. In reality, the rest of my family humored me. In the heat, without a mother, they considered the two babies dead meat still squawking.

I tried supplying the fragile things with various foods including worms and raw hamburger but after a day I almost surrendered. The tiny creatures would allow me to drip water down their throat but they wanted no part of anything solid. Finally, I tried grasshoppers. Whether it was the crunch of a still warm exoskeleton or something else, the long legged hoppers grabbed their attention and the fledglings began to eat. For days, I gathered and mashed the bugs until I began to feel half bird myself. When I closed my eyes in bed at night, I pictured tiny insect heads crunching between my teeth.

The fledglings began to follow me around the house. Eventually, I would wander the meadows looking for victims to sacrifice to their rapacious appetites with the two perched jauntily on my shoulder. Occasionally, they would rise, flapping and tweeting in the air around me as if I were Cinderella with her entourage of animals.

This was back then in the Eighties when it was common for The Marijuana Eradication Team (MET) to raid in the hills near our home. Once, the whole neighborhood gathered on the hillside to observe as a group of camouflage clad officers handcuffed an older neighborhood woman. The birds and I joined them. We watched as large white official pickups were filled to overflowing with heaps of the dark green marijuana branches that were making Humboldt famous around the nation. The mood among the community members was grim. Several had lost plants from raids in other places that day and nearly everyone sympathized with the older woman being folded weeping into the squad car.

Even with the community in an uproar, I had to keep feeding the birds. Not far from all the commotion the tiny creatures and I picked our way through the grass at the edge of the road looking for grasshoppers. But when the car with the woman drove away, the startled birds flew up in the air higher than normal. For some ungodly reason, though one returned to me, the other flew down the road and lit on a branch of marijuana hanging over the tailgate of one of the pickup trucks.

And stayed there chirruping for me.

“Tlck, tlck.”  I tried to coax him back by clicking my tongue as usual. “Chip, Chip,” he tried to coax me to him.  In desperation, I kept edging closer and closer to the trucks and the officers. Fearfully, I eyed the men with their long black guns. And they eyed me suspiciously.  We seemed like two different species with opposing agendas and opposing viewpoints on everything. But I hadn’t always lived in the hills. My family had been friends with police officers. We shared many Fourth of July’s with a local CHP and his family. Hopefully, I called to the nearest, a dark haired guy about my age, “Could I get my bird, please?”

He stared grimly at me— but with a fluffy sweater, big eyes, and one bird on my shoulder cocking its head jauntily from side to side, he had a hard time maintaining a straight face. First he grinned, then he started laughing and without even glancing at the other uniformed and armed officials, he said, “This isn’t exactly regulation but I won’t tell, if you won’t.” Motioning me to go ahead, he and the others watched as I reached out a hand and scooped the cheerful peeping bird from a sticky green branch.

As I headed back to the rest of the community, both birds were chirruping and hopping merrily from my head to my shoulders and back again. My knees were shaking as if I had been in actual danger and, judging by the fuss everyone made of me, the neighbors must have felt the same.

Soon, the officers left and, within a month, the birds were gone also—flying off to join their own kind. For many years, MET returned a couple of times every summer but I never saw my birds again. And I rarely saw the human side of the officers who came either. It takes a lot of magic and little bit of laughter to bridge the gap between Humboldt hill folk and city cops.

SoHum’s version of Oaksterdam University to open in Garberville


Oaksterdam University in Oakland, California offers classes in marijuana growing and business. KMUD News reported tonight on two women who are planning on opening a similar school in Garberville, called 707 Cannabis College. In the report on KMUD News, the women described taking courses at Oaksterdam University only to become dismayed by the complete emphasis on indoor growing and lack of information on outdoor and organic cultivation techniques. At 707 Cannabis College, they intend to cover both indoor and outdoor techniques, recognizing that some people don’t have an option to grow outdoors. Like Oaksterdam, they will offer classes in Cannabis cultivation, health, business and law.

There has been much talk of making Garberville a destination for pot tourism when…no one says “if” anymore…marijuana becomes legal. Seems like the 707 Cannabis College folks are getting their foot in the door early, something that has to happen if there is to be any real pot economy here in a few years. One of my film subjects told me this morning that in his opinion, “nothing like this has ever happened before. It’s not like the wine industry. We can’t compare it to the end of alcohol prohibition. We don’t KNOW what’s going to happen, so we have decide what we want and make it happen.”

Regardless of what happens, the only ones who will make the transition out of the black market economy and into the new future are people with forward-thinking, positive attitudes who take initiative and take action. As a friend of mine put it, “you either make dust or eat dust.”

New Poll: Almost half of California voters back pot legalization

California voters back pot legalization, but support is shaky –

California voters, by a modest margin, think they should be allowed to grow and consume marijuana, according to a new poll that also found more than 1 in 3 voters had tried pot and more than 1 in 10 had lit up in the past year.

The Los Angeles Times/USC poll found that voters back the marijuana legalization measure on the November ballot, 49% to 41%, with 10% uncertain about it. But support for the initiative is unstable, with one-third of the supporters saying they favor it only “somewhat.”

“The good news for proponents is that they are starting off with a decent lead. The good news for the opposition is that initiatives that start off at less than 50% in the polls usually have a hard time,” said Dan Schnur, director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.

The poll also points to a demographic group that is likely to play a key role — women, particularly those who are married. Men favor legalization, but women are split. Among married women, 49% reject the measure while 40% are in favor of the initiative.

Denise Silva, a 55-year-old court clerk from Pleasanton, in Alameda County, said she is struggling with the issue. “I sway from day to day,” she said. A mother of two grown children, she opposes drug use for moral reasons but knows people who have smoked for four decades with no apparent harm.

“It’s still going to continue to be sold, so since it is, might’s well let the government get their piece of the pie,” she said. Both sides are likely to target mothers, Schnur said. The measure’s backers, for example, could argue that legalization would bring more tax money for schools, while opponents could insist that it would put children at risk.

The poll found voters closely divided on those arguments.

The measure’s supporters say marijuana taxes could raise more than a billion dollars in revenue; opponents dispute that. Among voters, 42% believe that estimate and 38% think it is wildly exaggerated. The November initiative authorizes cities and counties, but not the state, to legalize and tax sales.

In Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the Green Rush with more than 600 medical marijuana dispensaries, voters are most inclined to see pot taxes as a way to plug holes in local and state budgets.

Voters were also split over whether legalized marijuana would worsen social problems, such as increasing crime and triggering higher marijuana use among teenagers. Those concerns appear to have much more potency with voters than the debate over tax revenues. Among those who oppose the initiative, 83% think it would add to the state’s social woes; 55% of married women also believe that.

Raul Martinez, a Democrat from Woodland, outside of Sacramento, said he smoked pot as a teenager. He believes the measure would end up being expensive for local governments. “It’s going to turn around and cost them more money because more crime is going to come from it,” the 47-year-old father said.

The survey of 1,506 registered voters was conducted between May 19 and 26 for The Times and the University of Southern California College of Letters, Arts and Sciences by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 2.6 percentage points for the overall sample and slightly larger for smaller breakdowns.

Attitudes toward legalization diverge sharply by age, with support much higher among younger voters. A 52% majority of voters 65 and older oppose legalization. Among voters between 45 and 64, 49% support it. But among those 30 to 44, 53% are in favor, and that rises to 61% among those 18 to 29.

Chris Donnelly, a 25-year-old substitute teacher from San Diego, has never touched pot but strongly favors the initiative and believes it could support schools. “It wouldn’t bother me one bit if marijuana were legal,” the unaffiliated voter said. “I don’t think it’s any more harmful than alcohol.”

The poll also offers an unusually detailed look at who is using marijuana in California.

Among those surveyed, 37% of voters said they had tried pot — a figure roughly consistent with federal surveys of drug use — and that group strongly supports the initiative. The 11% who had used marijuana in the last year favored legalization by a landslide, 82%.

By contrast, the 57% of voters who said they have never used marijuana oppose the initiative.

Though certain types of voters are more likely to light up, marijuana use cuts across all demographic slices, reaching beyond the cliches of skateboarders and aging hippies.

A matchup in the governor’s race between Democrat Jerry Brown, who governed the state in the 1970s, and Republican Meg Whitman, the former EBay executive, clearly illustrates this. Voters who have tried marijuana make up 45% of Brown’s supporters, and 37% of Whitman’s. But both candidates oppose legalization.

Among Democrats and voters who decline to state a party affiliation, 12% had used marijuana in the last year, as had 7% of Republicans. About a quarter of the voters in each slice of the state’s electorate said they experimented with the drug in the past, but not in the last year.

One of the biggest differences is between men and women. Among male voters, 45% said they had used marijuana, 14% in the past year. Among female voters, 29% said they had tried it, but just 8% in the past year.

The heaviest use of marijuana skipped a generation. The youngest voters, between 18 and 29, reported the highest percentage of marijuana use in the past year, followed by voters between 45 and 64, who could be their parents or even grandparents. Most of those voters came of age in the marijuana-hazed Vietnam War era.

The chance that a California voter has used marijuana is higher for college graduates than high school graduates and rises with income. Use is highest among single voters and lowest among married ones. Voters north of the Bay Area, home to the weed-raising Emerald Triangle, are most likely to have used marijuana, while voters in the Central Valley are least likely.

True Humboldt tales: “Cue James Bond Music”


By Kym Kemp Originally published in Grow magazine.

“Out in the mountains, it’s almost like you forget it’s illegal…We’re just these farmers with veggie gardens. But the reality is, we’re breakin’ the law.” As a second generation grower, James isn’t against marijuana but his twenty-second birthday changed his life forever.

The big grin that normally fills his broad cheerful face disappears as he looks seriously out across the hills that he calls home. When he was in his late teens, he quit working for his family and began to take care of marijuana for a big grower. “This was a whole different ballgame,” he says. “[Our family] would leisurely grow some plants and I’d smoke some pot. But this scene was all about how ‘we’re gonna make …money!’”

He moved into a nearby house owned by the big grower and, within a year or two, he had tucked away almost $15,000 in a closet at his new place. Even so, he was ready to get out. “These people were really flagrant. They were making me nervous…They were in an entirely different headspace—money, party, rage, drive trucks, … be idiots…I was making money for the future so I didn’t have to do this forever.” He says that he was only two weeks from his final harvest when his life changed on the morning of his twenty-second birthday.

In honor of the day, he had been partying heavily the night before.

I was sleeping in—completely tacoed [hungover]. I heard a car door slam…I looked out the upstairs window. OH, SHIT! I saw a sheriff with a shotgun…

Wearing only his boxer shorts, he crawled out through the open glass and

…cue James Bond music. I ran and grabbed the upstairs porch rail with both hands and vaulted over and down 15 feet…I landed on a rock face…I tore the bottom of my feet off but I didn’t feel it….Adrenaline pumped, I tripped over a rocky ledge and face planted–shattered my nose. Totally barefoot and [almost] naked…The choppers were flying…I ran through a ravine.
Blackberry bush [He waved a hand wildly]–I ran right through it— I was going to Mom’s.

While running, he realized that he didn’t want to lead the police to his family’s house.

… [I] hid myself in a pond.…[I] crawled out of the pond and into [a] bush. From 7 in the morning ‘til 8 at night I hid….I was hung over–hammered. And the yellow jackets kept eating my feet. I tried to keep them off but I didn’t have enough strength… Man, it was painful… I tried to walk but I couldn’t. I was too injured…I needed a cigarette. [I was] hungry. Now I know what people stranded in the desert feel like. Seriously, a couple days would drive people crazy…[A] chopper flew for hours looking for me…It started getting dark.

He worried, “I can’t just lay here and die.” But he couldn’t manage to put any weight on his feet. [Later, he would find that they had lasting damage.] His brother, who had been combing the hills looking for him, drove by and he managed to flag him down. “When I got in the car, I lost it. I cried.” He paused for emphasis. “Like a baby.” But, in spite of the agony and the loss of the large amount of cash he had left stashed behind at the house, at least he’d gotten away.


Unfortunately, in his rush out the window and over the railing, he had left not only his money but his wallet behind—with his license and other identifying papers.

“The cops drove around the hills showing my license to people.” They asked if anyone recognized who he was. Everyone was familiar with him but no one told the officers. Nonetheless, as one of his neighbors later told him, “…you were fucked.”

No one, of course, acknowledged knowing him or how to find him but, eventually, accompanied by his lawyer, James turned himself in. “I didn’t want to run forever. I’ve seen The Fugitive. That’s not cool.”

He eventually had to do 120 days of SWAP (Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program), one day a week, for over two years, and felony probation for three. James says he liked the work. “I was impressed with the sheriffs in the program. If you offered them respect, then [you got respect.] They were friendly guys…”

At first, he worked low paying restaurant jobs but then he moved into construction where he continues supporting his family well.

He says in spite of the hardship, he wouldn’t change what happened to him. “That was a defining moment. I quit growing, I quit smoking, I quit drinking. I was a reformed Christian without the Christianity!” In spite of his experience, he doesn’t think marijuana should get people arrested. “It’s an herb not a drug. Just because its illegal, doesn’t mean it should be.” But for him, the ordeal helped him focus on what was important in his life.