The Outdoor Growing Ban In Shasta County

By Coral G. Ceiley

I am a long-time resident of Central California having spent twenty years in the quaint and picturesque bastion of conservatism called Bakersfield. I dreamt, however of escaping my shackles and becoming free of the monochromatic landscape, oppressive heat, and unhealthy air quality associated with my hometown. In 2010, my son and I bought an acre and a half parcel in the lower Cascade mountain range of Nor Cal for the purpose of growing weed. I moved onto the parcel in 2012 to pursue my dream of living off the grid and doing what I really enjoyed: growing the sticky-icky.

   Many of my mountain neighbors had become wealthy from seasons of unencumbered marijuana cultivation due to the passing of the 215 medicinal marijuana laws, and the loophole that allowed growers to cultivate even though they might be “out of compliance.” Every lot in our subdivision was leased or sold to growers who came from all over the western United States, like Dallas from Utah, for the hot summer season. Gardens were lovingly laid out and harvests were nurtured through hours of sweat and labor. Our Shangri-La was in Shasta County, previously a marijuana-friendly political county. The ordinance stated that on less than five acres a resident was allowed a twelve-by-twelve-foot canopy space for an outdoor marijuana garden.

   During that first season of 2012, I had the pleasure of welcoming three Sheriffs onto my property and getting to know them. At the time my garden consisted of about thirty plants, each one in a one-hundred-gallon Smart Pot placed on a wooden pallet, covering an area about fifty feet by fifty feet. (I have no idea what the canopy measurement would have been!) I had a well which pumped water into a three-hundred-gallon water tote which gravity fed by hose to the garden. I was living on the property in a ten by twelve shed but did not disclose that information to my armed and uniformed guests.

    I might add that this was an all-out raid utilizing numerous government agencies, too many acronyms to recall, but including DEA, ATF, FBI, etc. The helicopter had been flying around and taking pictures for many weeks previous. My son and I had our 215’s and since I had no warrants and was a “small fish,” I was not particularly concerned. But the morning of the raid while law enforcement was blocking the exits to our subdivision, an urgent text was spreading through the Garden of Eden: They’re here! The locals escaped in many ways. Mysteriously I had a dead battery and was doomed to stay and face the Sheriff.

   So I’d been sitting in my dog run with my “Killer” dogs, Ali and Jocko, a poodle and a terrier, watching the helicopter fly by when I observed an SUV at the top of my driveway. Foolishly, thinking it was a friend of mine who’d come to save me, I poked my head around the corner. Like Punxsutawney Phil, the Sheriff saw my shadow, hopped out, and unhooked the chain at the top of the driveway. Much to my dismay, I watched three matching SUV’s descend into my garden.

   I was prepared. I begged them not to shoot my killer dogs, who were locked in a chain-link dog run. Sadly, they did actually shoot a chained up pit bull left to defend his property that day. I pulled my ID and medical marijuana card out of my pocket, handing them to Sheriff Chunky. While he called in my name to find out if I was a known terrorist, Sheriff Nosey started poking around. After determining that I was not a threat to society, Sheriff Nosey said, “So you got your own well, huh? You run it off a generator?”

   “Yes,” I replied.

   “That’s good,” he said. “It’s illegal to use water from the creek to grow marijuana.”

I smiled. My neighbor to the south had at least two-hundred gigantic plants and had bugged out with all his workers early that day. Nodding that direction, the sheriff drawled, “Anybody live over there?”

To which I replied, “Not that I know of.” And he was satisfied. I thought what in the Hell is the point of flying the helicopter around and taking pictures if you don’t know where the marijuana is? For a moment I was an outraged taxpayer, but I was happy my neighbor would be able to make another quarter of a million that year due to the incompetence of law enforcement.

Sheriff Chunky hooked his thumbs in his belt loops and said, “Have you read the ordinance online?”

“No, I haven’t,” I replied, shaking my head.

Then, as if an angel of mercy had descended from heaven. I heard the radio in one of the SUV’s go off, and all three men, excused themselves, jumped or waddled into their vehicles, and proceeded back up my driveway, not even pausing to replace my chain. I sat in my dog run the rest of the day, but they never returned, and I was left to watch my neighbors’ harvests fly by in bundles carried by the busy helicopter.


  1. Billie May February 14, 2017
  2. Coral Ceiley February 15, 2017