Monday, August 29, 2011

Drug War Violence Comes to Sleepy Mendocino County Town

Normally, when you think of violence associated with drug trafficking, you probably think of cities near the Mexican border, or disputes between gangs in the inner city. Which is why this report in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat is so stunning: apparently, the latest round of drug violence has claimed the life of a former mayor in, of all places, the sleepy Mendocino County town of Fort Bragg.

Jere Melo.

For those of you not familiar with this part of California, Mendocino is best known for four things: incredible natural beauty, a carefree, a live-and-let-live attitude among the locals, excellent wines, and marijuana cultivation. And Fort Bragg, a Civil War-era fort turned coastal tourist town about 150 miles north of San Francisco, is no exception. Which is why the Saturday murder of City Councilman and former Mayor Jere Melo has rattled this town of 7,300. Melo was apparently working as a private contractor with a timber company in the area, and encountered a clandestine pot farm in a rugged area near the Noyo River. An armed guard appeared and fired several shots, killing Melo. The County Sheriff has identified a suspect.

Melo is survived by his wife and two children, to whom we send our condolences. And we'll remind our readers that Melo's is yet another life senselessly lost because of marijuana prohibition.


  1. AnonymousAug 30, 2011 12:22 PM
    Whether pot is ever legalized or not, there will always be people who will help themselves to land they do not own in order to grow crops that reap a high market value. It’s called trespassing for profit; high profits with little overhead. In order to protect their illegal cash cow they will hire armed guards to make sure that no one else poaches off the goodies they grow.

    What makes you think that people who don’t give a damn about the law will choose to subject themselves to the laws of taxation and regulation of their product just because it has been legalized? Why should someone go out and actually buy a plot of land to grow their product when the live-and-let-live citizens of Mendocino will gladly look the other way when public or private lands are usurped.

    Saying that Mr. Melo’s life was “senselessly lost because of marijuana prohibition” is a mockery of common sense and common decency.

    For the record, he lost his life because a criminal shot him.
  2. GSLAug 30, 2011 12:42 PM
    I think you're confusing the chicken and the egg. When the production and sale of an economic good (i.e., something people want) is declared to be a crime, only those people willing to risk criminal prosecution will engage in producing/selling it. When the costs associated with getting caught get very high, the producer will take steps to protect him/herself, and pass the costs onto the consumer. Of course, in a gun-control state like California, the risk of trespassing on private land is lower than it'd be in other places. But the use of armed guards is just a way for the producers to protect themselves.

    In contrast, if the good isn't prohibited by law, there's no risk of prosecution, and the good can be produced and sold without the need to pay for protection. In other words, the legit producers will be able to offer lower prices. The criminals? Most likely, they'll move on to other pursuits where their willingness to break the law is more lucrative. Sort of like how the mob got out of running booze after Prohibition was repealed.

    Bottom line: in a world of legal marijuana, there would be less need to trespass on private land and hire an armed guard to protect a pot crop. In that world, Jere Melo would probably still be alive.
  3. AnonymousSep 1, 2011 12:17 PM
    I think you people really blew it in your last sentence. Marijuana laws have been continually relaxed in the state of California over the decades, with the most drastic relaxations occurring in 1996. And yet the violence associated with its production and distribution seems to grow more and more. Furthermore, it's pretty shabby the way you're using the death of a good man by drug dealing scumbags as a way to further your agenda--especially when it screams just the opposite argument. If marijuana prohibition serves only to make libertarians piss and moan, then that alone would be a good reason for maintaining it. You people really are something.
  4. GSLSep 1, 2011 12:33 PM
    Obviously I'm not condoning what was done to Jere Melo, but the idea that marijuana cultivation has gotten easier simply isn't true. Particularly in recent months, county and federal law enforcement have been cracking down on growers trying to serve the medical-pot market, which is supposed to be legal (see here, here, here, and here). By making legal cultivation largely impossible, illegal growing becomes both more lucrative and more dangerous.

    I'll reiterate what I said in the original post: my condolences to Jere Melo's family and friends. I wish he were still with us.