The Ukiah Daily reports
Yolo County supervisors came across an interesting question recently, which stirred conversation in both the board chambers and on Facebook:
What does the county do with $15 million in illegal cannabis?
The question first arose last October after Yolo County Sheriff’s deputies conducted nine raids on suspected illegal grow sites in rural areas of the county. The raids resulted in 13 arrests and copious amounts of untested black-market weed.
Sheriff Ed Prieto and Undersheriff Tom Lopez presented on their findings at that time, and it sparked a conversation about paying the bills required to take down illegal grows.
That same conversation had something of a jump start this past last week, when District 3 Supervisor Matt Rexroad blatantly asked: “Why don’t we sell (cannabis) for millions of dollars?”
The question was met with equal parts silence and laughter, but Rexroad continued in all seriousness.
“When we seize property, we try to get what we can from it,” he said, referring to cars, structures and other items found on illegal sites that get auctioned off. “It seems like a waste to destroy millions of dollars of cannabis.”
The plants seized and appraised during the first wave of raids were destroyed, though officials would not say how this was done. It is likely that the plants were incinerated — with minimal smoke — or buried in a landfill.
The Woodland Daily Democrat posed the same question on Facebook to locals: what to do with confiscated weed?
Some responses had some sound advice:
“Shut down Main Street in front of the Opera House and put it in a big pile and burn it,” reads one comment. “Then go eat Burger Saloon!”
Others thought the county did the correct thing by destroying the crops.
“Burn it, as the legal growers are paying huge taxes and this just makes them have a harder time staying legal,” reads another comment.
Another trend of responses suggested that cannabis be “tested and donated to low-income medical patients with a valid ID.”
BECOMING THE BLACK MARKET
Yolo County would face a few challenges with selling seized cannabis, namely, the fact that a governing force would be dealing in a federally shunned product.
“We’d be in the sales business,” said Agricultural Commissioner John Young. “It doesn’t feel right.”
In an ironic turn, the county would become the black market — policy and taxes have been formed to ensure the legal cannabis market could find a foothold when competing with the longtime illegal trade.
Licensed growers would need to wade through the same flooded market, even if the county was the one gaining from the crops. The income would likely fuel more efforts to seize illegal grows, but District 2 Supervisor Don Saylor said he doesn’t want to offer false incentives to raid grow sites.
Chairman Oscar Villegas agreed, saying “maybe years down the road it won’t seem so weird.”
Another trouble with selling illegal plants is the overall lack of standards. Yolo County marked one of the first jurisdictions to adopt the Track and Trace program that monitored the lifespan of every single plant to come from local soil. Illegal plants do not use this system and therefore, their history cannot be determined.
Yolo County could opt to test the illegal plants, but the time and money needed to do so could outweigh any revenue, especially if the plants didn’t meet the standards set forth by the county itself.
Here District 1 Supervisor Duane Chamberlain said that seizing cannabis — if it were to emulate the seizure of other property — could still be considered with this caveat.
“Even if the car has problems, you’re going to sell it for what you can get on the open market,” he said.
In the wake of raids in October, Lopez said the sheriff’s department has to catch up the paperwork. Future raids, which target the crop at its most obvious state, will likely continue as this season’s cannabis crop nears harvest.
In any case, supervisors made no official movement toward the idea.
“If anyone asks, we’ll tell them it was Matt’s idea,” Villegas said.