By Veronica Morgan
The Mendocino Sheriff’s Department, Wednesday, raided the Pinoleville Pomo Nation’s tribal lands. Deputies confiscated approximately 400 plants, intended for medicinal use.
Mike Canales, president of the tribal business board was very outspoken. “It’s just an overzealous sheriff!” declared Canales. “Everything is perfectly legal (about) what we were doing.” The board oversees economic development for the Pomo tribe. Canales “was shocked” by the raid, stating that he had been in frequent contact with Sheriff Tom Allman, and was told he would be notified if there were to be a raid.
“I think what they’re doing is not right,” said Nori Baldridge, the tribe’s director of economic development. “This is sovereign land and this is a sovereign nation,” she said.
Canales readily agreed and intends to ask for a county grand jury investigation into the raid.
Last March, an article appeared in the Los Angeles Times featuring the chief executive Barry Brautman, of FoxBarry Farms, LLC, a Kansas based business which promised help to American Indian tribes in need of for-profit business ventures. In the article, Brautman boldly declared, “(The tribe was) exercising its sovereign right by growing marijuana.” He explained plans to set 2.5 acres of tribal land aside to grow several hundred plants, and to house them in a massive 90,000-square-foot greenhouse. Local laws allow only 25 plants per lot.
FoxBarry representatives said the plan was to build a $10 million, 110,000-square-foot indoor facility where they would grow thousands of pot plants and employ up to 100 people. They later said they also would manufacture edible marijuana medications and eventually open a dispensary.
A statement from the sheriff’s office seemed to indicate they knew about the operation, and even spoke with tribal representatives about it. They allowed the plants to mature, admitting they knew of about 400 plants for more than two months prior to the raid.
To add confusion to the mix, the Pinoleville Pomo Nation has learned that Brautman was a fraud. FoxBarry’s website is “under construction.” A phone inquiry referred tribal leaders to another company. A representative who answered the phone explained FoxBarry was in financial trouble and was no longer a part of the office. Brautman did not respond to phone calls at any number.
The sheriff’s office maintains the bust was legal. An investigation stemming from a triggered burglar alarm days earlier, led deputies to witness a group of Pomo unloading a truck into a building on North State Street in Ukiah, a mile away from sovereign lands.
After securing a search warrant, deputies searched the building on Tuesday. The officers confiscated 100 lbs of trimmed and processed marijuana, and found what they believe to be a honey oil chemical extraction lab. Honey oil is a highly concentrated form of cannabis.
A second search warrant was served to the rancheria, where an additional 382 plants were growing and many more that had been harvested recently. No people were arrested in connection to the warrants, as both properties were empty when the warrants were served.
Officials claim Tuesday’s raid was based on state marijuana cultivation laws and a narcotics lab violation.