“It could have been worse,” said Swain’s Flat Outpost Garden Center owner, Ronzo.
A local logger for fifteen years, he was mentored by original “back to the land” hippie settlers and has ably paid forward all that guidance, amassing and sharing a wealth of botanical and farming expertise. For 30 years he’s been championing the beauty of Humboldt County and the organic farming methods that can sustain that beauty while providing a living for mindful tillers of the soil. This energetic, positive-minded man has also gathered abundant friends. He credits the kindness and generosity of friends and family for his ability to bounce back from a devastating raid in the fall two years ago.
After all his years of responsible, sustainable growing and hybridizing of specialty medicinal strains of cannabis, Ronzo had built up quite a clientele of people in need, such as paralyzed folks and cancer survivors. His generous custom was to give each client 2 pounds for free each fall. He and a crew of trimmers were in the middle of about eighty pounds of that give-away cannabis (organic, of course) when the raid came down. “Where’s the money?” he was asked over and over as the county Drug Task Force ransacked his home and outbuildings. But there was no money to be found. “They tore up the kids’ rooms, the chicken coop and a goat barn.” Ronzo, his wife and sister-in-law were handcuffed and all three were interrogated separately. “Thankfully the kids were in school,” he said. And he credits his good standing in the community with the fact that their hands were cuffed in front rather than behind their backs. One member of the team even apologized to him for the raid, saying she wished the stuff would be legalized so they could stop invading family homes.
Acting from principles of trust that define his way of life, he willingly unlocked doors, brought out the vintage rifles inherited from his grandfather who has been a member of the San Francisco police department in the 1930s (they hadn’t been fired in years), and offered to show the police everything. He tried to reason with the attack team. “Why us, when we are 215 compliant and there are water thieves and polluting growers all around here?” Despite his open manner, some members of the raid team seemed unable to act in a professional manner. “They threw their trash all around the yard. One insulted my wife.” Ronzo’s Hurok wife was told she was a “bad Indian who didn’t deserve any tribal allotment money.” She, too, is a good citizen who works with local 4-H kids and the Lion’s Club. Both are active in local school programs and have fed many community people in need. “They went through all of our family photos,” played football in the yard and whooped around riding his lawn cutter. “They even chased my frightened neighbor down his property.”
Though Ronzo has “turned it around,” as he said and made a good restart, thanks to the outpouring of local support, recovery has not been complete. His wife suffered debilitating physical stress symptoms that still affect her and he struggles to regain trust in police, knowing many are truly dedicated to the protection of citizens but aware of how many hardened, even vicious attitudes linger unchallenged among their ranks. “We were treated like crap. These guys just spouted the same old BS [about cannabis] from the 50s.”
At the trial, because his trimmers were not patients his medical defense was disallowed. The family lost all of their savings, paid $50,000 for bail, plus lawyers’ fees. Ronzo commended their lawyers, Mark Harris and Benjamin Olkin, as the best. At the end, they were given 2 misdemeanor sentences with 3 years probation, a lighter sentence than they might have gotten. And thanks to family help, they did not lose their home. Family and community are what life is all about for Ronzo, yet another good Humboldt citizen caught up in the war on cannabis. His parting words of wisdom, “ If you think you are doing everything right, think again. The details are critical.”
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