On May 2, a Cal Fire Investigator shot a dog during a raid on a licensed cannabis farm near Hayfork, Trinity County. The incident, which was caught on video, has led to widespread backlash as critics liken the action to an excessive show of force typically seen in the war on drugs. Critics argue that such operations are unwarranted for what they perceive as civil code infractions. The Trinity County Sheriff’s Department, who spearheaded the raid, defends the action, stating the cultivator lacked the necessary county permit and the dog posed a threat.
The operation was one among several conducted on May 1 and 2 in the western areas of Trinity County, an area recognized for cannabis cultivation. According to the Sheriff’s Department, the operations resulted in the discovery and destruction of over 16,000 marijuana plants and 7,500 pounds of processed marijuana. Twenty-five firearms, a ghost gun, and $64,566 in cash were also seized. Approximately five of the targeted farms held California State licenses but lacked Trinity County licenses.
The farm in question belongs to Nhia Yang, a 64-year-old Hmong man with limited English proficiency. Yang possesses a valid state license for cannabis cultivation and is awaiting a CEQA study to fulfill Trinity County license requirements. Given the ongoing growing season, Yang decided to cultivate while waiting for the county license, a decision that precipitated the raid and the unfortunate shooting of his dog.
Sheriff Saxon, during a Board of Supervisors’ meeting, clarified that the farm was not fully licensed as it only held a state license. He emphasized the importance of proper labeling as per DCC requirements and the necessity of having both state and county licenses for legal cultivation in California.
Despite the absence of a county license, the majority of meeting attendees argued that the enforcement action was overly aggressive for a cannabis ordinance violation. One resident pointed out that the lack of a county license was not the fault of the farmers but due to administrative issues within the county.
Saxon, however, maintained that cultivation without the county license was a violation of state law, not just a county ordinance. He distinguished between code enforcement, which leads to a civil process, and criminal enforcement, which necessitates law enforcement response.
The video of the dog’s shooting and Yang’s distressing reaction has provoked outrage in and outside the cannabis community. A speaker at a recent meeting questioned how the board members would feel if they were in Yang’s position, trying to comply fully with the law while facing delays in license renewals. The incident has ignited a debate about the appropriateness of law enforcement responses in such cases.