Forest fragmentation resulting from cannabis grows in Humboldt County (photo courtesy of The Siskiyou Crest)

The Mendocino County Supervisors will soon vote on a series of environmental protections that would include putting 714,000 acres of rangeland off-limits to new cannabis cultivation permits. They are also considering an impressively strict oak woodlands protection ordinance and a grading ordinance, while also allowing existing cannabis growers to become legally permitted. The end of marijuana prohibition has opened up the possibility of a damaging “green rush,” which these measures aim to prevent.

The person who has most vocally opposed these protections is Stuart Bewley, one of Mendocino County’s wealthiest landowners, who made his fortune in the wine industry. Bewley has moved aggressively into the cannabis business.  Last year, the Mendocino County Sherriff’s illegally granted Bewley five grow permits and declined to act on complaints by county supervisors and local residents, thus raising questions about whether the county will actually enforce its own rules.

I wrote a two-part feature in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley Advertiser that provides a snapshot of this issue. Here’s part one, and here’s part two.

I’ve written in the past about how marijuana growing is used as a scapegoat for environmental degradation, but it’s also the case that extreme marijuana grows are a major source of environmental damage and cultural upheaval, as many people who have long campaigned against damaging logging have also pointed out.

A Fight for the Oak Woodlands