Home > Uncategorized > Arcata Considers Grow House Tax

Arcata Considers Grow House Tax

Plants need light.

The Arcata City Council is researching a “high electricity use” tax which would apply to residences using 300% or more of PG&E’s baseline electricity levels.

According to research compiled by the City, each year from 2005 to 2009, more than 1,000 households collectively used more than 10,000,000 kilowatt hours in excess of that level.

More than 500 such households are on PG&E’s CARE program, intended to provide low electricity rates for poor people.

Here’s a link to the Arcata memo: arcata_heu_tax.

 Perhaps because the CARE program has no fiscal impact on PG&E (it’s paid for by the utility’s non-CARE customers), there has been little if any effort to confirm income levels of households registering for CARE, or to determine why their usage levels might be high.  Some think the program is regularly abused by indoor pot growers running banks of high intensity lights.

CARE rates have been increased recently on high usage levels, but they remain well below market rates.

A PG&E slide presentation from an October 2011 workshop states that more than 54% of CARE households in Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma, and Santa Cruz counties use more than 6x baseline levels, while only 7% of CARE households statewide use that much electricity.

[UPDATE: The PG&E slide presentation refers to two articles written by Thadeus Greenson. T-S exception Greenson quotes APD Police Chief Tom Chapman: “These lights aren’t the lights this program was intended to keep on.”]

  1. What Now
    May 3, 2012 at 11:41 am

    An elderly neighbor of mine with MS and and a cardiac condition was turned into the County Drug Task Force by a suspicious PG &E employee because of extremely high usage.
    The DTF looked pretty damned silly showing up to search her home and even sillier when the most dangerous substance they could find was a little cooking sherry.
    ALL HAIL BIG BROTHER, the corporate idiot and it’s governmental lackeys!

  2. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Finally. It has worked in Shelter Cove for years.

  3. Tobacco Tax
    May 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Can’t beat ’em, join ’em (or at least get a piece of the action).

  4. Mitch
    May 3, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    54% vs. 7%, What Now. Must be an awful lot of MS and cardiac conditions around Humboldt, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Santa Cruz.

    If people want assistance from the general public, which is what CARE is, they ought to be willing to explain their need for public support of their electricity usage when it is at 600% of baseline. They ought to be ecstatic about assistance from the City to locate the source of their dramatic usage. Who knows, maybe they have a missing exterior wall they didn’t realize they had.

  5. Giggles
    May 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I got my power use down under $100 bucks a month, but I still have one of those ugly PG&E ‘pots’ hanging on the utility pole in front. The previous owners used too much electricity and a pot had to be installed to handle the load. BTW, if you have an AM radio in your car, you can drive around in the lower reaches on “static” and when you get near them the ballasts of grow lights makes the static gets a lot louder. I’ve wondered why our gents in blue can’t do that to be sure what they think they’re gonna raid really is an active grow or not. If there’s a pot on the pole and a BUZZ on your AM tunage, quite likely it’s a grow.

    And to think I had no clue about any of this until I was woken up one morning, about three weeks after moving here, at 8 am by a HumCo Sheriff pounding on my door. Thank the heavens, he took one look around and a deep sniff, decided the house wasn’t a grow NOW and went off seeking the former occupants.

    After that, some friends of mine pointed out the AM radio trick which we use driving around Arcata just for fun. There’s a LOT of them up there!!

  6. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    CARE customers should be forced to live within average electricity usage levels, or be pushed out of the program.

  7. Carla Baku
    May 3, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve been in the Care income bracket at various times in my life and would have been more than willing to verify my income to receive that service. As for those with exceptional need (see What Now’s example above) it would be simple enough on a verification form to include a box to explain (verifiable) high usage variance. If those who already pay a higher rate are also footing the bill for the Care program, they should be able to have some confidence that the passive assistance they provide the community is being directed to those in need, not those in weed.

  8. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Cardiac equipment wouldn’t push usage 300% above baseline. I call shenanigans on 11:41’s story.

  9. Sick of the fraud
    May 3, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    6 plants per person = 6 to 12 pounds of bud. All for personal use? Uh huh. 96 to 190 ounces per year. Roughly 2 ounces per week. That’s a lot of pot consumed by one person.

    It is clear as can be what happens to the surplus pot. It gets sold. For big profit. With NO TAXES PAID. With no accounting, no reporting to the IRS or anyone else.

    The poor, impoverished grower then takes advantage of other free services intended for the really needy. Because there is no reporting of income, no one can charge them with fraud.

    Ripping off the CARE program is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m getting sick of it. I pay taxes on every cent I earn, pay for my own health insurance, get none of the freebies. I watch my tax dollars go to supporting the freeloaders who make more than I do.

    Solution?

    1. Reduce the legal amount of pot from 6 plants to 1 or 2, with a maximum of 1 pound of bud allowed. Really, who needs 10-12 pounds for their own personal use?

    2. Inspect the grow garden of EVERY person with a 215. Check their inventory.

    3. If a grower can not account for where the pot went, assume it was sold at the highest price. Fine the grower, make them report the income to the IRS and tax them. That will stop them from taking advantage of free stuff they don’t qualify for, including reduced rates for electricity.

  10. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    11:41 is a teller of tall tales. PG&E employees do not operate that way. If they did, there would be no real grow houses in this state.

  11. Mitch
    May 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    1:11, we agree about the problem but disagree about the solution.

    I’d just legalize it, ideally with a ban on sales to minors and a ban on advertising of any type. Tax it regularly. If someone documents medical usage, waive the tax.

    Voila, no more need for special handling.

  12. Mitch
    May 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    What Now’s elderly neighbor had MS and a cardiac condition, but I don’t think What Now ever said that was why his neighbor’s bills were high.

    I think the reason is they’d come to Humboldt from South Florida, and needed to run high intensity lighting in all parts of the house at all times, to avoid seasonal affective disorder. And they probably needed lush foliage around, too, to make them feel like they were still in Florida.

  13. Not A Native
    May 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Where are all the defenders of the pot economy which is said to be bringing billions of $$ into HumCo, the hidden lifeblood of the local economy?

    I feel there’s a lot of schizophrenia in this thread. Pot growers are usually described in heroic terms. Their incomes are celebrated as helping the community and their cause is just, civil liberty and sticking it to The Man.

    Everyone assumes pot growers don’t pay income taxes and is perfectly fine with that. So others are paying in their stead. Why isn’t it the same in this situation?

    Is someone offended that pot growers lied on their CARE applications? Well geeze, who wouldda thunk pot growers lie? Duh, they operate clandestinely, so they lie everyday.

    Or is there some belief that pot growers aren’t allowed to make as much money as they can? Who determined that and how much is it?

    As far as CARE, signups aren’t limited to a particular number, so pot growers aren’t denying others. And most of the costs are paid by people outside HumCo. So every CARE $ saved is just an additional $ not ‘leaking’ out of the local economy. Thats a good thing, right? Every CARE $ not exported becomes $6 in the local economy, providing jobs and prosperity to all. So whats the beef???

  14. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    A reminder:

    Pot is bad for children and
    other living creatures with growing brains.

  15. Mitch
    May 3, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    As far as CARE, signups aren’t limited to a particular number, so pot growers aren’t denying others. And most of the costs are paid by people outside HumCo. So every CARE $ saved is just an additional $ not ‘leaking’ out of the local economy. Thats a good thing, right? Every CARE $ not exported becomes $6 in the local economy, providing jobs and prosperity to all. So whats the beef???

    You know, NaN, I can’t find a logical flaw in your argument. You may be right that CARE is a net plus for Humboldt’s economy. It’s just that stealing is wrong.

  16. walt
    May 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Used to be when people complained about the stink in Eureka from the pulp mills, the chamber would say “That’s the smell of Prosperity.” Now do they say the same thing about pot grows and meth labs?

    Mitch, it will never be legalized, for the same reason we’ll never get Single Payer health care: The Money sez “No.”

  17. suzy blah blah
    May 3, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    A reminder: Pot is bad for children and
    other living creatures with growing brains.

    -but good for adults with growing minds.

  18. 06em
  19. beel
    May 3, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    there are two separate issues that seem to be juxtaposed:
    1) the CARE program is being abused by about 50% of those enrolled.
    2) Arcata is proposing to tax high energy consumers, possibly including CARE users.

    the first is a no brainer. cap the CARE program. just because you’re gettin’ it cheap, doesn’t mean you get to consume like a, uh, fat capitalist American. i’d even advocate CARE growers who are found to be abusing the program pay back the subsidy for a year’s worth of electricity! the example in the slide presentation of a grower with a $40k annual subsidy would be laughable if we weren’t all paying for his/her profit!

    the second issue has a little more nuance to it. the City states that the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (so it’s a punitive tax, not a revenue tax?). Susan Ornelas wondered that if the cost of operating goes up for growers in the City, then growers will just add another light to cover the extra cost, thereby increasing emissions and defeating the stated goal. Arcata already has a utility tax, so growers are currently contributing disproportionally to this revenue stream.

    baseline is about half the average consumption. so, anyone using more than one and a half times the average is going to be eligible for the tax.

    using numbers from today’s Times Standard, more than 1,200 houses out of 9,500 total residential meters in Arcata exceeded the baseline by 300 percent.

  20. Observer
    May 3, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    NAN, is your tongue permanently stuck in your cheek, or have you died and left your moniker to someone else? Defending pot growers. Extolling the goodness of billboards (on the Willits by-pass thread)

    You’ve changed, NAN. Writing style, attitude, intelligence – all different.

  21. Mitch
    May 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    beel,

    I suspect that a tax starting at 6x baseline would be about as effective at raising revenue as a tax starting at 3x baseline, and might be marginally more accurately targeted at grows.

    A disturbing part of this is that PG&E claims it will cost half a million or more to modify their systems to apply the tax. It seems like a better approach would be just having PG&E forward a list of the 6x baseline users to the City of Arcata, and have the City of Arcata use a fraction of the half million to hire someone to deliver tax bills to the 6x baseline houses. They could use APD to drop the tax bills off. Figure if there are 1,000 residences in the category and you needed to send a patrol car to each to drop off the bill, it would only cost $100,000, max.

    Susan Ornelas is worried that growers will add to their grows to pay the tax? I’d bet bill delivery by APD would help alleviate her concerns.

  22. Not A Native
    May 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Stealing?? Can’t believe my eyes. Mitch of all people advocating for the preservation and defense of the status quo of property distribution!!

    My assessment of Mitch’s general position is that its justice(and morally admirable) for unempowered, discriminated against, trodden upon, and just plain poor people to take(or be given) equalizing amounts from the empowered, exclusionary, subjugating and just plain wealthy people.

    Isn’t that exactly what pot growers are doing in moving CARE money from the better off of CA to impoverished HumCo?

  23. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    No taxation without representation. Who does the city council think they are? Taking the term “utility” company too literally.

  24. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Tee hee. It’s funny to see drug house owners get their panties in a bunch for once.

  25. Mitch
    May 3, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    NaN,

    My assessment of Mitch’s general position is that its justice (and morally admirable) for … poor people to take(or be given) equalizing amounts from the … wealthy people.

    Well, not quite.

    My general position is that it’s just (and morally admirable) for the people who benefit most from society to contribute the most to its running through, among other means, higher rates of taxation.

    Elizabeth Warren puts it better than I can.

    There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you!

    But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea — God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

    But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

  26. Emerald Hexagon
    May 3, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    My question is how they are going to verify.

    Every now and then someone asks why the cops don’t just look at all the pg & e bills and get warrants based on that. That would be a quick way to crush a lot of grows.

    The answer is that you power bill belongs to you and not to PG & E and thus is protected as part of your papers as mentioned in the 4th Amendment. So law enforcement needs a warrant to see your bill.

    So how is the city going to get your bill, if LE can’t?

    Just wondering.

  27. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    The hypocricy is insane in this thread. Tell target, kmart, walmart, wells fargo, bank of america, safeway, etc. to uninstall one of every four light fixtures in their places of operation, reduce after hours light usage by 75%, or pay an equivelant tax based on residential “baseline”. They’re national corporations, they can afford it and then some. OR they can easily afford to accomodate such a modest reduction of their blazing consumption…the surplus it would provide would outnumber that of taxing people who are “lower class” in arcata, but who use as much electricity as a rich person in arcata does. National commerce and industry are mind boggling wastes of resources, LOCALLY. They can “afford it”.

    One doesn’t have to climb much higher than city council on the political ladder to no longer qualify for the CARE program, yet still be able to afford having several children and a vacation home and new cars and a pension to maintain it indefinitely. This is an attempt at a political high five for marijuana haters in arcata’s government.

  28. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    “drug house”, 6:40? Tell us what YOU know about….drugs.

  29. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    What I’d like to know is why ANY working person who makes a living within the law wouldn’t be pissed at having to try to keep food on the table and a roof over the family’s head while engaged in competition with mega-bucks pot-growers who unfairly drive the price of everything up up and away.

  30. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Do you know what a government sponsered industrial crackhouse operation looks like? Open your medicine cabinet! Half the ganja haters can kindly shut up and sit down. Do you consume alcohol a few days a week? Sure, it’s just like a cup of coffee or something, a glass a day is healthy, whatever. The other half of the ganja haters can kindly shut up and sit down.

  31. Sick of the Fraud
    May 3, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    7:11: Most growers make high incomes that are not reported. Incomes well above the county median of $35K. Not only do they not qualify for CARE, they do not qualify for Medical, disability insurance, free firewood, free home insulation, free legal services, on and on. They take it regardless. And feel entitled.

    Energy use by large corporations does not change this fact. Stick with the LOCAL issue 7:11. Lots of pot growers are committing fraud. Taking subsidized energy when you don’t qualify is just one example.

  32. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    “Not only do they not qualify for CARE, they do not qualify for Medical, disability insurance, free firewood, free home insulation, free legal services, on and on. They take it regardless. And feel entitled. Energy use by large corporations does not change this fact. ”

    What the hell are you talking about?

  33. Anonymous
    May 3, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Just get rid of the care program. Problem solved, everyone pays for what they use. Seems fair.

  34. Anonymous
    May 4, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Not into subsidizing your grow operation through CARE. You want to grow? Fine. Pay your electricity bill like the rest of us, I ain’t subsidizing it. Pot’s fine, Mom and Pops are fine, I’m sick and tired of houses full of plants instead of people, and self important thugs. We will be fine without you. Things will change, but we will be fine.

  35. Mitch
    May 4, 2012 at 9:01 am

    If “Giggles” at 12:49 is correct, law enforcement doesn’t need PG&E bills to detect the high intensity lights — they can just use radio static.

    Sometimes I wonder if, gosh, law enforcement and the Ornelas types might not really mind all the illegal grows and the public assistance ripoffs. The war on drugs has paid off well for law enforcement. I’d be surprised if there’s anyone in Humboldt who doesn’t know of at least one “respectable Republican” type who is growing.

    More power to them, but don’t rip off CARE.

  36. Kelvin Hover
    May 4, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Thanks Giggles! Where the hell have you been all this time, hero?

    The people from here called us “creepy bitches” when they saw we knocked on doors with video cameras asking, “Is this a grow house? Can we come in and take a look?”

    They accused us of “destroying our communities” when we slunk around private property hoping to get a look at a power meter so we could try to anonymously build a case on neighbors who we thought must be newer than us to the area.

    Even though it reduces the previously remote possibility of the martyr fantasy fulfillment from the concerned citizen surveillance mission, it’s still sexy as hell to be on the prowl! Keep your windows up and volume down, if you can manage. The hardest part is keeping your shorts from getting all messy!

    I can assure everyone that the ‘static method’ is unquestionably forensically valid and reliable, and this thing is way bigger than anyone could ever suspect. Stay glued to your scanner, because I’m going Federal with the blockbuster tip that the County Courthouse is pulling TONNAGE!!!

  37. What Now
    May 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Anonymous says:
    May 3, 2012 at 12:58 pm
    “Cardiac equipment wouldn’t push usage 300% above baseline. I call shenanigans on 11:41′s story.”
    Whatever, asswipe.
    Because of the medical conditions in my neighbor’s house, she has to keep constant temperatures above 70 degrees.
    Isn’t my issue, and all you medical and social services experts can start hollerin’ to throw whoever under the bus for whatever reasons you wish.
    I got out from under the PG&E parasites by installing solar panels ages ago.

  38. Mitch
    May 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Sorry about my 1:26, What Now. Too cynical.

  39. Eric Kirk
    May 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Cardiac equipment wouldn’t push usage 300% above baseline. I call shenanigans on 11:41′s story.

    I agree. Doesn’t sound right. 70 degrees doesn’t add much to the equation either – most homes are kept close to that.

  40. No Mo Grow
    November 9, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Let’s do some fact finding here. Since people seem to love to hate pot growers, here are some facts about how easy it is and how rich “we” are.

    (1) You do not get 1lb per plant indoors. OMG I wish! I’d only need 400 wts total and I’d be set.

    (2) Most indoor growers are small time get by types, using less than 6500 watts total. That’s less than 6 – 1000 wt bulbs. This can fit into a small garage.

    (3) The overall average indoor grow gets around 1-1.5 lbs per light–if everything goes well, which is never does.

    (4) Since 2009, pot prices have dropped 40%. Average price of top shelf indoor: 2300.00 lb.

    (5) Math: 6 – 1000 wt lights average haul over one hear: 20lbs. Gross revenue: 45, 000 avg taking into consideration a good, but not great year. A great year would be 28lbs and 61,600.00.

    (6) Power Cost not on CARE: 1300.00 per month.

    (7) Rent: 1500.00 month average.

    (8) Total of 6 & 7: 33, 600.00

    (9) Net revenue minus rent and power usage results in a gross of: 11, 400.00 (great year: 28, 000)

    (10) This does to take into consideration food, clothing, vehicle, medical care, dentist, etc.

    Sound like we’re all just getting rich as shit doesn’t it?

    The average pot grower, taking into consideration his or her net only income, IS POOR. We have no assets other than our meager pot income. We have no healthcare nor dental insurance, no savings, no retirement. Yet everyone is hating us like we’re getting away with murder!

    Let me tell you about rip off. Before California got rid of energy regulation–on the pretense that competition was going to lower energy prices–we didn’t have CARE because energy prices were so low we didn’t need it! CARE was invented by PG&E in order to get around the inflated price they could now charge because of deregulation and state regulators telling them they had to do something about the poor not being able to afford their now 400% increase in power.

    Competition? Well, the prices of energy went up 400% and they have NEVER gone down–so hate PG&E for helping to increase your fucking power bill by 400%, not pot growers who PG&E have admitted, those on CARE, raise others bills by 5%. So do the math on that one. You’re average bill is 300 a month average, and that’s high for a normal house, you pay an extra 15 dollars per month because of those evil pot growers. Like I said–Hate PG&E because they are the ones who have raised your bill, not pot growers.

    You think adding another 50% power tax to power like Humboldt is doing is just the greatest thing since sliced bread, bring in zillions of tax revenue, woo wow pow!? Yeah!? This thinking is about as clear as pot being a miracle cure all drug. So yeah, tax us out of business.

    Do it and there will be no more indoor grows beyond a couple lights that can get under the new CARE limit for power, thus no tax revenue increase, and more unemployed who can’t make a living on 8 bucks an hour.

    This will probably end up costing more tax dollars than it could ever generate The people getting by growing pot on small scale terms will be living on welfare or looking for already nonexistent jobs, not to mention causing the grow stores to go bankrupt. Not to mention when you tax something like pot people just start buying it underground, like they always have. The great tax revenue from taxing indoor grows is a FUCKING PIPE DREAM!

    Before 2009, when the price of good indoor was 3800.00 lbs, yeah, we could pay some taxes–and we sure the fuck did. How do you think some who have been doing this for decades bought houses? They have either front businesses or a legitimate business they launder money through–all paying taxes so they can actually invest the money. So the money is getting taxed already.

    So yeah, fuck you. Fucking haters.

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