California Forum

Northern exposure: Covering issues of Northern California

When life gives you marijuana ...

San Francisco has its sourdough, Napa its wine. Humboldt has weed.

Why not capitalize on what’s already a well-known connection, wonders Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn. Although he’s no advocate of his county’s most infamous product, he is lobbying to make it a brand.

With the likelihood of recreational pot becoming legal in the future, it’s only common sense for the local economy to profit from the jobs and other benefits that a brand would bring, Bohn said: “Never underestimate the purchasing power of someone who wants a name brand.”

Not everyone is excited by the prospect of a marijuana counterpart to Lost Coast Beer, and county economic specialists have mounted an effort to let the world know there’s more to Humboldt than weed. Fueled by a $169,000 federal grant, they developed Humboldt Made, a brand that now represents 60 businesses involving 10,000 people. Among them are bakers, dairymen, crafts people and beer makers who ship their products nationally.

Still, the pot trade represents 26 percent of the local economy. And while all but medical marijuana currently is illegal, legalization is coming, Bohn said. Turning weed into a brand will provide well-paid jobs that can be properly administered in places zoned for clean and environmentally safe production.

“I want Humboldt County to be known for fishing, logging and entrepreneurial beef ranching,” Bohn said. “But the marijuana industry is here. You have to have your head in the sand to think it’s going away.”

A place for artists in Plumas Forest

Artists, known for working outside the box, have an opportunity to create on an entire mountaintop.

Plumas Arts and the Plumas National Forest are partners in a new artist-in-residence program where the residence is at 7,161 feet, in the Black Mountain Lookout tower.

The artist, to be selected through a competitive juried show at Capitol Arts Gallery in Quincy, will spend up to two weeks next fall in the U.S. Forest Service lookout perched on the Sierra Nevada escarpment. It’s BYO water but the accommodations include electricity, a small refrigerator and stove, a heater and two beds with mattresses.

In exchange for the lodging, the artist will donate a framed piece that originates from the experience. Inspiration by day includes views across Honey Lake Valley and the western edge of the Great Basin; by night, the Milky Way and the moon.

Add history for extra color. The recently refurbished lookout was built in the late 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and served as a home and office for Plumas Forest rangers.

The program, conceived in an informal brainstorming session, joins the utilitarian and the aesthetic, the federal government and the free-spirited, said Roxanne Valladao, executive director of Plumas Arts. Future agendas could include photography, poetry and other artistic genres.

“We start with an idea and see where it takes us,” Valladao said. “It’s art, not math.”

Butte County mulls food-safety signs

Green means good. Yellow, use discretion. And red? It might as well mean roaches in the soup.

A food-safety program proposed for Butte County would help diners avoid the indigestible and disgusting by placing color-coded placards in the windows of the county’s 1,000 eateries after an unannounced inspection. Each placard would make plain the risks of dining, said Brad Banner, county environmental health director.

He was hired a week after a 12-year-old girl found a dead cockroach in her chow mein at the now defunct China Star Super Buffet. The kitchen contained mouse traps full of dead mice and cockroaches everywhere, according to a police officer’s written account in 2006.

The China Star would have earned a red placard and been closed immediately, Banner said.

He modeled the proposed Butte County program after one in Sacramento that has cut yellow placards in half since it began in 2007. In addition to making restaurants safe for the public, the placard system is designed to reduce foodborne illnesses.

Banner plans to take the proposal to the Board of Supervisors this month. The county could have a draft ordinance ready for public discussion by early spring, he said.

The response from food facility owners has been enthusiastic, said Banner: “You get a green placard, you want to keep it. It inspires confidence in customers.”

Only one restaurant owner was opposed, Banner said. His facility had just been closed – for cockroaches.