Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comedian, takes the edge off of the world and explains all those unexplained things in a way that will make you either laugh or cry.


Jack's Blog


Emerald Triangle Bust


Comedy Day 2011


The Tea Party is Destroying this Country

I keep my sanity is by repeating over and over, “She was born in Iowa. She was born in Iowa.”

It goes against my inbred Minnesota ways to disparage Michele Bachmann, but I can no longer hold my northern tongue. I apologize in advance to the old school Minnesot’ns in our midst in might find problems with a fellow Gopherite bringing attention to the state.

I wouldn’t have done it unless it got to this…

When you start saying, “Just a few moments ago this nameless source just came up/spoke to/handed me some critical/secretive/ up to now mysterious information that I’d like to relate to America now.”

See, there is one reason a person can get away with a statement like that in America. It’s because they’re white.

It is because the bulk of the Tea Party is white that they’ve been as successful as they’ve been. It is also what will bring them down.

Think of any other social movement that has its origins in desperate beginnings. Gay rights groups, the Woman’s movement, the Anti-War movement, any group that needed representation to be heard.

I’ve been part of the Anti-War contingency since Viet Nam. I’ve subsequently been to many such marches against many wars since then. For the most part, I think I could rally a nice consensus of this nation stating that war is bad and we should get rid of it. I’m in my mid-fifties and I can barely remember a time we weren’t at war. It is almost like we like being in wars.

Why?  What is wrong with the Anti-war movement that it doesn’t catch on? Weren’t we vocal enough protesting the war. The wars? Didn’t we appeal to right emotion or logic center of the brain of the others who supported the wars?

What is about the Tea Party that has struck such a deep chord in America’s hearing that in two short years, they come to dominate the national dialogue?

I say, it’s because they’re white.

 America has been stealthy ruled by the likes of the Tea Party since the first white people came crashing onto Plymouth Rock. The ruling class, the rich, the old white men in power, has always been the minority to the vast majority of those around them that wasn’t white. But through fear, money, manipulation, whatever the means, the select few have made the many feel that they are at a loss. That there is something they should fear if they do not follow the rules. That all a simple being needs to do is put their collective noses to the grindstones, put in their time and because of a network started hundreds of years ago, you’ll advance simply by being part of the status quo.

If you do what you’re told. Do not question your station, sexuality, your morals or basically who you are, we will see that you get ahead, while others not like you, will meet a greater silent resistance.

This barrier will be unseen and won’t be malleable nor solid, the evidence only imagined and never confirmed.

If you’re white, or a close facsimile of that, we shall promote you befitting your station and your education.

And that worked for a long time.


Then there was a Black President. This is also coincide with the greatest economical downfall America’s experienced since the Great Depression that had left a generation of our grandparents scared and fearful even when telling them it was going to be okay here in the suburbs of the Sixties and Seventies.

Now what every minority member had been facing since answering an employment ad, was happening to Whites, too. Whites weren’t being hired. There were no more jobs for White people. It didn’t matter that nearly all businesses weren’t hiring. It only matter that now, White people couldn’t get a job on demand.

Let’s go back to Minnesota for a moment, Michele Bachmann’s district in Minneapolis in particular. It isn’t fair to pick on the metropolitan burg now that there’s a clash of values happening in the Senator’s borough. For the past years, many LBGT students have committed suicide because of bullying and taunting from other students. How to approach this issue is under fire because one side says Gay is bad and the other side wants students to be protected from any danger or harm, whoever the maligned student may be.

Leaving that issue alone, I think one can assume that Michele Bachmann’s district supports her political and spiritual beliefs. Today, they’re almost one in the same. I know these people, or I should say… I used to know these people.

That is one of the points I want to make. I used to know these people and today…I have no idea who they are, even though they’re still Minnesot’ns. See... I think that’s real crazy.

When I was growing up, change was all around. Guys were growing their hair out. Women were entering the workforce more. And religion was opening up.

When I was a kid, a guitar was a big thing in church or synagogue services. It began a new trend to become somewhat modern and in the process, attract a younger crowd. Another trend in the Sixties I remember happening was this open invitation that houses of worship had for inclusion. It was very common for my Catholic friends to experience one of my Jewish services and in turn I’d spend a Sunday with them in their Church. Many a Friday night in our Temple, there were people of color attending from the local Baptists churches over by Selby and Dale, from the hood.

We had a cultural exchange happening like there was a thirst for understanding that can only be quenched by the reality of seeing.

Now Churches are like forts. The word ‘Christian’ means to me, that once again, as a Jew, I’m on the outside. After fifty years of trying to bridge the gaps and promote and foster understanding between groups of people who only fear each other out of mostly ignorance and unawareness, we’re back where we started from.

The Tea Party has circled the wagons because they’re scared and they don’t care who knows it.

Because of harsh economic times, the Tea Party is where most everyone but them has been since the beginning of time. But because it is happening to them, now there’s a problem in America.

They feel betrayed. They were told in no uncertain terms, at least terms that can be repeated, that if they do what they were told, it would be fine. Well, it isn’t fine for them.

The world has changed. There isn’t an immigration totem pole like in their parent’s generation. In the old days, when someone came to this country, they started out as a janitor or worked in a factory for forty years sending their kids to college so they could become nurses and engineers. Now the new immigrant might start off at Google or Facebook. They get a big house, an American wife, maybe even become a politician. There isn’t a waiting period any more. They’re not paying their dues like they used. They’re hooking up to the American Dream and driving it down the road with them to another local.

The Tea Party in terms of a business model has always been McDonald’s or John Deere, just a quieter version of these landmarks. The Tea Party members feel disenfranchised like the rest of America, what they don’t realize is that they are the last franchise to go. The rest are gone but since they don’t care about anyone else, they didn’t notice.

Because the Tea Party members are scared and desperate, they are in the perfect state to be manipulated, like the Silent Majority before them.

Starting with the color-coded fears of the Bush-Cheney administration during the first eight years of the new millennium, while others mocked the primary color scare system, for fifty percent of our country, it worked. They were kept scared.  But the inherent problem of the Tea Party is ‘Intellectual Dishonesty.’

Intellectual Dishonesty is at the heart of every campaign and every movement that has sprung forth in the last years when dealing with the Tea Party.

One of the easiest tests of this is to give a Tea Party member a quiz. Have the test comprise of quotes. The quiz would consist of quotes from Ronald Regan to Al Gore, except they would have to identify who said what. When you’re average Tea Party member realizes that Ronald Regan raised taxes and others who they support have acted in ways that best could be describe these days as Democratic: They’re going to freak out.

Intellectual Dishonesty is what allows Big Business and the Rich to manipulate the Tea Party and their minions at will. In these days of outrageous corporate profits and the disparity among the rich and poor growing faster every month, the Tea Party members are led to believe and believe they do, that the poor are the reason everything is happening the way it is. That if somehow we could cut off one of our legs or arms, do away with an appendage that we blame, even though this will leave us somewhat weaker, it is better for us to hobble in the long run.

It is Intellectual Dishonesty that creates Death Panels and the last two wars. It is Intellectual Dishonesty that states it is un-American not to support the troops, that is until they come home. We’ve been in Iraq for almost ten years without question. The Tea Party is against spending or assisting other Americans. Why? Because money is tight and they feel it could be better spent or used in protecting the rich or the corporations.

Realize that for some reason, America needs enemies. We need a bad guy to blame or someone else to be our scapegoat. It doesn’t play into Tea Party politics to take accountability for your actions.  

That is another branch of the Tea Party strategy. Never admit when you’re wrong. And never admit to anyone outside the party, that the candidate really does just get onto the bus before it heads into town, otherwise she takes a private plane. They’ve taken an oath that’s much like the Mafia or the gypsies’ pledge that one doesn’t talk outside of the family. If you’re not one of us, we don’t respect you and you don’t deserve the truth.

Sadly, this also trickles down to their own. They’re told that this grass roots movement is purely funded by the people, for the people. That the agenda of the Tea Party and the Koch brothers with their multinational corporate interest are one and in the same and will yield the same equalitarian benefits. That it benefits the average American that jobs and manufacturing are shipped out of the country because of the tax codes and the burden that is put on our rich for having to think for all of us each day.

See the Tea Party still feels like they are still on the inside. The Bus-side speeches and the lawn chair talks keep them at bay and in tow. They argue for State’s Rights like it was handed down by the Lord until it goes against their national beliefs. Election time it is all about jobs. Once in office, it then becomes about abortion and the Gays.

The Tea Party wants the country to back to a time that never existed. If we could turn the clock back some three years, they believe we wouldn’t have any of the problems we’re facing today.

That’s why things never change for them. They want something that doesn’t exist. They are being led to Land of Broken Promises and because they’re scared and feel betrayed, they’ll believe anything that makes sense to their majority.

They have resonance on their side. They can be heard and not questioned. When it is their turn to be sick, will they remember the hearty applause Ron Paul receive when he said, “Let the uninsured die. That is the cost of Freedom.”

Will they remember that when it comes to them or their children or parents?

Will the Tea Party be responsible for the change in American politics that they’ve caused? Or like always, blame someone else for their troubles?

I cannot in my history remember any political party having this much influence in such a short time. Like snobby teenagers they mock others and laugh at the uncool kid’s pain. They move unabated and without consequence as they propel America deeper into a morass, keeping their sweaty hands on the rudder while blaming others for the direction of this political ship.  

The status quo has never been without a say. White people have always had the upper hand in the sway of where we’re going as a nation. When’s the last time you heard an African-American or Mexican or Asian child was missing?

I grew up ten minutes from Michele Bachmann’s district. It hurts me as a Minnesot’n to say this. But I don’t know those people anymore. They are not the good Christians or Minnesotans that I grew up with.

The Tea Party reeks of desperation. They’re like bad gamblers who pull in Vegas betting the last of their money on the hopes that a game of chance can cure their ills.

The bottom had dropped on a certain segment that has traditionally always scraped by. Now they’re back on the ground floor like the rest of us. In better economic times, they wouldn’t have to rub elbows with some many unknowns.

Now, we’re in this together and they don’t know what to do.



'Marijuana Is Sexy': Talking Pot with Mendo Sheriff Tom Allman


Photo: Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman: "We are, of course, supportive of legitimate medical marijuana here."

By Jack Rikess 

Toke of the Town 

Northern California Correspondent 

The Coming of the New Prophet


Rikess: Last time we spoke in August of last year... (See Toke of the Town's 2010 interview with Sheriff Allman here.)


Sheriff: Seems like yesterday...


Rikess: (laughs) I know and don't write and you don't call...


Sheriff: (laughs) Okay...


Rikess: So last time I was here, you said something that was incredibly right on. You said that there was going to be very little difference between George Bush's administration and Obama's, when it came to medical marijuana. You said that someone big in the attorney general's office sat in the chair I'm sitting in and said, and I'm paraphrasing, "He guaranteed me that it was going to be the same under Obama as it was with George Bush. In the end, Eric Holder will handle medical marijuana the same way [the] George Bush [Administration] did." 


Sheriff: It wasn't Eric Holder. It was a U.S. attorney. The chronological order was, the U.S. attorney came up here and said, (this is definitely under George W.), saying, "ummm, the U.S. government will not get involved with any marijuana cultivation, distribution, what-ever-you-want-to-call-it, that falls within the boundaries of California's medical marijuana." 


Okay, thank you very much. And, you know, he took his dog and pony show and went somewhere else. 


Then the presidential election happened, okay. Then in the primary or maybe it was before the general election, Obama just mentioned something about medical marijuana. 



Rikess: I have the quote. [Regarding federal raids on medical marijuana facilities in states which have approved its use, Candidate Obama said,] I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It's not a good use of our resources.


Sheriff: Then all the people started, "Oh my gawd, the prophet has arrived. Y'know, he's here!" And then after he won the election and took office, Eric Holder came out and said, "The U.S. government will not get involved in any violations that fall within the state guidelines." People are going  "That's brilliant, that's wonderful! Thank you sooo muuuuch!"


And those of us in law enforcement are going, "Huh?" It wasn't even any different wording [than the George Bush people used too], it was the same, um, so I tell people that on a regular basis, not to be criticizing Obama at all, because...


Rikess:  When I was here last, a little positive that things were going to change surrounding medical marijuana and you set me straight with...again I'm paraphrasing, you said to me, "Whatever you think is going to happen with Obama, there's going to be very little change between George Bush's administration and Obama's, when it comes to medical marijuana." 


And at the time, I thought you were wrong. And you were...1000 percent correct.


Sheriff: Only because...honestly...What I really try to do is get down to the pun intended... of where we're going on this. 


Y'know... I've heard many times in my career that our United States constitution is a living breathing document. Y'know, when you're a kid you go, "Really? Well, I've been watching it for five years and it just sits there." And you don't understand the depths of a living, breathing [document, then it changes] ...such as, what happen to the second amendment a few weeks ago.



Guns and Cannabis



Photo: Herald Democrat

Rikess: What's new with the 2nd amendment?


Sheriff: Well, what happen was there were some pro-gun people in the Bay Area. They were going to Starbuck's with unloaded guns on their hip, fully exposed, because it wasn't a violation of carrying a concealed firearm, because it was exposed. And it wasn't a violation of carrying a loaded firearm in public because it was empty. And because they were pushing the envelope so much, yesterday the California Legislature said, "Ixnay, no, you can't do that." 


And one of the things the 9th district just said was, and I don't agree absolutely have the right to say, 'no,' to concealed weapons.


Rikess: Does that mean, you judge who has the right to carry a concealed weapon or not?


Sheriff: Yeah. But now the law allows the sheriff of the county or the chief of police, to issue concealed weapons permits. In Mendocino County we're really weird...Okay?


Rikess: You're preaching to the choir brother.


Sheriff: [Laughs] Monty Python was...uh...born here, okay, maybe not born here but conceived here. 


We are, of course, supportive of legitimate medical marijuana here. But we're also very supportive of concealed weapons here. Due to the recent population shift, I'm down to 87,000 people and I have 2,400 concealed weapons.


Rikess: How many?


Sheriff: 2400. Here's the best news...25% of those 2400...are females. Jack, that's great stuff right there. 


Rikess: Because they're not threatening like men?


Sheriff: No, because I want women to be able to protect themselves. The former sheriff said, "Tom, as sheriff of the county, you have the legal ability to empower someone to take care of their own personal safety." Wow, that's some pretty heavy words there.


Rikess: Okay my next question seems like violence has increased here in the last year...


Sheriff: A very specific type of violence... Other violence hasn't, road rage hasn't, child abuse hasn't [increased.]... 


Rikess: But why would you want to introduce more guns into the community? What benefits you by doing that? [I say] the more guns [you introduce] into the community, some of those guns don't find their way back to where they're supposed to.


Sheriff: Right. So I have 2,500 concealed weapons approximately out there with people who have gone through the 16 hour course, they've been finger-printed; they've paid a total of about $300. They've been interviewed by my command staff.  I've reviewed their file. Now out of those 2,500, seriously Jack, I want you to really think about this one, on an annual basis, how many people with concealed weapons get in the eyes of law enforcement because of they're carrying a concealed weapon.


Rikess: I would say a very small percent.


Sheriff:  Three a year, when I say they come on the radar of law enforcement, it's not because they're brandishing a fire arm. When they come up on the radar [it is usually because of what's written] on the bottom of the concealed weapons permit. It says, "Not valid if under the influence of alcohol or drugs." We have probably about three people per year who get arrested for DUI that have their concealed weapon and we say, you were illegally carrying a concealed weapon.


Rikess: Do you feel, are you supportive of the use of concealed weapons in America?  Let's say in Arizona? Arizona where they can bring 'em into bars and such.


Sheriff: Well, I disagree with Arizona's policies, because their screening is not as serious as what I just said we go through.


Rikess:  So you're saying guns in your point of view is a little like medical marijuana, it's up to the states and the locale to work out the  . . .


Sheriff:  Concealed weapons, fire arms, are a states' rights issue, so much so, that right now, this is scary, Utah is saying, if we manufacture guns in Utah, if we sell guns in Utah, ATF has no legal authority to restrict what is made and sold in Utah because there's no state borders that are crossed.  You know what? They're right!  Oh my god, it's pushing the states rights issue all the way up the line!


I got off topic. Because you're here to talk about Medical Marijuana.  


Rikess: And also, I'm here to talk about violence.


Sheriff: Ok, let's talk about violence.


Rikess: What are your thoughts on a 31-bullet clip and amour-piercing bullets? 


Sheriff:  Well, I mean there are limitations.  Do I believe there is a need to prevent armor piercing rounds from entering the public? Of course I do.  


My question for the average NRA member is, and I'm a very pro Second Amendment person: "Tell me where the line is." I say, we start with a bb gun and we go to a nuclear bomb of weapons. Where is the line of what a citizen can have? Is it a nuclear bomb?"


Of course not, that's crazy. Alright, well, we're getting somewhere, you know, Let's get down to a grenade, what about a grenade? And then we get to machine guns, what other...


Rikess: Their fear is that, and just like the marijuana people, if you take away their 31 [bullet] clip, you're going to come after something else next.


Sheriff:  Is there a slippery slope?  The difference between gun ownership, I believe, and medical marijuana, is gun ownership is clearly defined in law.  When I send a deputy out on the street, and he finds a gun that could be illegal, he can look in his book and say, what's the law, it is illegal. And I'm taking you to jail. However, when he goes out and stops a car with 20 pounds of marijuana in it and the guy has a recommendation from a doctor that says he can have 20 pounds of marijuana, he goes, "Oh".


Rikess: Well my response to that is we [as a society] understand guns but we don't understand marijuana.


Sheriff: Okay, I'm gonna change that... in my opinion... We as a society have grown up with guns since the Revolutionary War.


Rikess: ...[You're saying] Incorporated guns into our lifestyle...


Sheriff: ...Since you know we beat the British. And marijuana has always been..."Shhhh." It is only in the last few years we've been able to talk about it openly. 



Da Feds and Those Damn Black Helicopters


Rikess: In the last three weeks, the Federal Government has really amped up their busts and how they are treating the medical marijuana industry...



Photo: The Fix

Sheriff: ...Where?


Rikess: San Francisco. San Jose. The state of California. The weird thing is north of Cloverdale, all of a sudden, you guys are getting your stuff together. You're doing cooperatives, dispensaries, and paperwork. [Still] A lot of people are not feeling good because they don't trust the Feds.


Sheriff: Sure, okay. Whatever. And let me make sure I read this to you...


[The Sheriff reads the agreement of the collectives, ending with the phrase, "This does not give me [the collective] immunity from prosecution under Federal law."


Rikess: Yes, we get it.


Sheriff: We have to say that.


Rikess: Sure, we can say that here. Even joke about it. We want to bring more people into your permitted zip-tie program. We're trying to get people out of the shadows and say, "The time is right to come out."


Sheriff: Sure, that's what we've been saying too.


Rikess: Well, the same thing goes for your people. Your people are freaking us out.Your people are raising the bar with what it takes to come out. You've asked the growers to let go of 40 years of bad blood between the law enforcement and the growers. We know you're a cop and you answer to authorities higher than us. 


Sheriff: No, I don't. Please don't say that. The voters are my boss.


Rikess: My point is, you just don't answer to the growers but all the citizens of Mendocino. With that being said, this 'Operation Full-Court Press,' The War on Drugs,...The war...


Sheriff: ...Please don't use the War on Drugs, it's not a good analogy...


Rikess: I disagree, what is it then?


Sheriff: The War on abusers of public land. 


Rikess: Or how about another way to spin it, this a revenue stream for you guys...



Photo: Democratic Underground

Sheriff: What???


Rikess: This is a revenue stream for you guys to create a false war on drugs by saying there are cartels in these national forest when they may be just the same as the other opportunist who are heading to Mendocino to get in on the 'Green Rush,' just like the Russians, Israelis...


Sheriff: Bulgarians, Germans...


Rikess: Right, so I'm saying that these Mexican growers in the forest might be just like those people, and not necessarily a cartel, but more in the vein of the other opportunists who come here. We also know when you find 10,000 seedlings in the National Forest; there is some organized syndicate behind it. Those grows take a lot of people to run. Whether it is a cartel, disorganized crime, or a group of gangsters, we're not saying they are angels, but they might not necessarily be the Mexican mafia cartels as they are being painted in the papers and news. 


Sheriff: Okay, okay...Let me boil this down for you...Number one, you've never heard me use the word, 'cartel,' other than to correct people to never use the word, cartel. 'Cause I've never said the word 'cartel,' in that sentence. What I say is...organized crime.


Rikess: Okay, we know there is ...a certain build-up going on in Mendocino...


Sheriff: Okay, let's talk about those black helicopters...The Blackhawks...


Rikess: Okay...


Sheriff: The Blackhawks... Why are they here? 


Rikess: Okay, let's start there. Were they here?


Sheriff: They were here, two of them.


Rikess: Okay...


Sheriff: They were here. Why were they here?


Rikess: Should I tell you what my people say? 



Photo: Ganja Farmer's Emerald Triangle News

Sheriff: We did a press release on this but go ahead...


Rikess: I tell you what my people say...Homeland Security is here and they're not leaving.


Sheriff: Oh well...wait, your people are right.


Rikess: Huh? Really?


Sheriff: So, why are they here?


Rikess: ?


Sheriff: You didn't answer my question. 


Rikess: Cause they got their foot in the door...


Sheriff: ...Really? Of what?


Rikess: ...I tell you what...What they are doing here is....They are equating what is going on here, with terrorism. And if they can equate it with terrorism, then they got Homeland Security. And if Homeland Security can get a foothold...


Sheriff: C'mon, Jack. [Laughs at Jack's logic, shaking his head] The drugs of the Sixties were too good.  


Rikess: ...Let me finish...Then you can tell me where I'm wrong...


Sheriff: ...You're wrong already...  


Rikess: Okay, when you can equate the organized crime going on in our national forest with terrorism, once you can do that...You can win the hearts and the minds of the people and then you guys can get as much money as you need to do your job. It starts getting to be about money. And this is a smokescreen to amp up the war on drugs, which we are trying to deflate and change, and you guys are doing business as usual. And this is a revenue stream. The war on drugs doesn't work, and you guys don't know it.


Sheriff: I'll send you a bill for counseling...'Cause you got a lot of stuff off your chest... And the three words I've heard from my wife many times -- I've been married 26 years -- You are wrong. 


And it's very basic. You are wrong. 


Rikess: To be very clear, tell me exactly what I'm wrong about.


Sheriff: Do you know what revenue we're getting? Do you know what money we're getting?


Rikess: Yes, I read about it...I got it here. [Jack pulls out article detailing the Sheriff's budget.]


Sheriff: No, no, stop. Don't have a preconceived notion of what my budget is...


Rikess: I have the answer here... 


Sheriff: No you don't, because you don't know the question.


Rikess: Sorry to cut you off, [checks notes] but you guys received $236,000...




Sheriff: That money is only going to be used to reimburse Mendocino County for the cost associated with overtime and logistics for this operation. 


Rikess: So was I right?


Sheriff: If the Federal government said, "Tom, we have $236,000," and I don't know if that is the correct figure...


Rikess: It is, roughly.


Sheriff: "...We have $236,000 and it is yours, but are you going to use it for marijuana or methamphetamine? I would be out of that office in a thirty second because I would answer one word, "Methamphetamine." 


Rikess: That's what we want too! To change the focus...


Sheriff: First of all, Blackhawks. The Blackhawks were not transporting soldiers or law enforcement other than the pilot was a military guy. They were transporting biologists to Lake County, and environmentalists, because they were doing reclamation of some of the older gardens that were not covered with snow...


Rikess: Couldn't you say, "Boys, couldn't we get a couple of nondescript helicopters in here because of as soon as you bring in black helicopters, my people are going to get paranoid." 


Sheriff: Oh Jack. Tell me what the price of a helicopter is? Tell me what the price is? I can I tell you? If I got a helicopter the size of a Blackhawk that can transport stuff and lift up stuff. I'd have to pay around $2,000 per hour. Y'know the price that military helicopter cost me?


Rikess: You're talking logic. I'm talking about Mendocino people. When you have these Blackhawk military helicopters landing, people are going to talk. 


Sheriff: As far as Blackhawk helicopters go, I can't afford other helicopters. I can't afford them.


Those helicopters were doing reclamation in Lake County and the national forests. They were really and truly improving the quality of land when a Lake County sheriff's sergeant, two weeks ago...didn't even know the Blackhawk helicopters were there. He's driving up to the national forest to do good, sees a van on the side of the road. Gets out of his car, watches three Mexicans with guns run into the bushes. Gets one Mexican with a gun and takes him into custody. Finds probably a thousand dollars worth of water fittings. I don't know if I could fit a thousand dollars of water fittings in this room? Okay?


And so...was the Blackhawk helicopter involved? Were they involved with the enforcement action that day? Of course they were! But we can't predict what is going to happen? Are there going...


Rikess: ...Tom...


Sheriff: Hold on; let me ask the question you're going to ask...


Rikess: Okay.


Sheriff: Are there going to be Blackhawks this summer in Mendocino? Absolutely there are... [Editor's note: This was about a month before this year's eradication effort, Operation Full Court Press began.]


Rikess: Are there going to be Blackhawks in Covelo?


Sheriff: Of course there are. I cannot afford other helicopters. 


Rikess: Are you saying this is a government thing? That in the rental pool, all you got to choose from is those darn Blackhawks? 


Sheriff: Yeah, Air National Guard. This is what they got.


Rikess: So you're saying if there was another helicopter to choose from, you would? That you don't have another choice.


Sheriff: I don't have choice. Air National Guard. This is it. 


Rikess: So that's your answer. 


Sheriff: That's it. They are taxi cabs. They'll be used for transport of some of the Federal officers... 



Photo: In The Pines

Rikess: One more question. I have reports of drones being seen in Covelo.


Sheriff: Those reports are wrong. 


Rikess: Just one more time. The people who reported this to me, didn't have pictures, [so I don't have proof] but there are all these people worried, and part of the reason I'm here is to defuse paranoia, and I trust you, Tom Allman.


[Sheriff Tom Allman stands and retrieves a picture of wife and kids.]


Sheriff: This is a picture of my family. I'm going to put my right hand on the picture and say, "From the bottom of my heart, nobody on god's green earth has given my any information that there is unmanned aircraft patrolling any part of this county." 


Rikess: Okay, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask this question. Would they keep you out of the loop so you wouldn't have to answer questions like this? 


Sheriff: No, that would seriously damage the relationship between local and federal government. 


Rikess: Third thing... then I'll leave it. Would you tell them [the federal government] that you are adamantly against drones being used anywhere in my county?


Sheriff: Okay, let's talk about that before I say that...


Rikess: Okay.



Photo: Business Insider

Sheriff: When this program first started, I asked about drones. Because the purpose of intelligence gathering, is to find out where in the national forest...there's a hotbed of activity. Okay? In other words, where people are? So...drones may be the right answer. And I thought it was a legitimate question and then I was clearly told by the FAA. Drones inside the political boundaries of the United States of America, are illegal, except for on the American-Mexican border. I can't fly drones even if I wanted to. 


Rikess: That's great. That is the most concrete logical answer. So we can say if there ever was actually a drone within this area...that would be illegal activity. So it wouldn't happen.


Sheriff: Period. End of statement. 





Rikess: We want people coming out. We want to be able to trust, I don't know if that's the best choice of trust the Sheriff's Department...That when they [the growers who will register] come's going to be okay for them...


Sheriff: ...And all of that's true right there...All of that's true.


Rikess: That's not true [for some]. Some people said, "I came out in 2008 [registering and doing the paperwork for the zip-tie program, e.g. giving the police department my name and that I'm growing] and when it didn't happen in 2009 (the program was suspended for that one year and has functioned every year since), I got very scared." And I'm crossing my fingers for 2010, and now, 2011, and hopefully, 2012.


Sheriff: We didn't bust any of those people, did we?


Rikess: Right.


Sheriff: Sounds to me like its working, huh?



Marketing Tools


Sheriff: The Five Percenters...


Rikess: What? 



The Pot Republic

Sheriff: Here's the Tom Allman's unofficial survey. Five percent of the population believes...if you have a marijuana cigarette, marijuana seed, marijuana plant, you should go to federal prison for the rest of your life. Okay, five percent of the population on the other side believe... You can do anything you want with marijuana, heroin, any natural drug... Smoke it until your head caves in.


I have learned through my 29 years of law enforcement, there's nothing I can say to those two outlets at this point to get them to change anything. All they want to do is try to change me and harden my stance, one way or another. So I've come to the conclusion... I hardly listen to these people. [But] The 90 percent in the middle...The ones who want to make change, all right. 


Rikess: And that's what I'm doing here today, representing the 90 percent... Y'know...We...


Sheriff: ...Can't we all get along?


Rikess: Well, more so than that is...We've stuck our necks out supporting you...


Sheriff: Whoa...


Rikess: You don't owe us anything for that...


Sheriff: (Shakes his head)


Rikess: But, we want things in return...And...and...we understand as the Big Cop, you can't always give us things we want, like when we say, we don't want you to smash the Mom and Pop's on the way to the big grows....


Sheriff: ...Right...


Rikess: That can't be guaranteed. 


Sheriff: Here's what I will guarantee...


Rikess: Okay. I think I got a scoop.


Sheriff: No.


Rikess: Oh...


Sheriff: There will be no 25-plant gardens eradicated this summer. I think that's a really, reasonable guarantee. 


Rikess: I had this conversation with somebody last night and I was unclear with this...with 25 plants, they don't need to get it permitted. [Editor's note: You still need a medical marijuana card in order to grow.]  


Sheriff: No.


Rikess: Right...So what they told me is...They can be hassled by your deputies for up to three hours to determine [if they have a doctor's recommendation]...So I said to it beneficial for you...someone to get the permits...the zip-ties on your 25-plant garden? 


Sheriff: You're confusing permits and zip-ties...Just to let you know. You don't need a permit to get 25 zip-ties.


Rikess: Right.


Sheriff: You just need cash.


Rikess: Sorry. And I said, is it worth it for you to get zip-ties on your 25 plants for peace of mind?


Sheriff: Yep, that's it. 


Rikess: They said yes because lot of times, these helicopters will come into our compounds, they look around, if they see the zip-ties, they just take-off. 


Sheriff: Isn't that amazing?


Rikess: I say that is incredibly amazing. 


Sheriff: Yep.


Rikess: That is just amazing. And it's progress. 


Sheriff: Last year probably the biggest marking tool we had is when a guy got stopped by one of our law enforcement officers, who is one of the most aggressive against marijuana going...[this guy] was stopped with thirty thousand cash [on-board and he told the officer that he was part of a permitted cooperative.] On his cell phone, the officer called Sergeant J. to inquire if the stopped gentleman was indeed part of a legitimate cooperative? Sergeant J. said, "Yes, he's permitted." And the guy and his cash were allowed to continue southbound. And that word got out... One step further.



Marijuana Is Sexy


Rikess: Alright. I'm going to end with this...


Sheriff: All right. The hardest question of the day. (Tom in an announcer's voice)  "Ladies and gentlemen, could you please stand-by for the hardest question of the day."


Rikess: This isn't even the hardest...this is...Why is...Why is this thing so god-damn confusing?


Photo: Stop Pop Culture

Sheriff: Let me tell you why... One of my goals has been to take marijuana off the front page. So now the question is...Who wants to take it off the front page? 


Because...Or... How about this? Who doesn't want it taken off the front page? And who doesn't is... is a longer list than who does. Because the media does not want it off the front page. Marijuana is sexy. Marijuana is just... everyone wants to read about marijuana. Whether you're pro, con or whatever...


It is on the front page. You want to read it. It is on 60 Minutes. You want to look at it. 

All these things -- it's sexy. 


Second thing of why it is confusing... In my humble opinion, there are so many nuances to 9.31, that we had radicals, and that's a strong term I rarely use, from both sides...Those five-percenters, okay? [And they] pick and choose what they're talking points are...and they use those talking points... And 90 percent of the middle says, "What about this?" When they're trying to have an educated argument. 


And the five percent who say, "You shouldn't ever have anything." Here are their talking points: Number one, "Because the Federal Government says it is illegal." [And above these growers] "These people don't pay taxes. You and I pay taxes. These people should pay taxes." 


For the other five percent... [The Sheriff uses his holier than thou voice] "It's a God-given herb. Why can't you let us have it?" Then they'll start to use the alcohol thing. You know what? Radiation is God-given element on this Earth. So I'm surely not going to agree with what their talking points are. If these people keep throwing their talking points out there to confuse the mix, and all I say...and all these 90 in the middle says, "You know what? I think we can come up with a happy medium. So we are. We're coming up with a happy medium. 



Find Your Own Solutions


Rikess: A person has asked me to ask you this. Someone is growing 25 plants on a parcel...


Sheriff: And they end up with 100 pounds...


Photo: Science Daily

Rikess: No, just the opposite. This person is growing with a collective because he or she can't grow on their property or cannot be part of a 99-plant grow, and is under the umbrella or part of cooperative that is growing 25 plants. There's 12 people part of this collective.


At the end of the season because of bugs, mildew, theft, what have you, and for my readers, this is a legitimate operation. At the end of the season things don't go right for these people. Now then there are 10 plants for 12 people.


The people who are trying to grow their own marijuana are down to one and half plants each. And in six months' time, they're searching out for other...means to grow marijuana. It isn't realistic...


Sheriff: Well, it is actually...If they're from the northern part of the county it's realistic because the plants we eradicated out of Laytonville were seven pound plants. But go ahead...


Rikess: Okay. We want to understand that you do realize 25 plants for 10 people is unrealistic. We understand it is advancement. We understand it is a first step. Then there is this Kelly law which I don't understand because it seems it directs the answer to that question but it never answers that question directly. Tom, do you know what I mean...


Sheriff: Keep talking. I know exactly what you are saying...


Rikess: So, you're doing the best you can. Some people can't get into the 99 plant because of water, electricity, blah, blah, blah. Some can't grow for whatever the reason, so they grow with a collective. So like I said, they are forced to seek out other means to grow this medicine.   


So the plan has a hole in it. If the plan is to be realistic, and we're not with that five percent that says, let me grow as much as I need, for as many people...There has to be regulations...But do you understand where we're coming from...


Sheriff: Number one, let's get off straight. You ask me a question. Don't I realize that 25 may not be enough? Well... Listen, if it was up to me, a lot of things would change in this world. But the world according to Tom is not what fills up law books. Okay? So... Do I realize that? I realize that...however; let me tell you why I'd throw the bullshit flag on this if someone wanted to challenge me in public on this.  


Okay, there's 12 of you. I want to make sure there's 12 of you. Yeah. This is 25 plants per parcel. This is per parcel. Are you saying between the other 11 of you, there is no other place to grow it? 


Rikess: Yes...


Sheriff: Because I would follow by saying...Remember when I told you about the one-percenters? The single digit percentage of people who are legitimate? That means there is a double-digit high percentage of people who are illegitimate. And they just waiting for someone to come to them and say, I have a recommendation, I have cancer. And I don't have a place to grow. 


And they go, hallelujah. I've legitimized my marijuana. Please come on in! And they welcome them in. And they take care of it. 


All you have to do in a marijuana community is talk to other people and you can take care of your problem. But if you want to lay awake at night and find a kink in the system, hell, you can do it. These 12 people, I'm going to say, have not ventured out to find out what they can do. I don't know of any real situation that you just said, unless the people cannot venture out and cannot figure out what to do...



Why Permits Work


Rikess: When it comes to the purchasing of permits and zip-ties, I've encountered two schools of thought from growers who are coming forward. One belief is they do it for civic pride and peace of mind. That once they're permitted and legit: they've done away with the local law enforcement intangible. There's another school of thought that's more cynical, that calls it blood money. They believe it's what they have to pay to law enforcement to grow their medicine. What do you do with the money you make from permits and zip-ties?


Photo: News Junkie Post

Sheriff Tom Allman has been supportive of medical marijuana patients who go by the rules.

Sheriff: My business shows that if I have a hundred of these files, I've collected $600,000 from these people. The rules state that the money I take in can only be used for what impacts this office. People think that this money goes to just keeping on deputies or that it is some kind of revenue stream. By law, I can only use this money for what impacts this office. I could give you a lot of figures, real numbers that would stagger your mind. Okay?


Marijuana impacts Mendocino County. And we're just not talking medicinal, okay? So from April 20th to October, marijuana impacts this county greatly, not to mention the rest of the year, but spikes during this period. That's what this money is used for. To try to keep up with the bad guys and do right for the good guys, okay? Again, we support legitimate medical marijuana. Everything costs money.


The money I've taken in so far only reimburses about a third of my expenses. Again, I'm operating on the same size budget that the Mendocino County Sheriff's office had during the LBJ era. 


Remember, some of the most vocal opponents to marijuana in Mendocino County complain that these marijuana growers don't pay taxes like the rest of us good folk do. The money from permits and zip-ties silences that argument.  


So I have this business plan, you take money in and you also understand that with the money comes that obligation... We're trying to do the right thing for all residents of Mendocino County. So far we've found a pragmatic solution that seems to be working. And what we're going to do is... everything we can do... to protect the legitimacy of the operation. 



Packaged Marijuana Good, Live Marijuana Bad


Rikess: I don't know if you know about this...What am I saying? You know everything.


Sheriff: You mean that ticket you didn't pay in '88? I know all about it...


Rikess: Wow, you're good.


Sheriff: I know it...


Rikess: I had to change my name to get out of that...So...Joy Greenfield. 


Sheriff: Oh, yeah, okay. 


Rikess: I want to hear it from the cop's mouth. 


Photo: Fark

Sheriff: 'Kay.


Rikess: This is what my people tell me...


Sheriff: (laughs) My people? My peeps? 


Rikess: Sorry, I just love saying that. (Both laugh) And again, I want to be really clear. I represent no one. 


Sheriff: Okay...Joy Greenfield...


Rikess: Okay, here's the deal up Joy Greenfield got busted.


Sheriff: Yes...By? Finish the sentence...


Rikess: DEA. 


Sheriff: DEA.


Rikess: And she got her crop taken...


Sheriff: Yep...


Rikess: Not returned...


Sheriff: Well...


Rikess: Hey, hey, hey.


Sheriff: How can you return grown marijuana? 


Rikess: It was told that it was a bad bust and it should be returned. And the people up here say, "What we do is, because we do not want to accrue legal expenses, we take the loss with the weed..."  


Sheriff: Cost of doing business.


Rikess: Cost of doing business, right? They say she should have got her medicine back. 


Sheriff: ...By the federal government?


Rikess: Yes. 


Sheriff: I'm not aware of the federal government ever returning marijuana. 


Rikess: They do.




Rikess: The federal government. 


Sheriff: Happens all the time?


Rikess: Not all the time...but on busts...that are inappropriate...


Sheriff: I'm assuming... when they return it...they're returning the package processed product, not the live plant. Because we take those out and destroy them.


Rikess: I didn't know that...


Sheriff: And its unknown how we destroy them...No one knows that...It's unknow


Rikess: What do you mean?


Sheriff: Well...I'm not telling you...


Rikess: You mean besides for burning them in the backyard?


Sheriff: We don't burn them...


Rikess: Okay...Can we do 20 questions? Number one, do they go into a container?


Sheriff: No. We destroy them. 


Rikess: How do you destroy them? 


Sheriff: In the accordance of law.


Rikess: C'mon tell me...


Sheriff: C'MON, JACK!


Rikess: No, this is cool. How do you destroy marijuana? What could you possibly do different than incinerate it? 


Sheriff: Okay, you're talking to Tom Allman. So how would Tom Allman...?


Rikess: Encase all that seized marijuana in a thick glass box with glue all over it... So you can have those... those hippies look at stuff that they could never touch... And catch the ones that do touch it.


Sheriff: This isn't for public dissemination. Stop the tape recorder and I'll tell you...

(tape recorders stops)


[The Sheriff tells Jack one of Mendo's biggest secrets.]


[Tape recorder comes back on.]


Rikess: You were worried about me writing about allowing the Vets in your jail to celebrate Veteran's Day with a BBQ while dressed in their uniforms. Nothing happened with that and that was published...So why I don't come out with how you get rid of marijuana?


Sheriff: I can't. 


Rikess: But Tom, you do so many good programs here. You should come out about them.


Sheriff: BREAD'S my favorite. 


Rikess: What's that?


Sheriff: When I took office, I was walking through the jail ...And I went into the kitchen...I created a baker's program. The inmates learn how to make breads, cakes, pastries, mostly their learning a trade. So now we're up to 16 [accredited bakers] and we had one guy come back, but we put him right back into the Bread program, because...he's a good inmate. 


Rikess: Alright. I'm going to end with that...Thanks a lot.





It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, and it’s nothing to be nervous about.

I love my job. Every time I leave San Francisco for Mendocino, whether it’s for an interview like I had arranged or for snooping and sleuthing for an upcoming story, I get giddy. It brings out the Tom Sawyer in me. I’m like that kid in the movie, ‘The Black Stallion,’ when during the climax of the big horse race he throws off his racing goggles, grabs Big Black’s mane like they’re one. He rides the galloping horse like they did back on the island when it was just the two of them. Riding like the Old Spice guy au natural to the finish line, we, the viewers are given a chance to relive the best of our own childhood dreams as we watch unencumbered youth experience the pure bliss of freedom as he wins the race the old fashioned way without all those city-contraptions like gloves, shirts and protective eye-wear.

 That’s me going to Mendo. Being up there’s this sense of walking free and barefoot even when I have to wear my tight-ass business Doc Martens.

Also, after Cloverdale going north on 101, I like to look up. When I see my first stage-diving hawk or eagle, I know I’m home.

But the other day, there were no hawks or eagles in the air. Only helicopters. Many, many helicopters. More helicopters than L.A. on a fast news night.

Black helicopters patrolled like nosey crop-dusters or eager teenagers on Toro lawnmowers. Going East-West in straight lines and then banking and returning to the next row over. Spotting. Observing. Looking. Inspecting.

With only one goal on taxpayer-supported to-do list. Try to find marijuana.

I stopped for gas in Ukiah a little before 8AM. At the station strapping young men like trim body-builders in green shorts, green khaki short-sleeved shirts with big ol’ guns, 357’s or some other large-mouth pistols holstered to their sides, joke and cajole with each other as they take hits off their Slurpees and Red Bulls. A few grab coffees as they smile and nod strolling back to their Forest Ranger jeeps. They remind me more of Everglade bush pilots than cops, more like jocks on a road trip, piling out of a car ready and cocked, waiting for something to happen, then after a pit stop and a look around, it’s back to the two-lane blacktop. They seem innocent enough.

But then you see they’re everywhere. There are cops catching breakfast in the restaurants and coming out of twenty-room motels along the frontage roads. Official cars with patrol lights are suddenly in front of you as the pickup you were behind makes a left. Chrome-plated Hummers close you in from behind. Before I hit the panic button, I realize I’ve entered a convoy of cars and trucks on their way to somewhere.

And still there’s more helicopters buzzing overhead.

Welcome to Operation Full-Court Press.

Four hundred agents have moved into the Emerald Triangle for at least what is believed to be a month or so. At first they were doing a little surgical striking north and then south and then just to confuse us, somewhere in the middle.

As of this writing, it looks like they’re starting around Covelo and going north. Yesterday it was reported on radio station KMUD that there were roadblocks on 162 West with DEA and INS vehicles prominent. Seventy-seven people have been arrested, 305,000 plants confiscated.

The official statement is they are going after the growers who illegally raise marijuana in our national forest. They will leave the permitted growers who are following Mendocino’s 9.31 alone. All of us agree this is a good thing.

The other major counties like Trinity and Humboldt are adopting the same policy of leaving the local growers who are quietly doing their own thing while going after the transient grower.

But everyone knows they’re going after the Mexicans in the mountainous country. From what is being gossiped about, there’s some heavy profiling going on in Norte California. All press releases make it clear that the main objective of this concerted effort between multiple government law enforcement agencies is to go after only organized growers with their massive outdoor industrial grows who have been shooting at and scaring the straights that have the bad luck to go too deep into the woods.

Again, the locals agree this is a good thing. Plus, some think the price of marijuana should go up.

Even so, some of the locals are getting very nervous and stressed with the helos strafing the compound looking for illegal grows. The best the legitimate grower can do is paint a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood with his or her permit numbers so when Sky King’s looking for the bad guys, they leave Ma and Pa Kush alone. This still doesn’t satisfy some of the local fears.    

One grower complained of paying the eighty-five dollars per permit and still having to live under this scrutiny as the climate changes concerning the growing of marijuana.

“I went to the Sheriff’s Office and paid my money for permits, which is kinda like taxes and kinda like blood money. But I did it because that what needs to happen on our side for change to occur,” my bandana-wearing source said. “Now the Feds are here. It feels like they’re taking over the town.”

Do you worry that the Feds will go to the Sheriff’s Office to get a list of growers who have come forward?

“No, Sheriff Allman told us that wouldn’t happen,” the grower assured me.

“Right now, the Sheriff is stuck between us and that very hard rock called the Feds. The Sheriff lives here. The Feds are like the growers they’re trying to catch. They’ll be here for a month or two, then leave. It is Sheriff Allman who is left to keep the peace. And because the Feds don’t understand the culture up here…Let’s just say…Things are going to be tense before they’re better.”

Another legitimate grower chalked up the whole operation, the Feds, the tension to the cost of doing business in Mendo.

A gentleman in his sixties with a silver pony-tail wrapped in leather laughed at the other locals who are getting upset with the fly-overs and the heavy police presence.

“It’s the cost of doing business up here. There’s nothing illegal about hating marijuana. Some cops and most of the Feds hate marijuana. But you’ll see the pendulum swings wildly one way and then slowly, it starts to swing to the side. That is the way it is up here.”

You don’t seem too worried.

“Today it’s the Feds. Come the middle of September, beginning of October, the rip-offs come. When it starts getting close to harvest…time to start sleeping in my grow, locked and loaded.”

You’re pretty serious when it comes to guns and intruders?

“We don’t give warning shots up here. We don’t give the courtesy over the head warning.”


The old coot continued, “Naw, that’s the way it was maybe five years ago, maybe even three. See that’s what the Feds don’t understand. If I have someone trying to steal my crop, now, I call 9-1-1. I call the cops. It wasn’t that long ago that we shot to kill. See, stealing is stealing, to us and the cops. Last year in Laytonville, three kids try to rob a Mom and Pop, a small local garden with white picket fence at the end of someone’s road. That’s who most of your unsophisticated robbers are, kids twenty to twenty-four, y’know stupid kids trying to get rich quick. Well they come into the folks’ living room with a pellet gun…I can’t really remember, maybe it was as big as a .22. One kid shoots the husband in the leg with his toy gun while the wife grabs the Dirty Harry and blows the kid in her living room with a .357. Cops came and left just as quick, saying it was justified.”

That seems better for the community, opposed to the frontier justice kind of retribution that you’ve had up here for the past half century.

“That’s what the Feds don’t get. This isn’t Iowa. This isn’t Virginia. It’s Mendo. We’re changing. We’re trying to become more law-abiding citizens. I don’t know what they have against us?” the veteran grower muses.

Sitting in hand-carved wooden chairs in the hot sun in front of his cabin, we listen to the clambering birds in the trees and the rotor blades slicing the air as helicopters migrate above us.

“But it’s like Buddha says, this too shall pass.” The old man’s eyes traced the copters as they fly out of sight over the mountains to their next observational gig.