Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

April 26, 2010
Mendocino's Area 101 strives to be the 'learning center' of pot

025.JPGColorado acupuncturist and botanist Lacy Story knew where to go in Mendocino County when she wanted advice on finding local property to grow medical pot.

She stopped in at the indoor smoking lounge and organic foods kitchen at Area 101.

The "spiritual sanctuary and events center" of veteran marijuana cultivator Tim Blake, mentioned in Sunday's Sacramento Bee story on the Mendocino pot culture, sprawls over 150 acres off the Redwood Highway north of Laytonville.

It's where wannabe marijuana cultivators go for Blake's "Ganja Boot Camp," featuring hands-on sessions in outdoor, environmentally-sustainable pot growing.

It is an afternoon haven, and meeting place, for local growers, including legal medical marijuana farmers and others who operate strictly in the black market of illegal weed.

The regulars include James Taylor Jones and his wife, Fran Harris. The Grateful Dead devotees run a tie-dye clothing business and say they grow medicinal marijuana as small-time, "weekend warriors" in the pot trade. There are also many local cultivators such as Larry, a former welder who declines to give his last name. He is a full-time grower and distributor in the illicit market.

Area 101, a outdoor gathering place for concerts and picnics, has become such a cornerstone in Mendocino County that its conference room has hosted candidate debates for races for both county sheriff and district attorney.

That brings smiles of acceptance to the face of Blake. A Mendocino County pot grower since 1975, he once served jail time in Santa Cruz County. He faced narcotics sweeps by federal and local officers in Mendocino. Blake, a cancer survivor, went legit years ago as a legal, certified grower for medical marijuana patients.

Thumbnail image for 007.JPGBlake, 53, is one of the few Mendocino growers overtly in favor of legalization of marijuana, a prospect that stirs fears of economic ruin among others in the regional industry.

He envisions bus loads of tourists eventually stopping in at Area 101 for medicinal tastings and educational seminars on Mendocino pot products and cultivation.

"They're all going to want to come up and see the crops. This is going to be a big deal for us," Blake says. "You'll be able to see every kind of strain. Every day, we'll have a different grower available. If you're from Iowa and step off the bus, somebody is going to be here to talk to you.

"We're going to be the learning center."

Pictured: Top - James Taylor Jones and wife, Fran Harris, add color to the grounds of Area 101. Below - Lacy Story visits lounge and gathering place for local growers. Peter Hecht/phecht@sacbee.com

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