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Sheriff: I Just Want Cannabis Off The Front Page


doug fine too high to fail drug war bumblebeeBy Doug Fine

Mendocino County, Calif. Sheriff Tom Allman calls the decision to permit his county’s cannabis farmers (even before federal law changes) part of his “law enforcement evolution.” A local boy, he knew how eighty percent of his Emerald Triangle economy was derived. As a newly elected Sheriff, he flew over his jurisdiction and thought, “So that’s how that conservative Republican pays two Stanford tuitions.”

Allman had what he told me was a “startling revelation” following the passage of California’s 1996 ballot initiative Proposition 215 (the Compassionate Use Act of 1996), which allowed for medicinal use of the cannabis plant in the Golden State. While to this day he maintains that he is simply “required to enforce the law” and is “neither pro- nor anticannabis,” what he noticed was that, contrary to what he’d been raised and trained to believe, “the sun still rose, and there was still an America” in the days and years after the 1996 election.

And so fourteen years passed. Finally, with budget cutbacks threatening eighteen percent of his force in 2010, he decided to acknowledge “the T Rex in the room” and sign on to the “Zip-tie” cannabis permitting program which I covered in my book Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution. Locavore farmers could buy bright yellow bracelets (the Zip-ties) for their crop, avoid raids, and rejoin aboveground society.

Six hundred thousand dollars was raised from one hundred brave farmers who just wanted to be taxpayers in 2011. The deputy jobs were saved, cartels were hurt and patients benefited from safe, organically grown domestic cannabis. But the program’s administrator, a former drug warrior, said the real reason the program is a nationwide model is “it brought an entire swath of the community back into the law-abiding fold.” In other words, millions of Americans break no laws except exhibiting friendliness to one of humanity’s longest utilized plants.

But Sheriff Tom, as Allman is known locally, couldn’t and wouldn’t have implemented the Zip-tie program if cannabis wasn’t just widely used, but also relatively benign. The biggest problems in Mendocino County, he told me in our first, second, and third interviews, are “meth, poverty and domestic violence. Marijuana isn’t in the top ten.”

Study after study indicates that cannabis is (especially compared to alcohol and America’s real epidemic: prescription pill abuse) safe when used responsibly. It’s not meth. It’s not alcohol. It doesn’t make people violent. It’s thus not a problem to Sheriff Tom, who told me at a Fourth of July picnic that his view of cannabis is “Smoke it till your head caves in. I don’t care. I just wish I could get it off the front pages so I could have more time to deal with the real problems in this county. This is my biggest dream.”

It’s also one shared by many of Allman’s constituents: While it’s by no means unanimous, I met no shortage of local cannabis in the Emerald Triangle activists who want to be a test case. They’re ready for legitimacy.

Allman, in his words, was “simply obeying county nuisance regulations” by implementing the nation’s first cannabis permitting ordinance. The Zip-tie program cost about $8,500 per farmer for ninety-nine plants with a final cannabis dispensary value of around half a million dollars.

In its second full year following a 2010 revamping, the Zip-tie program was so successful that at least two neighboring (and similarly economically struggling) California counties were considering a similar job-creating, public safety-increasing program – that is, until the U.S. Attorney’s Office for California’s Northern District threatened the program’s farmers and administrators. This outrageous action (hopefully for a short time and for the last time) once again sent America’s number one crop underground. At one point during the federal harassment Sheriff Tom even sent me an email jokingly asking if I’d bail him out if necessary.

Of other law enforcement or prosecutorial minds not open to his “the sun still rose” realization, Allman said, “Maybe it’s time for them to retire. My dad ran a liquor store. He raised me to believe the damn hippies were ruining the county. I see now that they’re helping save it. My dream is to be able to stop talking about cannabis—get it off the headlines—so I can fight the real problems in this county. I care about this even more than raising my own kids right.”

Some of Doug Fine’s upcoming events:

  • July 5, 2013 6:00 pm Doug Fine at Collected Works, Santa Fe

  • July 6, 2013 3:00 pm Doug Fine at Bookworks, Albuquerue

  • July 8, 2013 6:30 pm Doug Fine at Paulina Springs Books

  • July 9, 2013 7:30 pm Doug Fine at Powells in Portland

  • July 11, 2013 7:00 pm Doug at Village Books, Bellingham, WA

  • July 12, 2013 7:00 pm Doug Fine at University Book Store, Seattle

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation


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Johnny Green


  1. RealityAlwaysBites on

    I wouldn’t want to see the DEA get off, they have destroyed and murdered more people than all the recent wars, they are true terrorist and absolutely hate everything about America and Americans.

    They would at the very least need to be deported, trials and executions for treason is preferred.
    The entire agency is a clear and present danger to every single American.

  2. MiCreeNi QuashMah on

    I am full blood American Native enrolled Kickapoo …. my grandfathers were the Kickapoo Medicine Men .
    the fed has a patent on the cZnabanoids that post date public record of Kickapoo family remedies of cannabis extracts get real this is a plot to kill off the native American people by use of American Medical Ass drug. it is and has been my birthright to smoke and use this plant and many others like it f9orever go back to Europe please and leave this planet alone. BP BASTARDS

  3. MiCreeNi QuashMah on

    just another buy my book pitch . stop the money stop the hype leave the medicine alone go away and eat some sugar find some other way of get popular.

  4. Marcus Boyd on

    “Is there any legal precedence in that a government caused so much damage to so many people by its pathetic policy’s that they were held morally ethically and criminally accountable?”

    From slavery’s “40 acres and a mule” promise to now, the answer is no! Pathetic policies in the U.S. are not held morally, ethically or criminally accountable!

    The Fed’s pride may now the last and only real issue left in the their marijuana debate…

  5. A well written and well reasoned article about someone who has realized that the prohibitionists are the children and the rest are the adults; finally. The notion that the sun still rises is a dandy metaphor.
    Anti prohibitionists need to be creditable, reasonable and even handed in their pronouncements. Anything less will convince others that they are no more reliable than prohibitionists. Allman reaches this mark with grace. In matters of law as in matters of faith there are people who think they own the law just as there are people who think they own the word. Such thinking leads to abuse of all sorts. Sheriff Allman seems pretty level-headed and has not lost sight of the fact he is an officer of the peace and a servant. Poverty, Methamphetamine and Domestic violence as law enforcement priorities sounds well placed.
    There is nothing about cannabis use and trade that isn’t made worse by prohibition. Spread the word.

  6. I share your sentiments, but I think it’s a bad tactic. We need to start thinking as the majority we are. Calls for revenge and score settling tend to undermine the movement toward growing support for legalization. Remember that the heads are all on our side, but that’s maybe 10% of the population.

    At this point, to keep the momentum moving forward we need to persuade people in the middle or even somewhat initially opposed to legalization to join with us. The powers that be will not be forced to change unless we’re in the position to send voters to support our cause into the polling stations of the nation and know we will win. That was relatively easy in CO and WA, but we’re on more delicate turf when we work elsewhere in most cases.

    My point is that talk of getting even, no matter how justified by the facts, is counter-productive to swaying the middle of the road supporter to our side. I’m familiar with efforts in other countries to promote reconciliation after conflicts far bloodier than our “war on marijuana.” They tend to work, while the score-settling of the kind you’re supporting will tend to work against us.

    If you want to put energy into productively rectifying the abuses of the “war on marijuana,” better to work on amnesty for our political prisoners. There will be millions of records that will need to be wiped clean IMO and that will be a big task in itself to make sure justice is truly served after we defeat prohibition.

  7. Sue the govt for all the wrongful deaths – cool scenario but I’m sure their first post legalization act would be to grant amnesty to … the govt

  8. Alchol kills people, its legal. Cigarettes kills people, their legal. Weed kills nobody but its illegal. Weed has medical value, by its still illegal. Im slow but i am trying to understand all of this crap so give me some time…. Lol

  9. Pitchman101 on

    I was just wondering. If the Federal government were to reclasify MJ, Could that open up pandora’s box in the form of lawsuits against the government pertaining to its blatant willfull ignorant irresposible handling of Marijuana over the past 70 years?

    Is there any legal presedence in that a government caused so much damage to so many people by its pathetic policy’s that they were held morally ethically and criminaly accountable?

    If Marijuana is found to offer all the releif that is being documented in this internet age, and it truely can be shown that U.S Policy blocked access to legitimate treatment that directly or potentaly led to so many false imprisonments and deaths, Then wouldn’t our government need to first document something that said in affect, We the U.S governemnt cannot be held responsible for our blatant ignorant irresponsible actions of the past 70 years as it pertains to Marijuana?. Make it legal?

    If so, Could that be a reason for the current administrations complete lack of willingness to right this Wrong?

    By doing so, the U.S government would be openly admiting its policy’s were flaud. Pandora’s box would then be open.

    Just Saying!

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